Making its debut at Audi Summit in Barcelona, the fourth-generation A8 flagship luxury sedan features evolutionary styling that maintains a clear connection with other models in the Audi lineup. From a technology standpoint, however, the full-size sedan looks to the future with its long list of self-driving features. The redesigned A8 arrives in the U.S. in mid-2018 as a 2019 model.
In a statement, Audi characterized the redesigned A8's exterior styling as the "dawning of a new design era for the entire brand," but that's a bit of hyperbole; the new front-end design trades the prior-generation's tall Singleframe grille for a wider version that's better integrated with the rest of the car's styling, but its profile and rear styling don't stray far from the template established by its predecessor.
The interior sees much bigger changes — both in appearance and functionality. The dashboard adopts a minimalist design with ventilation ducts covered by motorized doors and a large gloss-black panel below them that stretches the width of the dashboard. It's an imposing, industrial aesthetic that's the opposite of the organic shapes in the new Lexus LS 500.
Audi has also dropped its knob-based MMI control system in favor of upper and lower touchscreens: one in the middle of the dashboard and another just ahead of the console gear selector. The upper screen measures 10.1 inches and is the primary display while the lower screen shows climate controls and supports text input. Both screens incorporate haptic feedback. Overall, it's a major user-interface shift for the brand, which has used its knob- and button-based MMI system for years.
The new A8 can also manage more driving situations than ever before; with Audi artificial intelligence Traffic Jam Pilot, the A8 can drive itself at speeds up to 37 mph on highways with a physical barrier separating opposing lanes of traffic. Using radar sensors, a front camera, ultrasonic sensors and a laser scanner, the system builds a picture of the car's surroundings to enable self-driving. However, Traffic Jam Pilot won't be available in the U.S. at launch; an Audi spokeswoman said in an email that the automaker will continue to work with regulators to bring the technology to market.
Other self-driving features include Remote Parking Pilot and Remote Garage Pilot, which steer the car in and out of a parking spot or garage. The driver needn't be in the car to use these features; they can be initiated with a smartphone app.
U.S.-market versions are expected to be powered by a 340-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 or a 460-hp, turbo V-8 — both of which are backed by a light-hybrid system that turns off the Used Engine when coasting and captures kinetic energy when braking. Expected later is an e-tron plug-in hybrid version that can drive up to 31 miles on electric power alone and be optionally, wirelessly charged via a garage charging pad.