Audi A8 is both clever and luxurious, writes Stuart Martin
IT’S difficult to get past the immense amount of technology in the new Audi A8. The German flagship is intended to be elegant, progressive, luxurious and still a driver’s car, but its aluminium body is loaded with new stuff.
Safety systems, interior design, materials and features are all aimed at taking the fight to the Mercedes S-Class and BMW’s 7 Series.
But it costs more, with the basic price up from $206,600 to $225,904 for a 4.2-litre V8 with 273kW and 445Nm — increases of 20kW and 5Nm. There will be a sub-$200,000 car, but not until later in the year.
The new managing director of Audi Australia, Uwe Hagen, says: ‘‘This car is not only our flagship but it’s our starting point for a huge launch offensive. It’s our ambassador for the future.’’
Active safety systems are considerable, though much of the really clever stuff is optional and costs extra.
The A8 sedan has energy-recovery systems, lower internal engine friction and an ondemand oil pump, all helping to lower fuel consumption by 13 per cent, from 10.9 to 9.5 litres for 100km for the petrol V8.
Coming later this year is the cheaper 3-litre turbodiesel V6, with 184kW and 550Nm, fuel consumption of 6.6 litres/100km and emissions of 176g/km, with a 4.2-litre TDI V8 planned for next year.
The drivetrain is headlined by an eight-speed automatic, teamed to the quattro all-wheeldrive system that runs 40 per cent front and 60 per cent rear, though that can rise to 85 per cent under appropriate conditions.
The interior design has previously been dominated by the centre-stack multimedia interface, but that has been revamped to include a pop-up screen, leaving more space on the centre-stack for a touch panel and a redesigned carousel-style display for the infotainment system.
Inside the opulent, flowing cabin are full leather, 22-way power-adjustable seats, full satnav, a Bose surround-sound 600W 14-speaker sound system (a $3000 option on the 3.0 TDI)
and a multimedia system, including a touchpad for manual entry of letters to search for numbers or locations.
Also standard is quad-zone climate control, with rear controls in the armrest.
The rest of the standard fare is as you expect: dual front, side (front and rear), full-length curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, electronic centre diff lock and a quattro allwheel-drive system sitting beneath the lightweight aluminium spaceframe.
The options list kicks off with an interior leather package that is extremely opulent and very comfortable, but also expensive.
THE new A8, though not perfect, is an immensely capable machine. Driving through what probably passes for traffic in Far North Queensland, it’s a near-silent ride. The only intrusion is some tyre rumble.
Despite its considerable footprint — 5.1m long and nearly 2m wide— the A8 feels light on its feet.
The four-mode suspension system is best left in automatic mode, where the electronics deliver a supple and well-sorted ride. But even in the dynamic mode the A8’s suspension system has been given the smarts to get rid of the jiggle present in some active systems, and at the same time giving subtle but effective body control.
The economy readout is 13.5 litres/100km after the preview drive over open country roads, tight uphill driving and freeways.
The new-look transmission selector might take some getting used to, but in Sport mode there is rarely any need to use the wheelmounted paddles.
All covered: Audi A8 has extensive active safety systems, with smart optional extras.