By Mark Borlace
Last updated on: December 21, 2018 at 8:31 am
Laser headlights, suspension that raises the vehicle in case of a crash – these are just some of the features RAA’s Mark Borlace tried out when he got a chance to take the new Audi A8 for a spin.
While most of us won’t be buying a car with a price tag north of $200,000 any time soon, they do offer us a glimpse into the future. What’s cutting-edge technology today could in a few years be a regular feature.
The 4th generation Audi A8 is a great example of a technology tour de force. It has on offer everything from laser headlights that bathe the road in light over half a kilometre out, to autonomous emergency braking that works up to 250kph – which is handy for Europeans but won’t be needed here.
Value for money
It’s hard to explain value for a car that’s so expensive, but according to Audi, it’s $36,000 better value than the previous model. There are also 2 people who have to be catered for the Audi A8 – the driver, and the owner or customer who sits in the back.
For an eye-watering $18,500 extra, the executive package includes a foot massager and warmer built into the back of the front passenger seat. Included in the relaxation seat package is a back massager, electrically height adjustable comfort head restraints, footrests, a long centre console and optional folding tables.
While we’re on the subject of prices that are incomprehensible to the regular car buyer, the full headlight package with laser beam lights is another $13,200 option. These cars are truly in the realm of those who are cashed up and love the latest technology.
Design and function
The A8 is, as you might expect, loaded with safety gear. There are 11 airbags that come standard, and as an option you can include a pair of centre airbags to keep bodies from crashing into each other in a side impact or rollover.
It’s also got an exit warning system which will not only warn you, but will actually stop the door from being opened when a car or cyclist is approaching from behind.
In terms of optional safety gear, you can choose from AI systems such as lane keep assist, lane departure warning, forward and rear auto emergency braking, and rear cross-traffic alert.
On A8 vehicles equipped with the pre-sense 360° system, the Audi AI active suspension also increases passive safety. In the event of an impending side impact at more than 25km/h, the car body is raised by up to 80mm within half a second.
As a result, the other car in the accident collides with a more resistant zone of the A8’s body, which Audi says reduces the deformation of the cabin and the loads on the occupants by up to 50%, compared to a similar collision in which the suspension is not raised.
In all, there can be up to 40 driver assistance systems in the A8. To make these systems work when fully equipped, the new A8 has 24 sensors.
There are 12 ultrasonic sensors on the front, sides and rear, 4 360-degree cameras on the front, rear and exterior mirrors, 1 front camera on the top edge of the windscreen, 4 mid-range radar sensors at the vehicle’s corners, 1 long-range radar sensor on the front, 1 laser scanner on the front and 1 infrared camera (night vision assist) on the front.
The A8’s lighting interacts intelligently with its surroundings. For example, Audi laser light works in conjunction with HD Matrix LED high beams to activate a laser spot from a speed of 70km/h, doubling the range of the high beam.
The A8 comes in 2 lengths, the normal A8 or the longer 4 seat executive model that will be used more often by limo services. The body of the new A8 follows the Audi space-frame principle and uses carbon fibre-reinforced material, as well as extruded aluminium which makes up more than half the body. Also included is a magnesium strut tower bar to reduce weight.
What the driver will really notice though, are the twin centre touch screens with haptic feedback. Through these screens you access everything from the entertainment systems to programmable dynamics of the car.
The rear-seat entertainment system comprises 2 Audi tablets, where passengers can use touch control to run numerous convenience and infotainment features as well as make discreet phone calls. The centre console also has an induction charger for phones.
On the road
The new A8 has 2 extensively re-engineered V6 turbo engines, 1 diesel and 1 petrol. Both are 3-litre engines, and both adequately moved the 2-tonne A8, although we did experience a slight engine delay on some fast take-offs.
The really cool thing about the new engine is that for the first time it’s equipped with an electrified mild-hybrid drivetrain as standard. Not sure what this is? Essentially, it’s an alternator that can become a starter motor and start the engine via its fan belt.
The 48-volt system is coupled to a 10Ah lithium-ion battery, and under certain circumstances the alternator can instantly be switched to an electric motor and used to power the new A8 in a coast mode. This happens at speeds over 55km/h, resulting in the internal combustion engine turning off for up 40 seconds. As soon as you touch the accelerator, the car engine seamlessly restarts.
One of the other key measurements of luxury is how quiet a car is, and the A8 lives up to the standard – the ride is everything you’d expect of a limousine.
Audi tell us that technically the A8 is capable of hands-off driving at freeway speeds, but we have neither the roads nor the legislation to test their claims.
The final word
The Audi A8 is by any measure a lovely car but way beyond the normal household budget.
If you do ever find yourself driving behind one though, spare a thought for the role they play in the development of advanced features and safety systems that could end up in a new car you buy years down the track.