2019 Audi A8 First Drive Luxury Flagship Adds Cool Tech To Its Reportoire

2019 Audi A8 First Drive: Luxury Flagship Adds Cool Tech To Its Reportoire


2019 Audi A8 First Drive: Luxury Flagship Adds Cool Tech To Its Reportoire

Quietness is a quality one expects from a luxury sedan but the near silence of the new 2019 Audi A8 is striking.

2019 Audi A8 First Drive Luxury Flagship Adds Cool Tech To Its Reportoire

Setting off for a first drive in Audia��s new flagship in the hills outside Valencia, Spain reveals a car thata��s not only quiet but also fast and surprisingly agile on narrow country roads.


2019 Audi A8L

At first the A8 feels intimidating; its sheer size being a challenge to position confidently in the corners. But once you learn to trust the cara��s sophisticated steering system, it becomes easier to thread a path through the twisting backroads.

This is just one of the surprises in store when driving the A8. The car is literally a rolling demonstrator for advanced technology, from hybrid drivetrains, to active suspension, to laser and OLED lighting, to level three autonomous driving and much more.

But before discussing those features, leta��s talk design. Audi is a company known for its progressive, sometimes avant-garde design; think TT, R8, A7 and lately the A5 Sportback. The new A8 is obviously from the same family but is not so ground breaking visually. It is handsome, imposing, substantial, but it is not progressive in the sense that Audi projects as a brand overall. The logic goes that flagship sedan buyers are an inherently conservative bunch and prefer a look that is contemporary but not unsettling or too futuristic. Thus we have a look that Audi itself refers to refer to as a�?sovereigna�� or timeless in its styling, meaning that it wona��t date quickly like more adventurous designs.

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Audi choose Valencia’s striking Ciutat de les Arts complex for A8 introduction

While the A8a��s beltline is unrelentingly straight in profile, the overall form is given some dash by the a�?fasta�� slope of the C pillar and the coupe-like roofline. And, as exterior designer Daniel De Jong says, the car a�?keeps the promise of the Audi Prologue concepta�? from 2014, in that the cara��s all-wheel-drive quattro drivetrain is communicated by its pronounced wheel arches and a�?planteda�� visual stance.

Stepping inside the A8, especially one finished in cream-colored leather trim, the progressive aspect of the Audi design ethic reasserts itself. In either the standard or long-wheelbase versions, the cabin feels expansive, light and modern. The atmosphere is perhaps not quite as plush as a Mercedes S class, but it also projects a more contemporary, less baroque feel than its Stuttgart rival.


Audi A8L interior sports mainly glass cockpit.


Audi A8L backseat turns into a comfortable mobile office.

Multi-adjustable, heated, cooled, massaging seats make it hard not to be comfortable in the front or back of the A8. For the driver, the new multi-screen, mostly glass cockpit is more like the cockpit of a latest generation executive jet than a car. I am wary of touch screens, which have been plagued by problems in some other brandsa�� vehicles. But Audia��s latest stab at MMI seems to be have been thoroughly thought out, with an emphasis on logical progressions and as few steps as possible. That said, learning the multitude of vehicle systems controlled by touch or voice commands is a process that will take hours, if not days of diligent study.

Thata��s doesna��t mean you cana��t simply jump in the A8 and drive away. You can, but you will miss the details, and ita��s the details that make this Audi interesting.

Versions of the A8 to be sold in the US will be long wheelbase, and the car will launch here with 3.0-liter V6 and 4.0-liter V8 hybrid gasoline powertrains (diesels are available but likely will not be sold in the US). Driving the A8 55L model, with its 340-hp V6, the overall impression is of silky smooth, quiet power, with 0-60mph taking 5.6 seconds. The A8 60L with its 460-hp V8 motor essentially provides more of the same, but the V6 seems powerful enough to suit US market driving conditions.

One key aspect of all the available powertrains is the standard 48-volt main electrical system, which enables a belt alternator stop-start system and extended coasting with the engine off. The hybrid system promises to be significantly more fuel-efficient than the outgoing A8 models.

Coming later to the US A8 line-up will be a plug-in hybrid version that can use a wireless, inductive charge floor pad.

The new A8a��s standard adaptive air suspension system is enhanced by optional, active electromechanical actuators on all four wheels. Enabled by the 48-volt electrical system, the actuators can raise or lower the wheels to smooth out bumps or dips in the road. Rivals like Mercedes have hydraulic systems that can lower, but not actively raise, the wheels. My test vehicle was not equipped with the wheel actuators, but a demonstration model running over parking lot speed bumps was convincing. The system also controls body roll in corners and body dive under braking, which makes for a much smoother ride quality, especially for passengers.

Another wheel actuator a�?tricka�� is the ability to lower the car when stopped to make entry and egress easier. And if the A8 senses an impending side impact in an accident, it will raise itself so that the strongest part of the cara��s structure can absorb the forces.

Sadly our test drive did not include experiencing the A8a��s much anticipated level three autonomous driving capability. This promises to allow the car to pilot itself in stop and go traffic up to 37-mph on divided highways. However at present, driving regulations in most American states will not permit autonomous operation, so it remains to be seen when the A8a��s autonomous capabilities will be enabled in the US.

A similar obstacle faces one of the other many clever A8 technical features, its lighting system.

Audis have been leading the industry for years will novel head and taillight systems and the A8 takes another step forward. At the rear, advanced OLED lights are employed to give a particularly striking display, where the illumination pattern/sequence varies with function, such as vehicle locking and unlocking.


Audi A8 OLED taillights

A matrix LED system is available at the front, which performs similar dynamic lighting displays. The matrix design means that the 32 individual LEDs can be turned on and off as needed, for example when a�?swivelinga�� the light beams around a corner, or for dipping. One clever aspect of the system is that in corners the LEDs are not physically turned (as in other active lighting systems) but their function is controlled by the cara��s GPS navigation system. This knows when a corner is coming and activates the LEDs accordingly.

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Even more impressive is the optional laser lighting, which supplements the LED array when high beam is called for. The laser can double the distance light reaches, but unfortunately US lighting regulations, which date from 1968, prohibit this improvement, which means laser-equipped US A8 models will effectively be running at roughly 50 percent power.

Our driving introduction to the A8 also included a demonstration of the cara��s self-parking capabilities, which go a few steps beyond those offered by rivals. Essentially the system allows fully autonomous parking into parallel and perpendicular spaces. Whata��s more, the driver can either be in the car while it parks or be standing outside the vehicle and activate the parking process via a smart phone app. One imagine what a benefit this will be in tight garage spaces where opening a car door can be a challenge.

Technical wizardry, refinement, performance, elegance and comfort, the new A8 ticks all the boxes. It will be good to see how the cara��s suite of capabilities holds up in the US driving environment but for now it looks like it has reset the bar in the luxury flagship class.

AudiA�paid for my travel expenses to participate in this test drive.