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

Autocar - - CONTENTS -

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

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