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Audi debuts SA-bound A8: All you need to know about the next-gen flagship

2017-07-12 10:17

Image: Newspress

  • Flagship Audi A8 debuts in Barcelona
  • New design, engines and ‘touch operating’ concept
  • Piloted drive to be rolled out in 2018

Barcelona – The fourth-generation A8 has made its world debut at the Audi Summit in Barcelona. 
The flagship model has a new design language, an innovative touchscreen operating concept and a battery-powered drive. 

The A8 will, from 2018, be implemented with piloted driving functions such as parking pilot, garage pilot and traffic jam pilot.

The new Audi A8/A8 L are being built at the Neckarsulm site in Germany and are due to be launched in South Africa during the second half of 2018. 

New design era
The A8, says Audi, marks a “new design era for the entire brand”. The front end has a wide, upright single-frame grille and new, muscular bodykit, available in 5.17 metre standard length or the A8 L, which has a 13cm longer wheelbase.

The flagship model is fitted with striking HD Matrix LED headlights with Audi laser lighting, and the LED light strip combined with OLED technology rear lights. These produce unique light animations as the driver approaches and leaves the car.

Mild hybrid and e-tron

The new A8 will be offered internationally with two re-engineered V6 turbo engines; a 3.0 TDI and a 3.0 TFSI. The diesel develops 210kW, and the petrol version 250 kW. Two eight-cylinder versions – a 4.0 TDI with 320 kW and a 4.0 TFSI with 338kW – will follow later. The top engine version is the W12 with a displacement of 6.0 litres. Engine line-up for South Africa will be confirmed closer to the model introduction.

All five engines operate in conjunction with a belt alternator starter (BAS), which is the nerve center 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 12kW. 


The A8 L *e-tron quattro with its powerful plug-in hybrid drive will follow at a later date internationally. Its 3.0 TFSI and the powerful electric motor achieve 330kW of system power and 700 Nm of system torque. The lithium-ion battery stores enough power for about 50km 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 automobile with a power output of 3.6kW.

Luxury lounge
Compared to its predecessor, the new A8  has grown substantially in length in both body versions. 

The classiest seat in the new Audi flagship is in the rear right – the optional relaxation seat in the A8 L is fitted with four different adjustment options and a footrest.

In this seat, the passenger can warm and massage the soles of their feet on a unit with multiple settings incorporated into the back of the front-passenger seat. The new comfort head restraints complete the experience. The rear passengers can also control an array of functions such as ambient lighting, the new HD Matrix reading lights and seat massage, plus make private phone calls, via a separate operating unit. The rear seat remote, with its OLED display as large as a smartphone, is a removable unit housed in the centre armrest.

Fingertip response

The instrument panel is kept largely clear of buttons and switches. At its centre is a 10.1” touchscreen display which, when off, blends almost invisibly into the high-gloss black surround thanks to its black-panel look.

The user interface appears as soon as the car is opened. The driver controls the Infotainment system with fingertip control on the large display. They can use a second touchscreen display on the centre tunnel console to access the air conditioning and comfort functions as well as make text inputs. 

Watch: New Audi A8 

The A8 can also engage in intelligent conversation; the driver can activate an array of functions in the automobile 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 extensive 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 (may not be available in SA). 

The satnav is another new AI feature; 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.

Pilot drive

The Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 60 km/h on freeways and highways 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 accelerating, steering and braking. Audi says: “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.”

Will this be implemented globally? What about SA?

Audi said: “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. The brand’s high quality standards are equally applicable in the realm of highly automated driving. 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.”

The 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 maneuver is monitored by the driver. They start the appropriate system from their smartphone using the new myAudi app. To monitor the parking maneuver, they hold the Audi AI button pressed to watch a live display from the car’s 360 degree cameras on their device.

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