Audi A8 craves to be

driven

Audi A8, 2018, front
Audi A8, 2018, front, static
Audi A8, 2018, side
Audi A8, 2018, side, static
Audi A8, 2018, display screens
Audi A8, 2018, gear lever
Audi A8, 2018, instrument panel
Audi A8, 2018, rear, static
Audi A8, 2018, rear seats

AUDI has a bit of bad news for chauffeurs... they might not be needed if their boss orders the latest A8 limo.

The fourth generation luxury A8 is claimed to be the first production car to be built for automated driving.

Of course, at the moment legislation doesn't allow hands-free driving but when the legal framework is sorted out the latest A8's equipment will be all set to go.

Called the Traffic Jam Pilot, it takes charge of driving at up to 37mph in slow moving traffic on a road with a central barrier separating the carriageways. A single touch of a button on the centre console activates the system.

The driver doesn't have to grip the steering wheel or monitor the car - he or she can even watch the onboard TVset, until being called on to take over the task of driving.

So, who's buying large luxury saloons like the new A8, which is now on sale from £69,100, at a time that SUVs small and large appear to be swamping every sector including the prestige market?

Well, obviously CEOs of major companies both public and private are more likely to be seen driving or being driven in a restrained four-door like a Mercedes S-Class or an A8 rather than a high-rider or a mud-splattered off-roader. And in Britain, alone, more than 1,000 A8s were sold during 2016 and the firm expects still more orders for the new version.

If and when a company chief gets behind the wheel of the 5.17metre long A8, he or she will discover that not only is it hushed and refined, but it is also dynamically accomplished with crisp handling thanks partly to quattro four wheel drive, limited cornering roll and a smooth eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox.

I sampled one of the first models in UK, a 3.0 TDI A8 L (price £73,095), which has a stretched wheelbase for greater rear passenger space, making it 13cm longer than the standard car. A petrol 3.0 litre is also available and soon the range will be broadened by 4.0 litre TDI and the flagship 6.0 litre W12 version. Lastly, there will be a plug-in hybrid, the A8 L e-tron quattro at a date yet to be fixed.

For many the ‘base' 3.0 TDI engine with its 282bhp will be more than adequate. With mild hybrid technology and extended stop-start system which allows emission-free fuel consumption is improved without penalty to performance.

But what the A8 L does best is cosset the passengers, especially the VIP who happens to sit in the rear left seat - the most sought after place when being chauffeured.

Order the optional ‘relaxation seat' and it has four different adjustments plus a footrest. The fortunate passenger can warm and message the soles of his feet on a unit with multiple settings built into the back of the front passenger seat.

Natural Valcona leather adorns the seats which all have electrically adjustable climate control to stay cosy in the winter and cool in the summer.

Life up front is similarly attractive with a large 10.1 inch touchscreen looking after sat nav and many of the necessary controls and the virtual cockpit directly in front of the driver supplies relevant information in usual Audi style. A head-up display further enhances safety and allows the driver to keep a careful watch on the road ahead.

Visually imposing and packed with user-friendly technology, the sumptuous A8 lays down the gauntlet to the latest generation of Mercedes S-Class, which once reigned supreme for star-studded transport.

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