- Published: Friday, 06 October 2017 06:01
A techno marvel, but the new 2018 Audi A8 displays great limo credentials even without them
Oh it’s the new A8. It looks the same…
Yes, but that’s Audi’s way. It looks largely similar, but to Audi’s credit there are some nice design details that you won’t take in from photos alone. There’s more of the lovingly-engineered creases and figure lines, while the rear end looks very different with its cross-width LED bar. Oh and it looks very cool during startup or shutdown.
But what’s really different about it?
Probably the most important thing you need to know about the new, fourth-gen Audi A8 is that it packs more technology onboard than any Audi before it, and right now, it’s probably the most advanced car on the road*.
Organic LEDs, lasers, radar, an advanced form of active suspension, all-wheel steering, and of course, self-piloting AI, or what Audi boasts is the world’s first Level 3 autonomous car. Read about the most useful tech features it has right here.
*If specced to the gills with all its systems.
AI? Doesn’t Elon Musk say that’s evil shit?
No. Audi AI is a new umbrella term (like ‘quattro’, or ‘e-tron’) for new systems from the company that interpret sensor data and help the driver or make decisions.
Anyway, Elon’s own cars (Tesla Model S) and cars like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo S90 all have the ability to drive you on the highway, but you need to be paying attention, and have your hands on the wheel all the time.
This is the third-gen model, you can read what we thought of the A8 3.0 TFSI here.
But if you’re driving an A8 equipped with the Audi AI Traffic Jam Assist, you can have the car take full control, leaving you free to post that selfie on Instagram right now.
Read more about the A8’s competition:
The stunning new Lexus LS brings a serious sword sharpness to the luxury limousine fight, while the S-Class has recently gotten a facelift. Meanwhile BMW offers less expensive four-cylinder power in a big limo for the first time.
Ooh that sounds like a car for this age. But is it still a good car?
The A8 has only just been announced so those features still need to be approved in Singapore, and we won’t know how much it all costs until mid-2018 when the car arrives.
The important question is, of course: if we take the new A8 without all the (very likely cost optional) Enterprise-style bits and bobs, is it a competitive luxury limousine?
It is. There’s been a raft of the expected improvements: Moving to the MLB-Evo platform and a 48V power system means Audi’s put a bigger battery onboard and made the car a ‘mild hybrid’, though it doesn’t have a separate electric motor. That means longer periods where the engine isn’t running (stopped or coasting) and better efficiency.
The V6 is a new turbocharged unit - it’s willing, smooth and even more seamless now. The A8 isn’t a small vehicle by any means, but it rules highways and wide roads and delivers superb refinement on most surfaces, though big wheels mean (like any luxury sedan) small stuff makes some minor disturbances.
As the base gasoline model (ours came with four-wheel steering but not the advanced ‘AI suspension’) it still feels its size and weight when the road becomes challenging, otherwise it’s in familiar, faultless limo territory.
Let’s say I’m Amish and have never seen a smartphone. Could I use the A8 easily?
You’d probably set fire to it and scream heresy. Jokes aside, the A8 sees Audi move from its rotary-based controller to a full touchscreen layout.
It takes the whole glass cockpit idea a step further: The instruments are virtual (Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit display), but now the central infotainment system is made up of two stacked touchscreen displays - there are only five physical buttons (handbrake, auto hold, volume/track, parking sensor, safety) left.
The system makes up for a lack of physicality by giving audio, visual and haptic feedback - the screen vibrates like a iPhone long-press - plus it boasts pin sharp graphics and not one but two nVidia Tegra chips.
In a high-spec rear seat, like the ones in the cars we tested, you’ve no less than three removable tablet controls: Two for each seatback, to serve as infotainment screens, and a third tablet with an OLED screen integrated into the centre armrest.
Isn’t that sort of...silicon overkill?
Not really, because it’s all part of the technology race we have in cars now and Audi’s just keeping its spot at the head of the curve here.
All of the things we’ve seen have been done on other machines like the 7 Series and S-Class, but the A8 takes things a notch higher.
We personally don’t like touchscreens - they’re more fiddly and take your eyes away from the road for longer - but as Audi says, it’s modelled on smartphones that everyone finds so easy to use now.
As a standard luxury limo it does well, but splurging money on options and tech transforms the A8 into a really smart car too, and if you opt for the 460hp, 4.0-litre V8 and optional chassis systems, quite a smart bomb too.
Audi A8 L 55 TFSI
Engine 2,995cc, 24V, V6, turbocharged
Power 340hp at 5000-6400rpm
Torque 500Nm at 1370-4500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 5.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.8L/100km
Agent Premium Automobiles
Verdict: Technological sideshow doesn’t detract from the fact that the new fourth-gen A8 feels even more luxurious and refined now.