Audi has unveiled the fourth-generation A8 in the run-up to the start of international sales in October, with the India launch slated for late-2018.
Hailed as the dawning of a new era for the German carmaker, the new flagship sedan has been comprehensively re-engineered. Audi intends it to mount a successful challenge against upmarket rivals such as the BMW 7-series, Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-class.
The new A8 draws on the latest evolution of Audi’s MLB platform. It offers the same 48V electrical system used in the SQ7. There will also be a new hybrid drivetrain that offers an electric-only range of up toand an advanced road-scanning active suspension. Audi claims the new A8 is the first series production road car to have been developed expressly for what it describes as “highly automated driving”.
Among the showcase features available as optional equipment is a so-called Traffic Jam Pilot system. Part of a suite of 41 individual driver assistant functions, it takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic up to a speed of 50kph on motorways, where a physical barrier separates the two carriageways. As well as relying on cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors, Traffic Jam Pilot is the first automated driving system to be offered on a production car to employ a laser scanner. The new system manages starting, accelerating, braking and steering functions. But without a legal framework for its operation in many markets, Audi says it will adopt a step-by-step approach to the introduction of its new autonomous driving tech.
The new A8's exterior shares much of its styling with the Audi Prologue concept car – including a heavily reshaped grille, tauter surfacing and a new tail-light treatment – with time-honoured cues from earlier versions of the sedan.
As with the current model, the new sedan will be available in standard and long-wheelbase versions. Both are 6mm longer than the old A8, at 2,998mm and 3,128mm respectively. However, only the LWB variant is likely to be brought to India
Standing 5,172mm long, 1,945mm wide and 1,473mm tall, the new A8 is 37mm longer, 4mm narrower and 13mm taller than its predecessor in standard guise. The A8L’s wheelbase is 130mm longer at 5,302mm, with added ride height bringing 4mm to its height, at 1,488mm. In terms of construction, aluminium makes up 58 percent of the structure, but the A8 also adopts steel, magnesium and carbon-fibre.
Inside, the new Audi has a clean and contemporary dashboard, a redesigned multi-function steering wheel and touchscreen controls closely modelled on those first seen on the Prologue concept car. Highlights include new front seats that are 4kg lighter than those in the old A8, high-definition digital instrument graphics and a revised MMI (Multimedia Interface) system with two separate displays – a 10.1-inch unit and an 8.6-inch curved one.
The A8 will be offered with the choice of two turbocharged V6 engines from the outset of sales in October. One is a 3.0-litre petrol unit developing 340hp in the 3.0 TFSI and the other a 3.0-litre diesel with 264bhp, 10bhp more than its predecessor, in the 3.0 TDI. Both engines are allied to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and quattro four-wheel drive, which can be had with an optional sports differential. The new standard-fit 48V electrical system offers a range of mild hybrid functions, including engine-off coasting, extended start/stop operation and kinetic energy recuperation under braking, via a belt-driven alternator.
In early 2018, another diesel will join the line-up in the form of a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 with 435hp in the 4.0 TDI. That’s 45hp more than the old turbo 4.2-lite V8 engine that it replaces.
The biggest engine in the line-up will be a 6.0-litre petrol W12. This revised version of the Volkswagen Group’s turbo W12 is 300cc smaller than its predecessor yet it delivers an added 86hp, at 593hp.
Although it has yet to be confirmed, a successor to today’s S8 is set to run a powered-up version of the 4.0-litre turbo petrol unit used by the 4.0 TFSI. It will develop around 549hp, 22hp more than the outgoing model. The same engine is already used by Audi’s Volkswagen Group sister company Porsche in the latest Panamera Turbo.
An L E-tron variant is also planned. It will combine the 3.0-litre turbo petrol V6 with an electric motor for an overall system output of 449hp. Audi claims an electric-only range of up to 50km and plans to offer the new model with an optional inductive charging system for wireless recharging of the 14.1kWh lithium-ion battery, which is sited in the boot floor.
Underpinning the A8 is a new aluminium-intensive suspension, with double wishbones up front and a five-link set-up at the rear. Air springs are standard. It can also be specified with new active suspension. Similar to the S-class’s Magic Body Control system, it uses cameras mounted within the windscreen to scan the road 18 times per second and then alter the suspension settings for each individual wheel.
A further development is the appearance of all-wheel steering on selected new A8 models. Already used by BMW on the latest 7-series, this aims to heighten the responsiveness and overall dynamic character of the A8.