Spot the difference: Audi’s new A8 or a NASA Explorer?
The German luxury carmaker’s most advanced four-door doesn’t sacrifice space for new tech, writes Toby Hagon.
The feaTures list for Audi’s new A8 could be confused with that of the latest NASA Explorer – virtual cockpit, matrix LED lights, air ioniser, natural voice recognition, multiple radars, a laser scanner – but you’ll be pleased to know this ride is totally terrestrial.
For a snip under $200,000, there’s a choice of sixcylinder petrol or diesel, with each model powering all four wheels and also featuring a mild hybrid system for running the electrical components, including the stop-start function. There’s 250kW of power from the turbocharged petrol V6 engine, channelled through an eight-speed auto in a smooth, unflustered manner. The electric system subtly reduces fuel use and allows the engine to shut down when coasting.
The A8 also employs air suspension, smothering imperfections beautifully as it actively adjusts to bumps and dips. The optional 20-inch wheels clench the road tenaciously, while all-wheel steering – also optional – further settles the four-door body. Which brings us to the exterior: the A8 ushers in Audi’s latest design language, with gentle lines and powerful proportions. The 5.2-metre-long sedan belies its near-two-tonne heft once you ramp up the pace. Composed largely of aluminium, it’s wrapped around a structure infused with carbon fibre for additional strength.
On the inside, it’s just as radical a departure, with natural materials blending with modern finishes for a clean yet suitably Teutonic look. Space is plentiful with an additional 37 millimetres in length and a roof raised 13 millimetres compared to the previous generation. And those wanting even more room can choose the L model, which adds 130 millimetres of rear seat space for an extra $15,000. While there are three seatbelts in the back, the centre works best as an armrest, with its lengthy cushioning housing a touchscreen remote that gives control of everything from the temperature to the entertainment.
Technology defines Audi’s latest flagship vehicle and perhaps the most advanced inclusion is the driver-assistance system, which takes over if the person behind the wheel makes a mistake – the laser scanner builds on the virtual, 3D, real-time maps created by cameras and radar. It’ll even warn you if you’re about to scratch the sizeable alloy wheels on a gutter.
But there’s no such thing as perfection (not yet, anyway); sensors and cameras can occasionally get confused and then it’s back to the human in charge for guidance. And, for now, Australians miss out on arguably the most useful feature – autonomous driving below 60km/h – because regulators haven’t approved it yet. The future of driving might be here but we’ll have to wait just a little bit longer to fully utilise it.
ENGINE 3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol TRANSMISSION Eight-speed automatic POWER/TORQUE 250kW/500Nm 0-100KM/H 5.6 seconds FUEL CONSUMPTION (AV.) 8.2L/100km PRICE $195,000