After an extensive teaser campaign and some “glimpses” in Spider-Man: Homecoming movie, Audi has taken the wraps off the 4th generation A8 at the Audi Summit in Barcelona, Spain.
As you might have guessed it, the new A8 gets its design from the 2014 Audi Prologue concept we saw last year in Delhi. The Prologue-inspired design makes the 2018 Audi A8 appear even more wider and longer than it already is, esp. the connected tail lamps. The luxury sedan possesses a powerful presence, whether in the 5.17-metre standard version or the A8 L, which has a 13 cm longer wheelbase. The flagship model proclaims its identity both day and night, drawing on both the Matrix LED headlights with Audi laser lighting, and the LED light strip combined with OLED technology rear lights. These produce unique light animations as the driver approaches and leaves the car.
The interior layout has a minimalistic approach, with most of the buttons and knobs moved into touch screens. The central 10.1-inch touchscreen display which, when off, blends almost invisibly into the high-gloss black surround.
The user interface appears as soon as the car is opened. The second touchscreen display on the center tunnel console will take care of the air conditioning and comfort functions as well as making text inputs. When the driver activates a function in the upper or lower display, they hear and feel a ‘click’ as a feedback The glass-look operating buttons respond in the same way.
The A8 can also engage in intelligent conversation. The driver can activate an array of functions in the automobile using a new and natural form of voice control, says Audi. Information on destinations and media is either available on board or is delivered from the cloud at LTE speed. The Audi connect range also includes traffic sign recognition and hazard information. The extensively optimized navigation is another new feature, it is self-learning, based on the route just driven. This provides the driver with intelligent search suggestions. The map also incorporates highly detailed 3D models of major European cities.
A model demonstrating rear seat comfort
Moving on to the rear passenger comfort, the A8 L comes with an optional relaxation seat with four different adjustment options and a footrest. In this seat, the passenger can warm and massage the soles of their feet on a unit with multiple settings incorporated into the back of the front-passenger seat. The new comfort head restraints complete the experience. The rear passengers can also control an array of functions such as ambient lighting, the new HD Matrix reading lights and seat massage, plus make private phone calls, via a separate operating unit. The rear seat remote, with its OLED display as large as a smartphone, is a removable unit housed in the center armrest.
As discussed in the previous articles, the new A8 features autonomous tech and AI, developed in association with Nvidia. The Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 60 km/h (37.3 mph) on freeways and highways where a physical barrier separates the two carriageways. The system is activated using the AI button on the center console.
Audi says that the traffic jam pilot manages starting, accelerating, steering and braking. The driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently. They can take their hands off the steering wheel permanently and, depending on the national laws, focus on a different activity that is supported by the car, such as watching the on-board TV. As soon as the system reaches its limits, it calls on the driver to take back control of the task of driving.
During piloted driving, a central driver assistance controller (zFAS) now permanently computes an image of the surroundings by merging the sensor data. As well as the radar sensors, a front camera and ultrasonic sensors, Audi claims to be the first car manufacturer to use a laser scanner. The introduction of the Audi AI traffic jam pilot means the statutory framework will need to be clarified in each individual market, along with the country-specific definition of the application and testing of the system. In addition, a range of approval procedures and their corresponding timescales will need to be observed worldwide. Audi will therefore be adopting a step-by-step approach to the introduction of the traffic jam pilot in production models.
The Audi AI remote parking pilot and the Audi AI remote garage pilot autonomously steer the A8 into and out of a parking space or a garage, while the maneuver is monitored by the driver. The driver need not be sitting in the car. They start the appropriate system from their smartphone using the new myAudi app. To monitor the parking maneuver, they hold the Audi AI button pressed to watch a live display from the car’s 360-degree cameras on their device.
The new A8 gets all-wheel steering. The steering ratio for the front wheels varies with speed, the rear wheels are turned in or against the direction of steering depending on the speed range. The quattro permanent all-wheel drive is now standard in the new A8.
Another new thing in the A8 is the Audi AI active suspension. Depending on the driver’s wishes and the driving situation, it is capable of raising or lowering each wheel separately with electric actuators. In combination with pre-sense 360°, the car is raised automatically if there is an impending lateral collision, reducing the potential consequences of the accident for all occupants.
This suspension system obtains the energy it requires from a 48-volt electrical system. Audi now for the first time fits it as the primary electrical system in all model versions of the A8.
Mild hybrid and e-tron
The new A8 starts out in the German market with two extensively re-engineered V6 turbo engines – a 3.0L TDI and a 3.0L TFSI. The diesel develops 210 kW (286 hp), and the gasoline version 250 kW (340 hp). Two eight-cylinder versions – a 4.0L TDI with 320 kW (435 hp) and a 4.0L TFSI with 338 kW (460 hp) will arrive at a later date. The exclusive top engine version is the W12 with a displacement of 6.0-liters.
All five engines operate in conjunction with a belt alternator starter (BAS), which is the nerve center of the 48-volt electrical system. This mild hybrid technology (MHEV) enables the car to coast with the engine switched off, and to restart smoothly. It also has an extended start/stop function and an energy recovery output of up to 12 kW.
The A8 L e-tron quattro with plug-in hybrid drive will follow at a later date. Its 3.0L TFSI and the electric motor achieve 330 kW (449 hp) of system power and 700 Nm of system torque. The lithium-ion battery stores enough power for about 50 km (31 mi) of electric driving. It can optionally be charged by Audi Wireless Charging. A pad in the garage floor transfers the power inductively to a receiver coil in the automobile with a power output of 3.6 kW.
The new Audi A8 and A8 L are being built at the Neckarsulm site and will appear on the German market in late fall 2017. The starting price for the A8 is €90,600, with the A8 L starting at €94,100.