The new Audi A8 presents the future of the luxury class. In its fourth generation, the brand’s flagship model again provides the benchmark for “Vorsprung durch Technik” – with a new design language, an innovative touchscreen operating concept and a systematically electrified drive. The Audi A8 is also the first production automobile in the world to have been developed for conditionally automated driving. From 2018, Audi will gradually be taking piloted driving functions such as parking pilot, garage pilot and traffic jam pilot into production.
New line for the brand: the exterior design and body
Sporty elegance, sophistication and progressive status – the exterior design of the Audi A8 marks the start of a new era for the entire brand. The front with its broad, upright Singleframe grille, the flowing and muscular body design and the rear with its full-length light strip radiate a powerful presence – in the 5.17 meter (17.0 ft) long normal version as well as in the A8 L with its 13 centimeter (5.1 in) longer wheelbase. The new A8 is 1.95 meters (6.4 ft) wide and 1.47 meters (4.8 ft) tall (1.49 meters (4.9 ft) in the case of the A8 L).
The progressive character of the new Audi flagship becomes especially clear in the side view. The flat roof dome lends the sedan a sporty touch, while stretched lines underscore its length. The upright front end combined with the gently inclined rear creates visual excitement. The proportions equally highlight the front and rear wheels, while subdued muscularity via the wheel arches signifies the quattro drive. The lighting is also state-of-the-art, especially in the top-of-the line version with HD Matrix LED headlights including Audi laser light and rear lamps with OLED technology. The result is a dynamic light show as the driver approaches and leaves the car.
The body of the new A8 follows the Audi Space Frame principle. The body consists 58 percent of aluminum parts, whose strength has significantly increased compared with the predecessor model. The cabin consists of hot-formed steel components, complemented by an ultra-high-strength, torsionally extremely rigid rear panel made of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer. A magnesium strut-tower bar completes the lightweight construction concept. With its combination of four different materials, the luxury sedan embodies a new level of multi-material design, to the customer’s direct benefit – and not just in terms of weight reduction. The superior rigidity of the body provides the foundation for the precise handling, the excellent ride comfort and the acoustic tranquility on board.
Spacious, clearly defined, progressive: the interior
The interior of the A8 resembles a lavish, spacious lounge. Compared to the predecessor model, it has grown in length by 32 millimeters (1.3 in) in both body versions. The interior has been deliberately reduced in form, and its architecture oriented strictly horizontally. In darkness, contour and ambient lighting elegantly outlines the striking design lines. New for the rear compartment are precisely controllable Matrix LED reading lights. The range of equipment and materials is extensive, with every detail radiating superlative bespoke quality – from the perforation in the seat upholstery to the electrically opening and closing decorative shutters on the air vents and the satiny leather of the comfort head restraints.
The most elegant place in the new Audi flagship is the rear right-hand seat – this is the optionally available relaxation seat in the A8 L and features many options for adjustment as well as a footrest on the backrest of the front-passenger seat. Here, passengers can massage and warm the soles of their feet in several levels. Included in the relaxation seat package are a back massage feature, electrically height-adjustable comfort head restraints, footrests, a long center console and, as optional features, folding tables with two-stage adjustable inclination, four-zone automatic air conditioning, the Rear Seat Entertainment system comprising two Audi tablets, and the Rear Seat Remote. Rear-seat passengers can use the touch control on this new operating unit to run numerous convenience and infotainment features as well as make discreet phone calls. The Rear Seat Remote with its OLED display is approximately as big as a smartphone and can be removed from where it is stored in the center armrest.
Sensitive, with understanding: operation
In the A8, Audi conveys its claim to high quality to the digital age with a revolutionary operating concept. The A8 dispenses with the rotary/push-button control and touchpad of its predecessor – MMI touch becomes MMI touch response. At the center of the instrument panel is a 10.1-inch touchscreen display which, when off, blends almost invisibly into the high-gloss black surround thanks to its black-panel look. When the system is started, the user interface appears which features new, concise graphics. The menu structure is intuitive and flat, as with a modern smartphone. The user can freely arrange the icons according to their importance.
The driver controls the infotainment system on the large display. A second touchscreen display on the console of the center tunnel is used to operate the climate control and convenience features, as well as enter texts through handwriting recognition. When the driver activates a function in one of the two displays by touch control, they hear and feel a click by way of confirmation. This pulse is created by means of an electromagnet moving the spring-mounted display minimally to the side by roughly the width of a human hair. At the same time a small loudspeaker emits a click sound. Audi is opening up a new chapter in user experience here.
The A8 can also engage in intelligent conversation. The driver can activate an array of functions in the automobile using a new, natural form of voice control. Information on destinations and media is either available on board or is delivered from the cloud at LTE speed. The driver can freely formulate spoken commands – the voice recognition system understands such sentences as “Please take me to the Adlon Hotel in Berlin”. The ingenious dialog manager asks questions if necessary, allows corrections, offers choices and also defers to the speaker when interrupted. A multifunction steering wheel and an optional head-up display round off the operating concept.
Plenty of new solutions: infotainment and Audi connect
MMI Navigation plus serves as a high-end media center, resting on the modular infotainment platform in its latest version, the MIB 2+. It integrates a cutting-edge K1 processor from the Audi partner, NVIDIA. A second K1 chip generates the graphics in the digital Audi virtual cockpit, which offers a full HD resolution of 1,920 x 720 pixels. The Audi connect data transfer module including WiFi Hotspot brings the fast telecommunications standard LTE Advanced into the car – a world first.
The greatly optimized navigation system of the new A8 is able to learn on the basis of routes that have already been driven, so that the system can thus make intelligent suggestions to the driver. The calculation is performed online on the servers of the map and navigation provider HERE, with real-time data concerning the overall traffic situation also being taken into account. Also included in the map view are detailed 3D models of many major cities in Europe.
The line of services from Audi connect is highly diversified. It ranges from the new hybrid radio functionality which, depending on the reception quality, can switch seamlessly between FM, DAB and online radio stations, and enables emergency and breakdown calls. Traffic sign and hazard information are two innovative Car-to-X services which utilize the swarm intelligence of the Audi fleet. Next year on-street parking will be added, whose data from the vehicle swarm will facilitate searching for a parking space.
The new myAudi app enables the customer to directly view many connect services, networking the car with the customer’s smartphone. For example, the new myAudi Navigation allows you to plan and start a route on your smartphone. Once the user enters the A8, route guidance is continued on the on-board monitor. When the customer exits the car at the end of their journey, the smartphone continues to guide them to their next destination – by foot or with public transport.
And the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System delivers a new spatial experience: For the first time the rear seats are included in its fascinating 3D sound with height information. The music unfolds exactly how it was recorded in the concert hall. Thanks to the Audi phone box and voice-over-LTE function, even telephony in the A8 reaches a new level both in terms of operation and the quality of the sound and connection.
Automated driving: the three new Audi AI systems
The new A8 is the world’s first production automobile to have been developed for conditional automation at level 3. On highways and multi-lane motorways with a physical barrier separating the two directions of traffic, the Audi AI traffic jam pilot handles driving in slow-moving traffic up to 60 km/h (37.3 mph). The system handles starting from a stop, accelerating, steering and braking in its lane. If the driver has activated the traffic jam pilot at the AI button on the center console, they can take their foot off the accelerator and release the steering wheel. Unlike at level 2, they no longer need to monitor the car constantly and can focus on another activity supported by the on-board infotainment system, depending on the legal situation in the respective country. The driver must remain alert and capable of taking over the task of driving when the system prompts them to do so.
Introduction of the Audi AI traffic jam pilot requires both clarity regarding the legal parameters for each country and specific adaptation and testing of the system. Moreover, varying worldwide homologation procedures and their deadlines must be observed. For these reasons, Audi will initiate series production of the traffic jam pilot in the new A8 incrementally, depending on the legal situation in the respective country.
The new Audi AI systems also include the Audi AI (remote) parking pilot and the Audi AI remote garage pilot. They make parking extremely convenient by autonomously driving the A8 into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces as well as garages, and by driving the car back out. The driver monitors the maneuvering, but does not need to be sitting in the vehicle – both systems can be started using a smartphone featuring the new myAudi app. Alternatively, the driver can start the Audi AI parking pilot with the AI button in the center console if they are still at the wheel.
The foundation of these high-end systems is the central driver assistance controller, another top innovation from Audi. About the size of a tablet, it continually merges the data from the sensors into a differentiated model of the surroundings. In addition to the radar sensors, a front camera and the ultrasonic sensors, Audi is the first car manufacturer also to use a laser scanner. This data merger also benefits the driver assistance systems, in addition to the Audi AI systems. The new A8 has more than 40 such systems on board, including the new crossing assist that detects crossing vehicles. Each system makes use of the vehicle surroundings model and can operate more effectively as a result of this model’s high precision.
Mild-hybrid technology for even greater efficiency: the drive systems
The new A8 will be launched on the European market with two extensively re-engineered V6 turbo engines: a 3.0 TDI, the A8 50 TDI (combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 5.8 - 5.6; combined CO2 emissions in g/km: 152 - 145*) and a 3.0 TFSI, the A8 55 TFSI (combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 8.0 - 7.7; combined CO2 emissions in g/km: 182 - 175*). The diesel develops 210 kW (286 hp), and the gasoline version 250 kW (340 hp). Further engines, including a plug-in hybrid variant will follow as of 2018.
The new Audi A8 will, for the first time, be equipped with an electrified drivetrain as standard. The engines are equipped for this purpose with mild-hybrid technology: a belt alternator starter (BAS) and a lithium-ion battery with 10 Ah electrical capacity. The new A8 can then coast at speeds between 55 and 160 km/h (34.2 and 99.4 mph) with the engine off. As a result, the vehicle can then travel with zero emissions for up to 40 seconds. As soon as the driver steps on the gas again, the BAS prompts a swift, very smooth restart. The new 48-volt system, which in the new A8 functions for the first time as a main vehicle electrical system, allows a high recuperation power of up to 12 kW plus start-stop operation from 22 km/h (13.7 mph). The combined effect of these measures is to bring down the fuel consumption by as much as 0.7 liters (0.2 US gal) per 100 kilometers (62.1 mi) in customer operation. All engines operate in conjunction with a fast and gently shifting eight-stage tiptronic.
The latter combines an rpm-adaptive torsion damper allowing low engine speeds, as well as a new electrical oil pump for changing gears while coasting. The quattro permanent all-wheel drive system with self-locking center differential is standard and, in the case of all MHEV model variants, it can be supplemented by the optional sport differential. It actively distributes the drive torque between the rear wheels depending on where it is needed, for even sportier driving and more stable handling.
New dimension: the chassis
Dynamic all-wheel steering, Audi AI active suspension, electronic chassis platform – Audi has rethought every aspect of the chassis of its new flagship. Revolutionary technologies and control systems make it even more comfortable, sporty and safe. The dynamic all-wheel steering redefines the limits of the physically possible in allowing the steering angles at the front and rear axles to be set independently of one another. It combines nearly delay-free response and steering behavior with superior driving stability.
The second new technology, Audi AI active suspension, is a fully active electromechanical suspension system. It uses electric actuators to increase or decrease the load on each wheel individually as a function of the driver’s wishes and the driving situation for active and optimal control of the body. The characteristics range from the gentle rolling of a classical luxury sedan to the dynamics of a sports car. The Audi AI active suspension receives the signals for its regulating operation from the electronic chassis platform, the central control unit for the chassis that also manages the dynamic all-wheel steering, the sport differential and the air suspension system. The drive energy comes from the new 48-volt main electrical system.
On A8 vehicles equipped with the pre sense 360° system with central sensor data merger in the central driver assistance controller, the Audi AI active suspension also increases passive safety. In the event of an impending side impact at more than 25 km/h (15.5 mph), the body is raised by up to 80 millimeters (3.1 in) within half a second. As a result, the other party of the accident collides with a more resistant zone of the sedan. Deformation of the cabin and the loads acting on the occupants, above all in the chest and abdominal areas, can thus be reduced by up to 50 percent compared with a lateral collision in which the suspension is not raised.
The base price: €90,600
The new Audi A8 and the A8 L are built in Neckarsulm, and deliveries to European markets are due to begin in late fall. The base price for the sedan with normal wheelbase is €90,600, with the A8 L starting at €94,100.
The equipment, data and prices specified in this document refer to the model range offered in Germany. Subject to change without notice; errors and omissions excepted.