High tech drive

A8 com­fort comes at a price, writes Mark Hinch­liffe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

IM’ CO­COONED in the cabin of an Audi A8 4.2 qu­a­tro with a Bang & Olufsen sound sys­tem and plush leather seats.

But this tran­quil scene al­most comes to an un­happy end when a car nips into the slot in front of the Audi.

How­ever, the LCD screen goes red, a warn­ing beep star­tles me, I step on the brakes which have been set up for a panic stop and the seat­belt pre­ten­sion­ers clinch me tight in my place. Wel­come to the A8 world of technology, safety and lux­ury.

Value

ALL this technology is not cheap. The saloon fits be­low the BMW 750i ($ 274,200) and Jaguar XJ 5.0 ($251,000) but above the Lexus LS460 ($ 191,164) and Mercedes S350 ($217,800). The A8 I am test­ing has a stack of op­tions, tak­ing the price to $261,969.

The stan­dard seats come with 22 ad­just­ments. The seats in the test car also have ven­ti­la­tion and a five-mode mas­sage func­tion cost­ing $5500.

The test car also has adap­tive cruise con­trol ($ 5395), Bang & Olufsen sound ($14,430), rear elec­tric blinds ($2670) and night vi­sion as­sist that de­tects pedes­tri­ans ($5400).

Technology

THIS saloon has more elec­tronic fea­tures than a space sta­tion. The multimedia in­ter­face has a touch­pad like a lap­top. Punch a num­ber to quickly se­lect a ra­dio sta­tion, or you can use the voice con­trol but­ton on the steer­ing wheel.

It also acts like a ‘‘mag­nadoo­dle’’. You can draw num­bers, letters or char­ac­ters with your fin­ger to op­er­ate the Audi’s A8’s sat­nav, au­dio and on­board com­puter.

It recog­nises char­ac­ters in Cyril­lic, Chi­nese, Can­tonese, Ja­panese and Korean as well as English.

The touch­pad, main con­trol knob and lay­out of the fea­tures are easy to learn and quite in­tu­itive.

The technology also fea­tures the best sat­nav/in­fo­tain­ment LCD screen dis­play I’ve seen in any car. It is vivid and clear in any light.

Even the ana­logue clock is hi-tech with its time set and main­tained by GPS.

Safety

IF YOU don’t feel se­cure with all the airbags and ad­vanced technology around you, there are plenty of op­tions you can buy to make it even more se­cure.

These in­clude cruise con­trol which will keep you away from other traf­fic and even come to a full stop and start again; a pre-sense safety sys­tem; night vi­sion that de­tects pedes­tri­ans; and lane and side as­sist to keep you on the straight and nar­row.

Driv­ing

THIS saloon is well-man­nered, quiet, re­fined and plush. Pas­sen­gers will be lulled by its gen­teel ways and the mood strip light­ing in the ceil­ing and around the doors. But the steer­ing feels rather dis­con­nected and numb.

As for the 4.2-litre V8 en­gine, it gets along quite well and pulls with ease, but I would have ex­pected a smoother and more con­trolled power de­liv­ery from this torquey V8.

Ver­dict

A FINE ex­am­ple of ad­vanced technology and en­gi­neer­ing in a hand­some, safe and com­fort­able pack­age, but there are a few rough edges, es­pe­cially for the driver.

Cruisy con­trol: the Audi A8 of­fers a range of smart safety fea­tures.

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