Monday 25 September 2017

Audi says new A8’s self-drive tech makes it king of the road

Flagship: Audi's new A8
Flagship: Audi's new A8
The A8 is the world's first production vehicle developed for "highly automated driving"
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Audi’s new A8 flagship will be here later this year after being unveiled to a global audience yesterday.

It is too soon to have price or spec levels for the Irish market but it kicks off at €90,600 in Germany.

The starting price of the current model in Ireland is €96,050, so I presume we can expect something upward of that in general ballpark figures – though with the level of new technology and equipment in it you never know.

The rollout of the luxury liner marks the start of an intensely active production phase for the marque. Five new cars will come on stream next year – the new A7, A6, Q3, A1 and e-tron electric SUV.

They are claiming the A8 is the world’s first production vehicle developed for “highly automated driving”. The optional Traffic Jam Pilot system is part of 41 individual driver aid functions, and it can take charge of driving in slow-moving traffic up to (50kmh) on motorways.

You activate the system using the AI button on the centre console. Audi says: “The driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently.”

The A8 is the world's first production vehicle developed for
The A8 is the world's first production vehicle developed for "highly automated driving"

As soon as the system reaches its limits, it calls on the driver to take back control.

As well as the radar sensors, a front camera and ultrasonic sensors, Audi claims to be the first car manufacturer to also use a laser scanner.

However, without a legal framework for it in many countries, the carmaker says it will adopt a market-by-market approach to where it is introduced.

As far as engines are concerned, the first on the Irish market will be a 3.0 TDI (286bhp) V6 diesel and a 3.0 TFSI (340bhp) V6 petrol.

Both have 8spd automatic gearboxes and quattro four-wheel drive.

An 8cyl 4.0 TDI (435bhp) will follow slightly later. And then there is the massive 6-litre W12.

All have a belt alternator starter (BAS) - the “nerve centre” of the 48-volt electrical system. The mild hybrid technology lets the car coast with the engine switched off, and restart, smoothly. They reckon that with an extended start/stop function and energy recovery, drivers can cut their fuel consumption by 0.7l/100km. A long wheelbase e-tron quattro plug-in hybrid drive will follow.

Key rivals include the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class and Lexus LS.

The cabin (new luxury front seats are 4kg lighter) focuses on two large screens. The 10.1ins infotainment display has fingertip control and shows off the revised MMI (Multi-Media Interface) system. The 8.6ins display caters for air con, comfort functions etc. And there is a “new, natural form of voice control”.

Other elements include Garage Pilot, which autonomously steers the car into/out of a parking space or a garage. And there is a fully active suspension system. It uses cameras to scan the road and alter the damping and springs for each wheel.

At 5,172mm long, 1,945mm wide and 1,473mm tall, the new A8 is 37mm longer, 4mm narrower and 13mm taller than the current model.

Aluminium accounts for 58pc of its structure, but there is a spread of steel, magnesium and carbon fibre.

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