By Stewart Smith on 2017-07-12 - Stewart was the former motoring editor of the Coventry Telegraph and is now a freelance contributor to Eurekar. He is based in Scotland and specialises in First Drive reviews.
Have a chat with the
TALK about luxury: the latest prestige model from Audi - the all-new A8 - can have an intelligent chat with its driver and even take over complete control at lower speeds while the driver watches TV!
The German maker has revealed its new state-of-the-art flagship luxury saloon in Barcelona where more than 2,000 motoring journalists from around the world were the first to see the new model which goes on sale in the UK in November.
It comes packed with the latest driving aids and communications kit and Audi claims it is the first production car in the world to have been developed for highly automated driving.
From 2018, Audi will gradually be taking piloted driving functions such as parking pilot, garage pilot and traffic jam pilot into production.
As far as looks go, the new A8 has been given a makeover which is not dramatic, but gives the flagship model a coupe-like appearance while flared wheel arches give it a sportier look.
The front end is dominated by the hexagonal single frame grille with optional HD Matrix LED headlights, and at the back a new lighting strip extends across the entire width.
Overall, the new A8, both in standard form and long wheelbase L, is slightly longer giving more legroom front and back.
The interior, as you would expect from a flagship motor, is ultra-luxurious and Audi has given the dash area a cleaner, less cluttered look with many knobs and buttons being replaced by a touch-sensitive ten inch screen in the centre of the facia plus a second 8.6 inch display controlling heating and ventilation.
The new A8 can also engage in intelligent conversation. The driver can activate an array of functions using a new, natural form of voice control. Information on destinations and media is either available on-board or is delivered from the Cloud. The Audi connect range also includes traffic sign recognition and hazard information.
The navigation system even incorporates highly-detailed 3D models of major European cities.
Options are plentiful, as you'd expect with premium models, and even include a foot massage pad for rear seat passengers.
The new A8 is the first production car to have been developed specially for highly automated driving. The Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 37mph on major roads where a physical barrier separates the two carriageways.
The system manages starting, accelerating, steering and braking. The driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently. They can take their hands off the steering wheel permanently and, focus on a different activity that is supported by the car, such as watching the on-board TV. As soon as the system reaches its limits, it calls on the driver to take back control of the task of driving.
However use of this on British roads would require a change in the UK driving laws.
As far as power goes, the A8 makes its debut with two extensively re-engineered V6 turbo engines - a 3.0 TDI diesel and a 3.0 TFSI petrol. The diesel develops 286bhp, and the petrol version 340bhp.
An eight-cylinder TDI - a four-litre with 435bhp - will follow slightly later. All engines operate in conjunction with a belt alternator starter. This mild hybrid technology enables the car to coast with the engine switched off, and to restart smoothly. It also has an extended start/stop function and an energy recovery feature.
The combined effect of these measures is to bring down the fuel consumption of the already efficient engines even further - by as much as 0.7litres for every 62.1miles covered in real-world driving conditions.
It is not yet confirmed, but Audi is expected to keep offering the W12 petrol saloon which is due next year, but in long wheelbase only and is expected to come with an updated twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 offering a whacking 540bhp.
The A8 L e-tron quattro, with its powerful plug-in hybrid drivetrain, will follow at a later date: Its 3.0 TFSI engine and electric motor achieve 449bhp of system power. The lithium-ion battery stores enough power for about 31 miles of electric driving. It can optionally be charged by Audi Wireless Charging. A pad in the garage floor transfers the power to a receiver coil in the car with a power output of 3.6kW.
Prices for the new A8 have yet to be announced, but the entry-level model is expected to weigh-in at just short of £70,000.
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