Four Rings and Three Dimensions
It is the Audi flagship, the epitome of hightech, luxury, comfort and ease, spiced with sportiness: the Audi A8. Four years after the third generation was launched, a distinctly made over version is waiting to enter the limelight. And since this car encapsulates most of the Audi prowess, there is also a long version, as Mercedes-Benz and other OEMs have their long versions, built especially for chauffeuring the rich and mighty. In a nutshell and therefore simplified: Faced with the choice between Audi or Mercedes-Benz, those focussing on ever-increasing security features will opt for a Mercedes, whereas drivers for whom sportiness is the essence will go for Audi, knowing full well that the brand with the four rings has always had sufficient state-of-the art safety on board. This verdict is made irrespective of the very personal tastes as regards design. And we are fully aware that for simplicity’s sake we have not mentioned the third of the German “big three”, namely BMW, also acclaimed for its sportiness.
Some of our colleagues criticise Audi for its signature claim “Vorsprung durch Technik”, maintaining the car manufacturer had lost its technical supremacy. But how about Daimler’s slogan “Das Beste oder nichts”, “The Best or Nothing”? Looking at the design of quite a number of their cars our answer in the direction of the Stuttgart brand would at
present be: “I’d rather have nothing.” Audi certainly is not half as apodictic as Daimler with their claim. The four rings are simply saying that technical leadership is the key to success. As any linguist would argue with reference to the OEM’s slogan: Audi is not maintaining to be the best in everything. The premium car manufacturer is rather driving home the fact that technical breakthroughs help towards being benchmark, which, of course, is what the brand is striving for. What Audi does not and has never maintained is that the car manufacturer holds the laurel in every respect. Having said that, without any preconceived notions pro or against Audi leadership in certain fields can be measured objectively.
So what is it that makes a flagship, and what specifically do people expect from a luxury limousine? Abundant space for man and luggage, sufficient state-of-the-art safety features, comfort features like adaptive air suspension, seats with massaging functions
and possibly air ionisation, connectivity, a high end sound system, luxurious interieur as a whole and appealing design are aspects that immediately spring to mind. And as much as individual brands differ in how they meet all these requests, they definitely take them into account. Audi has certainly succeeded in fitting all of these premium features into the new A8. In fact, the OEM has passed the test with flying colours. Why can we be so certain? Not only is Audi first to introduce a very intelligent lighting system – called Matrix LED lighting, the algorithms for which were developed inhouse, the technology coming from supplier Hella –, but also have the engines become yet more powerful and more efficient. And even if 350 Euro may sound negligible in relation to the sizable total amount, it is the sum which the new A8, available in Germany with prices starting at 74,500 Euro, costs less than its predecessor. The 3 litre V6 diesel with eight-speed tiptronic and quattro as entry level model feels quite sufficient for the majority of drivers, and one can certainly feel the character of the new A8 for this entry price. In other words, the A8 has become more perfect, if there can be such a degree of comparison, and slightly less expensive.
The A8 has successfully maintained its place as sportiest full size sedan in the premium segment. The new A8 is scheduled to arrive at German dealerships in November. When driving the various models of the A8, with a clear preference for the S8, we have been able to experience just that: excellent comfort, superb craftsmanship, strict lightweight construction and a broad portfolio of high-end technologies. Audi has indeed managed to update its A8 flagship exhaustively.
Vorsprung durch Technik: Shine a Light
New assistance systems and the innovative Matrix LED headlights make for even safer and more superior driving. The engines are more powerful and more efficient. And it is still there, the technical leadership in quattro. Nothing can compare to this uniquely efficient technology that leaves the driver with a feeling of utter sportiness and as though in total command of the car, even if it is the superior technology that is in control in cases where an amateur driver might run into dire straits.
quattro is unbeaten to this day. But let us take a closer look at that discipline in which Audi has lately become benchmark, too: lighting. As shown in an online sneak preview from August (see our previous text http://globaliter.de/heres-to-another-fab-member-of-the-rrrrrrrrrrrrsssssssssss-family/) Stephan Berlitz, chief lighting developer, explained the main functions to the interested journalists in the fittingly futuristic ambience of the Langen Foundation. Berlitz amazed his listeners with the announcement that the stunning lighting device allows more than one billion light distributions.
Fortunately, the appearance of the headlights has changed. These lights that in the thorough facelift of the third generation, i.e. of the internally called D4/4H, had this effeminate eyelash or garland look have become straight in a convincing way and so unmistakably Audi. With Matrix LED Audi even more has attained a unique physique, as the headlights with their 25 LED lights per headlamp shine their light into every corner of the surroundings, without blinding either man or animal. So even if it may seem a soppy love song, the Audi matrix LED headlights can also be described emotionally. Seeing that Audi vehicles are driven all over the world, the headlights certainly manage to “shine a light in every corner of the world” and, what’s more, in an extremely intelligent manner:
The car has been improved so significantly as regards technology, efficiency and assistance systems, and has been carefully made over with respect to its outer and inner appearance that it will take at least another three years before the fourth generation will be constructed right from scratch.
Dressed to Kill
The new A8 has gained a more masculine and at the same time more elegant and slender overall appearance. Here are the most noticeable modifications: The flagship has received an even more clear-cut shape with straight lines and edges, as in the case of the bonnet
which more than before stretches angular across the singleframe grill and towards the new headlights. The singleframe grill itself has become slightly reduced but just as ready to hit the road. The rear with its separation edge and chrome trim is of a self-assured concreteness. The car is planted yet more solid on the ground. The operating Audi surgeons have every reason to be pleased with their facelift. It is very becoming to the physiognomy of the car. What also caught our attention as we glanced at the A8 sideways is its sculptured three dimensionality, which becomes most noticeable at the chiselled Audi rings protruding from the grill and calling for attention.
20 Years of Audi Space Frame
Less is more in each new Audi, meaning less weight. What twenty years ago began with the revolutionary Audi Space Frame has been expanded into scrutinising every part and
parcel of an Audi car with a view to reducing weight. As it highlights sportiness and of course means higher efficiency lightness is a top priority. Thus the new aluminum technology wheel underscores the Audi claim to leadership in lightweight construction. Besides the great design freedom, it also reduces the car’s unsprung masses substantially. Its innovative structure saves 4.35 kilograms (9.59 lb) compared with a conventionally fabricated forged wheel of the same design. That in itself means a total weight reduction per car of 17.4 kilograms (38.36 lb). Its surfaces in Iridium/Contrasting Gray emphasizes the three-dimensional effect and gives the new A8 wheels with an exclusive and unique look.
Added to the refreshingly facelifted design both outside and inside, the Audi flagship hosts the latest enhancements of Audi connect. Connected mobility has in fact been a key issue with Audi for many years. And again, the company with the four rings was first to study connected traffic in great depth. Audi MMI (Multi Media Interface), the operating concept of the Audi infotainment system, was introduced to the A8 back in 2002. Since then development has been rapid indeed. The latest generation of Audi connect not only displays parking lots and parking garages wherever wanted, it also indicates current prices of petrol stations, thus helping the driver to find the station with the best price.
“The Big”: A8 L W12
Although the A8 is an impressively spaceous limousine, there is yet the even more spaceous version, the long-wheelbase A8 L W12. “The Big” is truly an exclusive powerplant. Its W12 petrol engine produces 500 PS (368 kW) and delivers an impressive 625 Nm of torque at 4,750rpm. Once the Big rolls it glides along at impressive speed. Don’t get me wrong. This car is also amazingly quick right from the start:The sprint from 0 to 100 km/h is completed in 4.6 seconds, the electronically governed top speed of 250 km/h being just a formality. A speedboat, not a tanker.
The A8 L W12 is expected to specifically appeal to the Chinese. However, Audi totally refrained from a plush interior just to please the Asian taste. It would be so un-Audi! On the
contrary, the Big delights in sheer understatement. Its interior is subdued, straight and echoes the Audi spirit of perfect quality. It is absolutely luscious to drive or be driven. Should one describe the sensation of driving or being driven, one might say that the Big has reminiscences of Mercedes-Benz limousines which generally focus on the feeling of cosiness, where the Audians in the majority of their models want the spotlight on sportive driving sensation. The Big certainly feels markedly different from any other A8. This is partly due to the long wheelbase and partly to the W12 engine which consists of four rows of four cylinders resulting in utter smoothness. Incidentally, the W12 engine amazes with a size of barely over 50 centimeters in length and is roughly 70 centimeters wide and tall.
S-ums the A8 up Adequately …
Who would want to question the S8 oozing sheer driving delight? Not us. Okay, it is a rather large car, measuring 5.135 metres in legth, 1.849 metres in width and 1.640 metres in height. But does that stop it from having a markedly sporty character? Not for a moment. The sprint from 0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) only takes 4.1 seconds.
The S8 with its V8 turbo is the sportiest model of the A8 family. The sound of the eight cylinders are sonorous bliss making the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System and rear seat entertainment superfluous. The S8 furthermore offers a generous list of standard equipment, including LED headlights, ambient lighting, convenience key, four-zone automatic air conditioning, Bose surround sound system and MMI navigation plus with S8-specific welcome screen. Although the whole A8 lineup is very impressive, given the choice we would not hesitate but take a seat in the S8. Sports car or not, the optional massage functions in the seats of the S8 are a very welcome feature. For the sportive driver who wants to delve into luxury, the S8 perfectly captures two cars in one to perfection.
On Such a quattro Day
We were in luck: There were spells of pouring rain awaiting us. Just the right thing for quattro. Rain, sleet, roads full of leaves or snow – such weather conditions are best for bringing out the quattro in the A8. In October we definitely had rain in abundance. But, needless to say, our Audi managed the unease marvellously well, no matter whether the S8, the A8 L or any other of the A8 models we were able to testdrive.
To those who seek sportive luxury, the A8 is just the car. It is equipped with a fast and smooth-shifting, eight-speed tiptronic. The electronically controlled automatic transmission is paired with quattro permanent all-wheel drive. Audi complements this with the optional sport differential, which distributes the power between the rear wheels as needed. It is standard with the A8 4.2 TDI clean diesel quattro and the S8. Additional sportiness stems from the sporty character of the chassis.
I can Hear your Heartbeat
The heartbeat of all the A8 engines is reassuringly strong, sonorous and sporty. There are two TDI diesel engines, the 3.0 TDI with 258 PS (190 kW), or alternatively the 4.2 TDI with 385 PS (283 kW), and two TFSI petrol engines, namely the 3.0 TFSI V6 with 310 hp (228 kW) and the 4.0 TFSI with Cylinder on Demand (COD) and 435 hp (320 kW), all of which feature forced induction and direct injection. And they quite obviously satisfy the requirements of the Euro 6 emissions standard. Every second A8 sold in Europe is a 3.0 TDI.
There is also a hybrid version of the A8 and of course the S8 and the long version, the A8 L W12. It is particularly the even sportier S8 that made our hearts beat faster. With its 4.0 TFSI engine the S8 produces 520hp (382 kW) and develops 650 Nm of torque between 1,700 and 5,500 rpm.
Whereas the S8 has the feel of a spacious sportscar, the A8 L W12 is luscious luxury in completion with yet sporty elements and understated appearance in the interieur. Albeit a truly big car, the Big does not come across as colossal, but as elegantly muscular from the outside.
All engines consume up to ten per cent less energy. And how incredibly complex these astounding pieces of technology have become. Makes the human heart appear almost ridiculously simple by comparison. Engineers have truly become the magiciens of the present.
And for those bewailing the introduction of COD (Cylinder on Demand) let it be said that once four or six cylinders are switched off the sound does not diminish, but leaves the impression as though all eight / twelve cylinders are constantly doing their job. For this the acoustics engineers have carefully hideden four microphones in the ceiling.
Catch Me If You Can
100,000 of the second generation of the Audi flagship were sold from 1994 to 2002. 150,000 A3 have already been sold since 2003. We are convinced that the intelligently and thoroughly facelifted new A8 will sell well. Analysts maintaining Audi would lose out on the two competitors BMW and Mercedes-Benz do not seem to be aware of the fact, that it does not always need a totally new generation. In a way, the made over third generation A8 is as good as a fourth generation.
So, why start from scratch prematurely? Considering the quality and benchmark hightech inherent to the A8 this is not only unnecessary, but also counterproductive, both economically and strategically. After all, the Audi brand is conservative in the original sense in that it has established its DNA. And what other than corrobarating this typcially A8 DNA does the facelift of the third generation do? In other words: Why topple a winner and start from scratch? A rhetorical question. After all, the appearance and technology of the new A8 has been signifcantly sharpened. And the automobile industry has always been cyclical, each OEM having their own timing for when to launch the next generation of an existing car or indeed a totally new model. Audi will for instance be launching the Q6, a new SUV. The question needs to be asked: Are not analysts trying to hype up this issue?
So while Audi is refining and fine-tuning its successful flagship it is embarking on the future in other spheres. It may be spacy, it may seem science fiction. At any rate, the company with the four rings is dealing with the future, be it future urban mobility which Audi addresses in its Audi Urban Future Initiative, or futuristic cars, as in the sci fi film with Harrison Ford. Because who knows whether or not the future is now.
Honestly, what does “technical leadership” actually mean? It quite simply means always being a step ahead. Although the amount of horesepower is undoubtedly impressive, the technical data will not amount to much unless the whole product is a success. This also necessitates that man and machine are feeling as one, whether while speeding or cruising along, or in using all the luxury features and assistance function – intuitively.
Our verdict? In the case of the new Audi A8 we would certainly award the car with a triple A. So there is indeed no need to come out with the fourth generation, just because Daimler has recently launched its new S-class. No, Audi can placidly keep that ace up its sleeve till 2016 in the pleasant feeling that the engineers have yet developed the existing A8 significantly further and produced an altogether stunning, consistent and well composed premium car.
Summary / Zusammenfassung:
Audi hat den Bogen raus. Das Design ist stimmig und von hohem Wiedererkennungswert. Und der Claim “Vorsprung durch Technik” ist auch im neuen A8 wirkungsvoll umgesetzt. quattro ist unschlagbare Nummer 1 in der Automobilwelt. So auch im A8. Der hat auch das Neueste vom Neuen in Sachen Audi connect, nämlich so nützliche Angaben wie die aktuellen Kraftstoffpreise an Tankstellen und andere intelligente Online-Services. Auch alle Audi A3 Varianten sowie die meisten anderen Audi Modelle haben diesen Service neu an Bord.
Mit dem grundlegenden Facelift haben die Ingolstädter der dritten Generation neues Leben eingehaucht. Wozu also eine vierte Generation, wenn die dritte verdammt gut ist? Auch das ist Nachhaltigkeit und ein Abrücken von der Wegwerfgesellschaft, die immer etwas Neues braucht, nur um der Neuigkeit halber. Warten wir also gelassen ab, welche technologischen Highlights Audi in drei Jahren in seinem Flaggschiff zündet.
For those interested further in Langen Foundation, based at the Rocket Station in Hombroich, see under: http://langenfoundation.de/en/architecture/the-raketenstation/.