After a number of teasers, the fourth-generation 2018 Audi A8 has finally been unveiled at the inaugural Audi Summit in Barcelona, boasting a significant amount of new technologies for the brand.
Full autonomous driving capability – Audi AI
The new Audi A8 is the first production car to have been developed for highly automated driving with a new ‘superbrain’ dubbed Audi AI – a system that will filter down to the rest of the Audi range in time. The system allows fully autonomous driving at up to 60km/h on motorways where legal – and unlike the semi-autonomous systems of many other models, drivers of the new A8 won’t need to leave their hands on the steering wheel for the system to continue working. Above 60km/h, the new A8 isn’t able to drive itself autonomously yet, with the driver having to rely on radar cruise control with its stop and go functionality – the ability to drive autonomously on more than just lower-speed motorways (level four) will arrive in 2018.
The new Audi A8 also debuts Audi’s Pilot Park Pro system which, like the systems seen in the new BMW 7 Series and 5 Series, will allow the driver to leave the car before it parks itself and turns off its own engine. The car’s key relays images from the car’s 360-degree camera system to the new Audi key’s inbuilt screen, allowing the driver to monitor the car’s progress.
A new design language
The new A8 ushers in a new era of Audi design previewed by the Audi Prologue concept car from 2014. The single frame hexagonal grille is now three-dimensional, and the muscular haunches and coupe-like silhouette of the A8 convey a sleeker, sportier impression than any previous Audi sedan. Bright HD Matrix LED headlights with Audi laser light feature, along with OLED tailights. We expect to see more of this look in future, starting with the new A7, expected within the next year.
But it’s inside where Audi have concentrated most of their efforts on the new A8, describing it as a lounge for buyers to relax and enjoy. There is an entirely new approach to dash design, doing away with the brand’s existing MMI touchpad and rotary dial. These are replaced by Porsche Panamera-esque twin stacked touchscreens. On top is an integrated 10.1-inch piece, above a lower 8.6-inch screen dedicated to the climate controls.
Decidedly concept car-like in appearance, the Audi A8’s interior is sleek and futuristic, and borrows many components from Porsche’s new flagship sedan, with which the new A8 shares a platform. The traditional headlight control dial by the driver has been removed and replaced with buttons, and there are controls for opening up and closing the air vents, too. The A8 features the latest version of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital driver display, with a simpler, more modern layout, with even more custom configurability.
The rear seat of the Audi A8 is more luxurious than before, with individual chairs capable of massaging their occupants. Ambience in the rear is also improved, with Matrix LED lighting – allowing the passenger to focus a single beam of the overhead light in a particular position – and there’s also a centrally-mounted OLED touchscreen in back, for controlling the climate, seating position, and seat heating. This same touchscreen is also removable.
Also available optionally on the A8L is a front passenger seat that tilts forward to give rear passengers even more space. This seat also features a heated and four-way massaging backrest for one rear seat passenger to rest their feet onto and utilise whilst being driven.
Driving and dynamics
Overseas, the A8 will be offered initially with five engines – two diesels, and three petrols, including a 430kW W12 petrol also seen in the Bentley Bentayga. But Audi Australia says there is little local interest in petrol A8s – so we’ll be receiving the familiar 210kW 3.0 six-cylinder TDI, and a more potent V8 diesel, the 320kW 4.2 TDI.
Audi Australia has confirmed that in future, we’ll also be receiving a plug-in hybrid A8, in the form of the long-wheelbase A8 L e-tron. Under the bonnet will be a three-litre supercharged V6 petrol teamed with an electric motor – combined, they produce 330kW and 700Nm. The lithium-ion battery will allow an all-electric range of 50km before the petrol engine is required – and the vehicle will also be capable of electric charging.
Every variant of the Audi A8 will feature a mild-hybrid system connected to the car’s new 48-volt electrical system, which allows the car to switch the engine off during coasting or braking, which Audi says enables the new A8 savings of up to 0.7L/100km in real life driving.
A first for the Audi brand are two new types of available suspension, the first a conventional system featuring active four-wheel steering, also featuring a variable ratio front rack and rear steering that can turn in or against the direction of the front wheels to enhance handling and agility. As a result, Audi claims a turning circle of just 11.4m for the standard Audi A8. The second is Audi’s new AI Suspension, which is a completely adaptive suspension system capable of raising or lowering itself automatically based on driving conditions and even during an accident to aid its passenger’s comfort.
The new Audi A8: Australian release date
There will be quite a wait for the new A8’s Australian release, with the car slated to arrive here in July 2018. The A8 is the first of a new product onslaught from Audi, and before the A8 arrives locally, the brand will likely have revealed a new A1 city car and Q3 SUV, as well as A6 and A7 mid-sizers – plus a standalone electric car.
Australian prices and specifications for the new Audi A8 will be announced closer to the car’s launch.