The Mercedes S-Class is the well-established leader of full-size luxury sedans, but Audi might succeed at closing the gap with its fourth-generation A8. In addition to a new mild hybrid system, the 2019 Audi A8 receives highly automated driving technology and a striking touchscreen-centric interior.
German automakers are often reluctant to dramatically overhaul their design languages, but the styling of the new A8 is noticeably different from the previous generation. A wider, hexagonal-shaped grille complements HD Matrix LED headlights with laser technology. Taking cues from the Audi Prologue concept from 2014, the model features slim taillights and a lighting bar extending across the rear.
Inside the cabin, the Audi A8 features touch points that replace the array of buttons from the previous model. A 10.1-inch touchscreen sits up front and center, and a second touchscreen below allows occupants to control air conditioning and other comfort functions. A new navigation system takes information from routes recently driven and provides the driver with intelligent search suggestions.
Audi says the "classiest" seat in its new flagship is the optional "relaxation" seat in the right rear of the vehicle. Here, there's a special unit that can warm and massage the soles of a passenger's feet. The passenger also benefits from a comfort headrest, massaging seats, and a separate operating unit for making private phone calls.
As previously announced, Audi is introducing its new piloted driving technology to the A8. A feature called "traffic jam pilot" controls starting, accelerating, steering, and braking so that drivers can take their hands off the wheel when they're stuck in slow-moving traffic on the highway. Audi says drivers can even watch the on-board TV if that kind of activity is permitted by local laws, but they must be prepared to take back control of the vehicle when the system has reached its limits. The feature uses radar sensors, a front camera, ultrasonic sensors, and a pioneering laser scanner to drive autonomously at speeds up to 37.3 mph. In addition to the traffic jam technology, the A8 can also autonomously steer itself into and out of a parking space. Audi will roll out these autonomous features starting from 2018.
Globally, Audi will offer a host of engine options, including a 3.0-liter TFSI V-6 with 340 hp, a 4.0-liter TFSI V-8 with 460 hp, and a 6.0-liter W-12 engine with 585 hp (for the A8 L). Diesel models are available in the form of a 3.0-liter TDI making 286 hp and a 4.0-liter TDI with 435 hp. In the U.S., the 3.0-liter turbo V-6 will serve as the launch engine for the 2019 A8.
To reduce consumption, all of these engines will feature mild hybrid technology with a 48-volt electrical system. A 48-volt lithium-ion battery is located in the trunk compartment, and a watercooled belt alternator starter sits up front. The A8 can enter coasting mode while traveling at speeds between 34.2 mph and 99.4 mph, and it can continue coasting for up to 40 seconds with the engine turned off. Once the driver steps on the gas again, the BAS brings the engine back up to the desired speed without delay. Also, the start/stop function has predictive convenient starting, allowing the engine to start as soon as the vehicle in front of the A8 moves even if the driver is still pressing the brakes. Along with the mild hybrid models, a plug-in hybrid A8 L is also in the works.
Suspension upgrades, such as dynamic all-wheel steering, promise to improve the driving experience. The A8 receives a fully active suspension system that allows the car to raise or lower each wheel separately through electric actuators. With this feature, the A8 can take on the characteristics of a comfortable cruiser or a sports car depending on the driving situation, Audi says.
The 2019 Audi A8 arrives in Germany this fall, and will head to the U.S. in the spring or summer after that.