Audi A8 50 TDI quattro Luxury flagship driven
Audi’s new luxury flagship leans hard on advanced technology in a bid to eclipse the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-benz S-class
This, the new A8, has the greatest capability for autonomous driving of any production car in the world. That’s according to Audi and, even then, it will apply only once the full complement of 40-plus driver assistance systems gets rolled out,
after deliveries begin early next year. The delay stems from the fact that Audi remains at the mercy of the differing statutory frameworks of the markets in which it operates, but what exactly should this comprehensively re-engineered, fourth-generation A8 eventually trim from the job description of chauffeurs the world over?
Audi seems proudest of software it calls Traffic Jam Pilot, which lets the driver relinquish control of this 5.2m-long, two-tonne saloon at speeds of up to 37mph, so long as there is a physical barrier separating both directions of traffic. Other autonomous functions will enable you to park the car at the touch of a button (even if that involves pulling into a garage) and should greatly reduce the risk of collision, more on which in a moment.
When the new A8 arrives in UK dealers in December, it will do so with turbocharged V6s: a 282bhp diesel and a 225bhp petrol. A twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 version will come on stream in 2018 (UK availability to be confirmed), along with a 443bhp plug-in hybrid and 557bhp W12 to top the range. Quattro four-wheel drive and an eight-speed torque-converter gearbox are standard. There’s also a new 48V electrical system – first seen in the SQ7 – that bestows ‘mild hybrid’ status upon the A8 and allows for engine-off coasting and extended stop-start capabilities.
Audi claims the A8 ushers in a new era of design for the entire brand, although you could contest that. The neat aesthetic follows on from the latest A4 and A5 models, with an understated silhouette that uses sharp creases and innovative lighting (the A8 gets optional laser headlights and OLED rear lights) to inject some vitality. However, it is not a particularly arresting machine and suffers the indignity of Audi’s current fascination with fake exhaust tips. The body, meanwhile, is 37mm longer and 13mm taller but around half a centimetre narrower than before. It has allowed to Audi to enlarge the door openings and stretch rear leg room a touch.
Step inside and your first impression is of a car built to