El­e­gant technology

Audi A8 is both clever and lux­u­ri­ous, writes Stu­art Martin

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

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.

Driv­ing

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.

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