Audi unveils new tech-infested A8 to arrive in SA next year

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A bit longer than the outgoing A8 - but a bit narrower too - the new A8 looks more purposeful with its new grille with its wide horizontal lines, and although everything about the styling is new, it still looks like an A8. We're not big fans of temperature control on touch-screens, though, so we'll have to wait and see whether this one works any better than, say, Peugeot's, which is impossible to use accurately at speed on anything worse than a ideal road surface. In fact, compared to its predecessor, it has grown substantially in length and offers an extensive range of equipment and materials. The rear seat remote even comes with an OLED display that's as big as a smartphone.

The new A8 also ushers in an innovative touchscreen operating concept and a glut of new cabin gizmos. The rotary dial from the current auto has now gone and replacement with a large 10.1-inch touchscreen that Audi says blends nearly invisibly into the dash. Among the endless luxury features in the new sedan, one stands out: Traffic Jam Pilot. The system is quick to react once the camera identifies a bump on the road. The flagship A8 sedan also makes a guest appearance in the blockbuster "Spider-Man: Homecoming". Using the Audi app on one's phone, the vehicle can be steered into an empty parking slot as well as parked in the garage without the driver being physically present inside the cabin'. Meanwhile, the available Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound system integrates the rear seats for the first time to create a richer 3D listening experience.

Driving aids available for the new Audi A8 include various autonomous features. The most interesting of those is a little AI button on the center console, which activates Audi AI Traffic Jam Pilot.

Unlike other systems such as Nissan's ProPilot, Audi's autonomous driving system will be capable of letting the driver permanently take his/her hands off the steering wheel and do other things like watching the onboard TV. Similar to the S-Class's Magic Body Control system, it uses cameras mounted within the windscreen to scan the road 18 times per second and then alter the damping and spring characteristics for each individual wheel.

In case you still want to drive your four-wheel drive luxury missile, the A8 will enhance the experience with variable-ratio all-wheel steering and the sport differential that distributes torque between the rear wheels on demand. Further down the road, a 4.0-liter TDI V8 with 435 hp will be introduced alongside a 460 hp 4.0-liter V8.

Across this fourth-generation Audi A8 range, every model will use an electrified powertrain thanks to the adoption of a 48-volt circuit. Mild hybrid tech is standard-fit across the petrol and diesel line-up with a 48V electrical system bringing features including coasting with the engine off, an extended start/stop function and energy recovery under braking. It can optionally be charged by Audi Wireless Charging-essentially a pad in the garage floor that transfers the power inductively.

A source at Audi said development of the A8, which took about five years, suffered from changes at the brand's research and development department, though assiduous work by division heads helped ensure that delays were kept in check.