The new A8 controls fully automatically due to the traffic jam
The next generation of Audis luxury limousines is the first model for which design manager Marc Lichte alone is responsible. Both outside and inside makes this noticeable.
Nervous is perhaps the wrong word for the state of mind of Marc Lichte, but he is already a bit under electricity. 2000 guests from around the world, mainly journalists and dealers, have come to the so-called Audi summit in the exhibition halls of Barcelona, and they are particularly interested in the new A8. Light A8.
Of course, the design chef did not make the car alone. But the fourth generation of the Audi flagship is the first Audi to be designed under light responsibility. For three and a half years he has finished the designs of his predecessor, now Light is finally where he wants to be.
“I was a designer for three days and I had to present it.” Regularly, designers and decision makers from the Group meet at Seat, near Barcelona, for new cars from all brands. There were five designs for the new Audi flagship; Four came from the old design responsible, one came from Lichte.
Lichte, who had previously directed the exterior design of VW for many years, won. “I was already able to deal with Audi in my last three months in Wolfsburg.” Status and quattro, that should make the new car immediately recognizable.
The single frame is now a hexagon
The A8 now underlines its status with a new Audi face, which is already indicated in the current A4, but has only been implemented quite consistently. The distinctive radiator grille, called Audi Singleframe, has become much wider, but not at every point.
It looks as if someone had grabbed a rectangle on the short sides and pulled it apart until it became a hex. In this way, the front is more powerful and flatter, even though it is not. In any case, despite the enlarged grille, there was enough room for wide and flat headlights.
All this could be seen in the concept car Audi Prologue, which had been unveiled at the end of 2014. Although it was a coupe, it had practically the identical front as now the A8. “It was hardly anyone who believed that we would bring the car so,” says Marc Lichte. “But we had finished the production car before the concept car.”
Also the change of the side view has already betrayed the Prologue: The shoulder line, otherwise at Audi always straight and led up the top of the turquoise, is shown both at the Prologue and the A8 interrupted. It is high above the wheels and between them it has slipped down a floor. At the same time, the wheel arches are more muscular. Both should emphasize the fact that Audi is an all-wheel drive brand – for each model, there is at least one quattro version, the A8 is even offered exclusively with all-wheel drive.
Autonomous when he is allowed
The most self-confident exterior design, however, does not mean anything unless the technology pays the promise of the design. The new A8 has a lot to offer, such as the standard introduction as mild hybrid with 48-volt electrical system, a new, significantly improved active gear and above all: the possibility of letting the car even drive times.
AI Staupilot is called the system, and it really is like this: If you get into a traffic jam on the highway and do not feel like wasting your time behind the wheel, press the AI button in the center console, and the car takes over. Everything. The driver is not allowed to climb onto another seat, but he can take his feet off the pedals and the hands of the steering wheel and read and answer mails or watch a movie on the smartphone. Newspaper reading would not be bad either, the Audi would allow the.
If the jam clears up so far that it is possible to drive more than 60 pace, or if there are no stripes or guard rails, the A8 logs in visually and acoustically to the driver, who then has to take responsibility again.
The only downside: this so-called level 3 ride is nowhere allowed. And the rules for it can theoretically be different in every country in the world. In Ingolstadt one hopes to be able to offer the Staupiloten in the course of next year, especially in Germany – the homeland is the furthest in terms of homologation and legislation. On the other hand, Audis’s main market in China is currently not even being tested on the roads for a semi-autonomous system.
Hardly any switch in the cockpit
In Audi Mertens Audi has a new development board, which has experience with Chinese circumstances – it comes from Volvo, which is in Chinese possession. In addition, the Swedish brand also has ambitious plans for autonomous driving, and hybridization has become well-known there. So much so that from 2019 no new Volvo is to come without an electric motor on the market. In addition, Volvo will no longer develop new diesel engines, and Mertens has been up to now. Today he represents the German line and says: “It is nonsense to discriminate the diesel. He is a very good drive concept with appropriate after-treatment. “
The new A8 is also delivered with three liter V6 engines, once as TDI (286 hp) and as TFSI (340 hp). Later came a plug-in hybrid (449 hp), a V8 as diesel (435 hp) and petrol (460 hp) and again a twelve-cylinder (585 hp). The engine is already in use at Bentley, otherwise its development might not have been worth it.
Because the Achilles heel of the Audi A8 is still its small number. By far, the Mercedes S-Class market leader is in the upper class. The sedan with the star was sold 84,500 times worldwide in 2016, the BMW 7er follows with 61,000 new registrations, while the A8 only 24.500 buyers found. This will become better in 2017/18, as the latest model traditionally generates more demand. However, Mercedes will soon be on the market with the S-Class facelift.
However, if you buy an A8, you will find a unique interior design and operating concept. There are hardly any switches in the interior, almost everything is controlled by two large touch screens in the center of the dashboard. Thanks to a special coating, the screens are practically not visible when they are off, the typical greasy spots of tapping and wiping are not to be discovered.
And if you set something on the displays, a soft click is heard to confirm, and the display twitches a little so that it feels as if you pressed a switch. This eliminates the need for control on the screen, which reduces the deflection during driving.
After all, man will remain responsible for a few more years to steer the car.