Audi’s latest flagship luxury saloon is a real world showcase of the brand’s tech-focused future.
By Ghaith Madadha
Stately and statuesque with a vast hexagonal grille and grounded profile emphasizing its four-wheel-drive architecture, the A8’s aesthetic is dignified yet imposing. Under its meticulously detailed surfacing and true to Audi’s Vorsprung durch Technik (advancement through technology) credo, the A8 boasts the world’s first production level three self-driving capability (of five levels) courtesy of its artificial intelligence system, and across the board mild hybrid technology.
The A8 range was launched first in 55 TFSI guise with turbocharged 3-liter V6 engine, and will also include twin-turbo 4-liter V8 and 6-liter W12 versions. They are all designed as mild hybrids with a 48V battery and an electric system charged via regenerative braking. The 48V system operates ancillaries and allows early stop/start activation from 22km/h, and brief coasting with engine off at 55-160 km/h. The result is 0.7l/100 km less fuel consumption and efficient 7.8l/100km combined consumption. Meanwhile a smooth, responsive 8-speed automatic gearbox is standard.
Producing 335 BHP throughout a 5000-6400 plateau and generous 368 lb/ft torque at 1370-4500 rpm mid-range, the 55 TFSI is quick and confident. It dashes through 0-100 km/h in 5.6 seconds and tops out at 250 km/h with responsive turbocharger and four-wheel-drive traction. It pulls hard from low-end, climbs progressively and urgently to top-end, and is underwritten by a broad and flexible mid-range. Also driven, and soon available for sale, the twin-turbo V8- powered A8 60 TFSI develops 454 BHP and 487 lb/ft for more effortlessly muscular versatility and punchier performance.
Riding on standard adaptive air suspension, the A8 is stable at speed, committed through sweeping bends, and settled on rebound. It was also fluent over road texture imperfections, and supple in Comfort mode. Tautly controlled through narrow winding Spanish mountain routes, and with precise steering, the A8 proved agile for its size. Meanwhile, standard Quattro four-wheel-drive provided sure-footed handling and reassuring road-holding, and can re-allocate power between front and rear for agility and traction, which is further improved with an optional rear sport differential.
Soon available, the A8 will optionally feature innovative electromechanical suspension and four-wheel-steering. Fitted to the driven 60 TFSI, the A8’s electromechanical suspension features electric motors powered by the 48V system to individually control each wheel to read the road, car position and other parameters, to fluently, and accurately adjust wheel position and ride firmness. Driven on the same mountain roads, the heavier 60 TFSI long wheelbase version felt like a much smaller car and proved sublimely composed and flat when pounced through switchbacks.
Electromechanical suspension is controlled by the A8’s artificial intelligence system, and will also have predictive functionality. Driven in controlled conditions, predictive mode raises or lowers individual wheels as it travels over significant bumps and cracks for a perfectly smooth and level ride. The predictive function can also anticipate potential collision and raise the car’s body to mitigate impact severity.
To be activated and rolled out for individual markets as and when legislation and regulation catch up, the A8’s self-driving systems are operated by the zFas computer and numerous sensors, cameras, and radars. Complementing the A8’s extensive driver-assistance systems, Audi AI self-driving functionality is activated through the Traffic Jam Pilot system. Unlike previous systems, the A8’s autonomous driving system can operate without constant monitoring under the right conditions, where it stops, starts, steers and brakes up to 60km/h. Remote auto parking is also available.
Built on a 24 percent stiffer aluminum frame, the new A8 is slightly longer, taller, and with improved cabin space, including rear headroom. Its driving position is supportive and comfortable, while a level waistline affords for good visibility. Its classy and ergonomic cabin features high quality leather, suede, metals and open pore woods. High equipment levels include a configurable instrument panel and a high tech twin 10-1-inch screen infotainment system with haptic touch buttons and flexibly advanced voice recognition.
Engine: 3-liter, turbocharged V6-cylinders
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 335 (340)  @5000-6400 rpm
Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 368.8 (500) @1370-4500 rpm
0-100km/h: 5.6 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h (electronically governed)
Fuel consumption: 7.8 liters/100km
Length: 5172 mm
Width: 1945 mm
Height: 1473 mm
Luggage: 505 liters