The last word in luxury and the height of efficiency converge in the all-new Audi A8, which makes its world public debut this week at the Design Miami exhibition in Florida, USA. Crafted entirely from lightweight aluminium like its forebears, and bristling with new technology that not only contributes to best-in-class economy and exemplary comfort but also to even greater dynamic accomplishment, the elegant new flagship of the Audi saloon range opens for UK order this month priced from £54,760 OTR.

Audi A8

Packed inside the even lighter and 24 per cent more rigid evolution of the aluminium Audi Space Frame (ASF) which forms the ‘skeleton’ of the new A8 are myriad new technological advances. These of course include fundamentals such as economy and emissions advantages for the three significantly reworked FSI and TDI engines that will be available from launch – the 3.0-litre V6 TDI with 250PS and 550Nm of torque (up from 233PS and 450Nm), the 4.2-litre V8 TDI with 350PS and 800Nm (up from 326PS and 650Nm) and the 4.2-litre V8 FSI with 372PS and 445Nm (up from 350PS and 440Nm).

The upgraded 4.2-litre FSI benefits from a 13 per cent improvement in fuel economy, taking its combined figure to 29.7mpg and dropping CO2 output to 219g/km. The equivalent V8 TDI gets a 19 per cent boost to 37.2mpg with CO2 emissions down to 199g/km, while the 3.0-litre TDI moves to the top of the luxury saloon class in economy terms with a 22 per cent economy hike to 42.8mpg with CO2 of 174g/km.

During 2010, an even more economy and emissions-focused version of the 3.0-litre TDI unit will be added. Driving the front wheels only, it will combine a 204PS power peak with 47.1mpg economy on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of just 159g/km.

All engines are complemented by recuperation technology which provides further fuel and CO2 savings by recycling a proportion of the wasted kinetic energy which is generated under normal braking and normally dissipated as heat, and storing this temporarily in the vehicle battery to reduce the engine load when the car subsequently accelerates again. The A8 3.0 TDI also saves fuel through its engine start-stop function, cutting engine power at idle when the brake pedal is depressed, and then restarting in just two-tenths of a second when it is released.

The much improved efficiency of these enhanced engines is matched by the new eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission with which all of them work. With an especially high overall gear ratio of 7.0:1, it reduces overall fuel consumption by around six per cent, but is equally notable for its quick and virtually seamless changes.

Satellite navigation influences gear shift strategy

This advanced transmission can also ‘talk’ to the new, next generation MMI Touch in-car infotainment system, networking with the detailed route data supplied by its inbuilt navigation system to factor corners into its gearshift strategy and avoid unnecessary, fuel-sapping gear changes. The state-of-the-art adaptive cruise control and adaptive light swivelling cornering light systems are also influenced by feedback from the navigation unit.

As well as ultra-intelligent 3D navigation mapping, the new touch screen Multi Media Interface, or MMI Touch, can also store audio tracks and telephone data on its sizeable hard disk. To enter a destination or phone number, the driver need only now draw the required letters or numbers with their index finger on the touch screen.

As an option, a GPRS module can also be specified. Fed with news and weather information from the Web by internet service provider Google, it enables A8 drivers to plot detailed routes on a home computer and download them to the navigation system when they start a trip. During 2010, the system will also be upgraded with a UMTS module which will enable Google Earth images to be beamed to the MMI monitor in 3D for navigation purposes. Eventually, full internet connection via UMTS will be possible, making the A8 a mobile WLAN hotspot.

Audi drive select and sport differential make A8 debut

High technology has also filtered even deeper into the chassis of the A8, which already offered sophisticated aluminium suspension refined by adaptive four-mode air springs. This system has been further improved in the interest of ride comfort by newly developed struts with enlarged air capacity, and is now backed up by the Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system. Audi drive select enables the driver to fine-tune throttle response, steering assistance and transmission shift points to suit personal preferences or prevailing road conditions.

The active sport differential which won so much critical acclaim at its debut in the S4 quattro further enhances 4.2 TDI models as standard, and can be added at extra cost for all other models. The new differential enables the latest generation asymmetric quattro system to not only transfer torque between the front and rear axles to counter traction losses, but also between the rear wheels. When the steering wheel is turned or the car accelerated in a corner, power is redirected in a controlled manner to the outer rear wheel, literally pushing the car through the corner. The driver benefits from reduced steering effort and a feeling of even greater adjustability and control. In addition, dynamic steering, allowing alteration of the actual ratio of the steering for optimum feel, can be added at extra cost.

The most rigid body shell in the premium sector helps not only to maximise agility in the new A8, but also to boost safety in conjunction with adaptive restraint systems and the new Audi pre-sense system which is fitted as standard.

In its standard form the pre-sense system analyses the information from the ESP sensors. When they signal maximum brake application or skidding, the control unit intervenes. Depending on the situation, it activates the hazard warning lights and closes the side windows and the sunroof; it also tensions the front seat belts. Electric motors trigger this process, which is reversible – if the situation ends well, the belts are released again.

The system can be expanded at extra cost to include Audi pre-sense front, Audi pre- sense plus and Audi pre-sense rear. These are integrated in the optional adaptive cruise control with stop & go function and Audi side assist systems.

Audi A8

Working with Adaptive Cruise Control stop & go, Audi pre-sense front monitors the traffic in front of the new Audi A8 and supports the driver in multiple stages. The first is a warning signal, and the second a warning jerk in the form of a brief deceleration. If the driver now depresses the pedal, the brake assist system initiates precise braking relative to the preceding vehicle. If the driver remains passive, the third stage follows – autonomous partial braking that slows the A8 at a rate of 3 m/s2. Windows and the sunroof are closed, the hazard warning lights are activated and the seat belts are tensioned.

If the full version of Audi pre-sense plus is on board, a fourth stage comes into play: braking with an initial deceleration of 5 m/s2 followed by maximum braking. This phase is initiated roughly one half second before the collision. While a collision can no longer be avoided in this case, its consequences are greatly reduced - up to impact the A8 has reduced the speed by about 25mph.

The Audi pre-sense rear system mitigates the consequences of a rear end collision. Here, too, it closes the windows and sunroof, tensions the seat belts and moves the memory front seats into the optimum position for passenger protection.

In this safe haven, A8 passengers are surrounded by high-quality workmanship showing attention to the smallest detail, and of course the leading edge technology that defines the Vorsprung durch Technik brand. Swathed in supple Valcona leather, shielded from the elements by double glazing and bathed in soothing LED ambient lighting the interior’s highlights include the Audi Parking System Plus, DAB digital radio, four-zone climate control, Audi Music Interface iPod connection, MMI Touch infotainment incorporating HDD satellite navigation with predictive route technology, cruise control and a keyless go system.

Two specification levels will be available to UK A8 customers – SE and SE Executive – the latter adding to this equipment list features such as electrically operated boot closing, the Audi Parking System Advanced with rear parking camera and larger 19-inch wheels in place of the 18-inch design fitted to SE models.

To create an even more exceptional looking A8, customers will be able to specify all-LED headlights in place of the standard Xenon set-up, and for even greater opulence five-mode seats with ventilation and massage function, a rear seat entertainment package and a 1,400-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system.

Online connectivity, night vision assist capable of marking out pedestrians, Audi side and lane assist and Audi pre-sense expansion packages will also be available to further enhance this technological tour de force.

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