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Audi A8 flagship evolves

Miami spice: Audi's flagship A8 has lost 30kg while gaining a stack of new features.

Audi introduces what it calls its most ‘emotional’ luxury sedan

Audi logo1 Dec 2009

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

AUDI has unveiled its third-generation aluminium-bodied A8 luxury sedan at a Miami art show, exhibiting higher levels of comfort, ergonomics, advanced technologies, safety and drivetrain efficiency.

Clearly impressed with its own motorised sculpture, Audi used the Design Miami show to lift the lid on its flagship, instead of the Los Angeles motor show that also opens this week.

On sale in Australia from late next year after a second-quarter 2010 European rollout, the new A8 is a stylistic evolution of the current A4 series.

The top-shelf Audi retains the Audi aluminium space frame structure of its A8 predecessors, with many modifications in the name of improved strength and reduced weight.

The 2010 A8 is about 30kg lighter, despite packing more standard features.

It employs a modified version of the company’s MLB (Modulare Längsbaukasten) platform that also underpins the A4, A5, Q5 and A7, as well as the next-generation A6 due to be unveiled next year.

This means that while Audi’s signature longitudinally mounted engine configuration is carried over there is now less mass over the front axle for improved weight distribution thanks to a shift of the engine, gearbox and steering systems from over the front axle.

7 center imageAt 5137mm and 1949mm, the D4 is longer and wider respectively than both its predecessor and immediate rivals, but it has a lower height (of 1460mm) for what Audi states is a ‘coupe-like roof line’ silhouette. The wheelbase measurement on the standard car is 2992mm.

Add shorter overhangs as well as a quattro all-wheel drive layout boasting more rear-wheel drive-centric 40:60 front-to-rear torque distribution (varying up to 60 and 80 per cent front and rear respectively according to how much grip is needed), and the new A8 promises to be a sharper drive than before.

Front-wheel-drive models are also included, while the engine range initially will consist of V6 and V8 units in FSI (petrol) and TDI (turbo-diesel) configurations mated to an all-new eight-speed sequential-shift automatic gearbox with shift-by-wire control, replacing today’s six-speed auto item.

An A8 Hybrid model is expected to be unveiled early next year, at either January’s Detroit show or in Geneva in March.

Audi says no luxury rival with corresponding engine types will match the D4 series’ combination of economy and low emissions, with improvements of between 13 and 22 per cent. Direct fuel injection is standard on all units.

The 273kW/445Nm 4.2-litre V8 FSI races from standstill to 100 clicks in 5.7 seconds, has an EU combined cycle average of 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres and a carbon dioxide emissions footprint of 219 grams per km.

Going for the diesel V8, in contrast, sees the 258kW/800Nm 4.2 take 0.2s less time to the same 100km/h sprint time, while achieving 7.6L/100km and 199g/km.

A comprehensively revamped 3.0 V6 TDI with idle-stop technology, producing 184kW and 550Nm is coming, doing the 0-100km/h time in 6.6s and averaging 6.6L/100km and 174g/km, while a special eco version with 150kW will be unveiled in the middle of 2010 in Europe, averaging 6.0L/100km and 159g/km in the EU cycle.

All models feature a new air suspension system that one Audi insider described as being “cherry picked” from various specialists to achieve the Ingolstadt firm’s goal of class-best ride while maintaining the current A8’s “top level” dynamic capabilities.

To that end, a modified version of the latest A4’s five-link front axle has been adopted, as well as a revised multi-link rear suspension system from today’s A8, which also brings extensive weight reductions. All wheel control arms are now made of aluminium to further the latter’s cause.

Some A8 quattro models gain a ‘sports differential’ that varies torque distribution to the rear wheels.

A variation of the A4/A5’s Drive Select that varies the damping, throttle and other rates has been incorporated in the latest Audi limousine, as has Dynamic Steering that alters the hydraulic systems’ turning ratio according to speed.

Complex driver assist technology debuts on the D4, including a new-generation radar-controlled automatic cruise control system that can bring the car to a full stop and then accelerate forward again within four seconds unless the driver intervenes.

All models carry full LED headlights and tail-lights.

Also aiding vision are reverse, side and traffic camera installations, while audible warnings come from Audi’s lane assist and side assist devices.

The A8 aims to break new ground inside in terms of quality, design and functionality, with a host of fresh items intended on improving occupant comfort and pleasure.

Or, as Audi puts it, “the interior of the new Audi A8 is a wellness lounge for the senses.” Aided by a class-leading 0.26 Cd drag co-efficiency rating (a drop from 0.31 Cd in the D3), the D4 is claimed to be the quietest car in its class, with no wind noise evident at 120km/h.

Audi’s take on iDrive has evolved into the new-generation Multi Media Interface, which been repositioned for improved ergonomics.

Among its features is an optional touch-pad device that allows drivers to ‘write’ letters or symbols for the navigation and other systems to read by using an index finger, as well as a route-reading ability for the navigation system that ‘prepares’ many of the advanced driver-assist systems such as the radar cruise control and automatic headlights for the road ahead.

“The system even recognises Cyrillic, Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean characters,” Audi states.

Audi will soon introduce a UMTS module to the services employing the three-dimensional satellite images from Google Earth to display them in a bird’s eye view on the larger centre console’s monitor, as well as full connection to the internet, essentially turning the A8 into a WLAN hotspot “on wheels”, according to the car company.

Audi’s ‘Pre Sense Safety’ technology that prepares the various safety systems for either improved accident avoidance or impact mitigation is included.

The A8 also adopts the latest night vision technology that can detect and single out pedestrians up to 300 metres away. Sensors that can read and display speed limit signs are also on their way for the series, although whether this technology makes it on to Australian-bound models remains to be seen.

Massaging front seats are now on the options list, as are 22-way adjustability if you choose the “comfort” chairs, while airline-style rear seats will become available in the long-wheelbase models in the near future.

Four-zone climate control, seat heating and ventilation, 10.2-inch entertainment screens and electric blinds can also be ordered on the latest A8.

Upgraded audio systems include a 1400-watt 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen set-up, while ‘an orchestration’ for the eyes awaits, thanks to an optional ambient lighting package.

Audi has improved the efficiency of the automatic climate control system by 20 per cent.

The boot is now rated at 510 litres, can accommodate four golf bags, offers side compartments for smaller objects, and can be had with a load-through ski bag for more money.

Prices have yet to be determined for the Australian-market A8s.

The first A8, the D2 series, was released in 1994, and replaced the D1-series Audi V8 of 1988 to 1993, which never made it to Australia. The existing D3 debuted in 2003.

“The new Audi A8 is the sportiest sedan in its segment,” says Rupert Stadler, Audi AG board of management chairman.

“It combines numerous functions in a new and intelligent way. And it’s unmatched in the stylistic elements and impression of the interior.”

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.