New-generation range-topping saloon will get more driverless tech and a lighter construction; it features Audi’s most advanced suspension system
Set to be revealed on the 11 July, the range-topping saloon will use the most advanced active suspension system yet fitted to an Audi.
The so-called electromechanically actuated suspension system is part of the car’s 48-volt electrical architecture and MLB Evo underpinnings. It uses a front-mounted camera to analyse the road ahead 18 times per second and then prepares the electric suspension accordingly.
Each wheel has an electric motor that’s linked to a gearbox, a rotating tube with an internal titanium tube and a lever, which then adjusts the suspension with up to 811lb ft of torque. The system reduces body roll during cornering and pitch during acceleration and braking.
Audi claims that this technology can also improve passive safety in the event of a crash, by lifting the side of the impending impact. It says this concentrates the impact on the strongest parts of the car, such as the side sills.
The car will also use electromechanical rear-axle steering, another component of its 48v architecture. The system improves stability at speed by steering in the same direction as the front wheels or improves manoeuvrability by turning in the opposite direction in tight situations. It’s also claimed to improve steering feel.
Full front and rear styling shots have been shown in earlier footage of the upcoming BMW 7 Series rival (see below), which draws heavily from the design of Audi’s Prologue concept of 2014, with a large central grille, geometric headlights and a light bar spanning the width of the car’s rear. The large, intricate wheels also appear to be smaller, more production-friendly versions of the Prologue’s 22in wheels.
Also like the Prologue concept, the A8 will receive electrified powertrains from the entry-level model up, Audi has confirmed. Another preview also demonstrates the car’s hands-off driverless technology, with an ‘Audi AI’ button activating the system, which prompts the driver to let go of the steering wheel.
The A8 will be the first in the brand’s line-up to be available only as a hybrid, as Audi looks to electrify its entire lineup in the coming years. Entry-level cars will be mild hybrids, although it’s likely that plug-in hybrid versions will appear higher up in the range, with greater electric-only driving capability.
A demonstration image of the car’s powertrain confirms a V6 petrol engine will feature in the range, too, with electric power supplementing the internal combustion engine.
The 48v circuit incorporates two elements; a water-cooled alternator starter, and a lithium-ion battery pack in the luggage compartment of the car.
The flagship saloon will offer a fully autonomous driverless mode, using Audi’s piloted driver technology, which can completely control the car at speeds of up to 37mph; beating even the Mercedes-Benz S-Class to Level 3 – conditional automation – autonomy.
The car also uses its autonomous systems to save fuel and increase smoothness when driving; the sensors, for example, can tell when traffic in front moves, and can start the engine early, even if the brakes are still applied, allowing for a smoother transition between standstill and following the flow of traffic.
We now know that the new A8’s bodyshell, minus running gear and equipment, weighs 51kg more than the outgoing model, at 282kg compared to 231kg. It’s 24% stiffer, too, which should contribute to improved handling, steering and refinement. Rear seat knee room increases by 28mm and headroom by 14mm.
Other key technological features will include gesture controls, the latest organic LED headlight technology and the 48v electrical system used in the SQ7.
Entry-level prices aren’t expected to change dramatically from those of the current model, which costs from £63,520, but range-topping models with their more complicated technology and drivetrains could cause the A8’s overall price window to widen.
The car is featured in the new Spiderman: Homecoming movie that’s in cinemas now.