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Watch out Merc S-Class: it’s the new Audi A8

Electrified, automated and seriously long, new A8 aims for the top of the tree

Published: 11 Jul 2017

Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man might have crawled all over it first, but now’s your chance to pore over Audi’s flagship product: ladies and gentlemen, meet the brand-new Audi A8.

And right off the bat, let us get to the not-so-small matter of frickin’ LASERS. Audi is debuting its AI traffic jam pilot for its S-Class rival, which allows the A8 to drive, on its own, in slow-moving traffic at up to 37.3mph. Accelerating, braking, steering… the lot. A front camera, radar sensors and those pesky lasers allow the car to scan its surroundings.

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A Tesla (or Volvo XC90, BMW 5-Series etc...) can pretty much drive itself in traffic, but you have to monitor it. In the Audi you just press a button, and where applicable, the new A8 will allow you to indulge in whatever it is you do in a car when not actually driving. Sweating nervously and eyeballing the car in front, no doubt. This is the difference between level two and level three autonomy, fact fans. Pity you can't get it right away, though. Audi says law-permitting, the system will be available in Germany in 2019.

Want to actually, y’know, drive the thing? Audi promises “unshakable stability”. There’s all-wheel-steering, and active suspension that works with permanent four-wheel-drive (a particular Audi 4WD phrase escapes us for the moment) and can raise or lower individual wheels using electric actuators. We’re promised such flexibility allows it to be both a luggzury saloon and a circuit-bashing hot-shoe, thanks to less roll angles. And we’re all about the roll angles. The much vaunted 48v electrical system – now the primary electric system in all A8s – is the energy source.

The other energy sources however, are the ones that’ll no doubt pique your interest. From launch, there’ll be a pair of 3.0-litre V6 turbos: one petrol, with 340hp, or a diesel one with less (286hp). You probably don’t want either of these, because a pair of V8s are also on offer – a diesel 4.0-litre with 435hp, or a petrol TFSI with 460hp. You don’t want those, either.

There’ll be (very clever) a hybrid drivetrain available in the A8 long wheelbase version (the A8 L), which pairs a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine to an electric motor to make 449hp and 516lb ft. Think 0-62mph in 4.9s. And yep, you guessed it, you don’t want this one either.

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Because later, there will be a range topper also only available as a long-wheelbase version, and said range-topper gets a 6.0-litre W12 with 585hp. Exactly the same amount of horsepower as another big German saloon with an expensive badge. Talk about sharp-shooting. And in a car this big – it’s longer, wider, taller and features a longer wheelbase than before – a 6.0-litre W12 with 585hp and 590lb ft of torque is really your only choice. Really.

Mercifully, you do have a choice of two fragrances to improve the air quality inside; an inside which is also bigger than before, and features much soft leather, much comfort, much aluminium and wood, 3D sound, Audi’s rather glorious virtual cockpit in full HD res, a pair of touchscreens and voice control.

Underpinning all of this is Audi’s space frame tech, as first debuted on the original A8 way back in 1994 (remember that one?). In the new A8 58 per cent of the structure is aluminium, the rest made up of steel, magnesium and all important CFRP.

Oh, did we mention LASERS? The lights have LED high beams too; the blue accents you see in the lights mark the laser spots, which light up the road like a fireworks party without dazzling oncomers.

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