Audi has unveiled the new A8 in Barcelona. The company says that in its fourth generation, the flagship model again sets the benchmark for Vorsprung durch Technik with a new design language, an innovative touchscreen operating concept and systematic drivetrain electrification.
Audi claims that the A8 is also the first production car in the world to have been developed for highly automated driving. From 2018, the company will gradually be taking piloted driving functions such as parking pilot, garage pilot and traffic jam pilot into production.
Audi says the new A8 signals the beginning of a new design era for the entire brand and “the front end with its wide, upright Singleframe grille and the fluid, muscular body convey power, elegance, sophistication and modernity, and deliver on the promise made by the Audi prologue design study”.
The new car is also available in A8 L form, which has a 13 centimetre longer wheelbase, and compared to its predecessor, the A8 has grown substantially in length in both body styles.
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 at LTE speed. The Audi connect range also includes traffic sign recognition and hazard information – innovative car-to-X services that draw on the swarm intelligence of the Audi fleet.
The navigation system has also evolved in line with the car which houses it: It is self-learning, based on the route just driven. This provides the driver with intelligent search suggestions. The map also incorporates highly detailed 3D models of major European cities.
Audi claims that 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 is activated using the AI button on the centre console.
The traffic jam pilot 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, depending on the national laws, 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.
The introduction of the Audi AI traffic jam pilot means the statutory framework will need to be clarified in each individual market, along with the country-specific definition of the application and testing of the system. In addition, a range of approval procedures and their corresponding timescales will need to be observed worldwide. Audi will therefore be adopting a step-by-step approach to the introduction of the traffic jam pilot in production models.
From a technical perspective the traffic jam pilot is revolutionary. During piloted driving, a central driver assistance controller (zFAS) now permanently computes an image of the surroundings by merging the sensor data. As well as the radar sensors, a front camera and the ultrasonic sensors, Audi is the first car manufacturer also to use a laser scanner.
The Audi AI remote parking pilot and the Audi AI remote garage pilot autonomously steer the A8 into and out of a parking space or a garage, while the manoeuvre is monitored by the driver. The driver does not need to be sitting in the car – he or she can start the appropriate system from their smartphone using the new myAudi app. It broadcasts a live feed of the parking manoeuvre taken from the car’s 360-degree cameras on their handheld device for easy monitoring.
One innovation is dynamic all-wheel steering, which is designed to combine quick and direct response with unshakable stability. The steering ratio for the front wheels varies as a function of speed; the rear wheels are turned in or against the direction of steering depending on the speed range. The car’s handling becomes even more dynamic and precise with the sport differential. This actively distributes torque between the rear wheels, complementing the quattro permanent all-wheel drive that is standard in the new A8.
A second new technology, Audi AI active suspension, is a fully active suspension system. Depending on the driver’s wishes and the driving situation, it is capable of raising or lowering each wheel separately with electric actuators. This newfound latitude is meant to enable it to deliver the ride comfort of a luxury saloon and the taut, composed agility of a more driver-oriented performance car in equal measure. In combination with pre sense 360°, the car is rapidly raised if there is an impending lateral collision, reducing the potential consequences of the accident for all occupants.
This highly innovative suspension system obtains the energy it requires from a 48-volt electrical circuit. The A8 is the first Audi model to use this more powerful network as its primary electrical system, and all versions reap its benefit.
The new A8 makes its debut with two extensively reengineered V6 turbo engines: a 3.0 TDI and a petrol 3.0 TFSI. The diesel develops 282 bhp. An eight-cylinder TDI – a 4.0-litre with 429 bhp – will follow slightly later. The exclusive top engine version is the W12 with a displacement of 6.0 litres.
All engines operate in conjunction with a belt alternator starter (BAS), which is the nerve centre of the 48-volt electrical system. This mild hybrid technology (MHEV, mild hybrid electric vehicle) 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 output of up to 12 kW.
The A8 L e-tron quattro with its plug-in hybrid drivetrain will follow at a later date: Its 3.0 TFSI engine and powerful electric motor achieve 443 bhp of system power and 516.3 lb-ft of system torque. 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 inductively to a receiver coil in the car with a power output of 3.6 kW.
The new Audi A8 and A8 L are being built at the Neckarsulm plant in Germany and will be appearing on UK roads in late 2017 following initial availability for ordering in September.