Spy shots and exclusive images of the new Audi A8 saloon plus details on its weight-saving tech, ‘level 3’ autonomy and hybrid engines
Every version of the next-generation Audi A8 will get hybrid technology, bosses at the brand have now confirmed. The new car will debut in the coming months, and will hit back at the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series on the technology and efficiency fronts, using more aluminium in its construction than ever before, as well as components made out of magnesium and carbonfibre.
Speaking from the launch of the new Audi SQ5 TFSI, head of V-engine design Andreas Frohlich told Auto Express: “The new Audi A8 will have a 48-volt electrical system – across both petrol and diesel. Every A8 will be electrified.”
Alexander Kruse, head of mild hybrid systems at Audi AG suggested the tech would appear on next year’s new A6 saloon, too: “First we begin with the A8, and then continue on to other models. The plan is to very quickly implement the system on other model lines.”
New Audi A8 engines
Previously, very little information about the new A8’s engine line-up had been revealed, but we now know the executive limousine will feature six, eight and even 12-cylinder units. From launch, every model from the entry-level V6 right up to the flagship W12 will feature some kind of hybrid technology. Engineers suggest it could save as much as 0.7 litres of fuel per 100km when utilised on a V6 petrol engine – allowing silent coasting at speeds of up to 99mph.
Audi is already experimenting with 48v technology, with its hot V8-powered SQ7 TDI employing an electrical compressor designed to help eliminate turbo lag. The system in the new A8 is expected to be more complex, however, boosting power and torque while also reducing emissions and improving fuel economy.
Kruse also suggested plug-in variants with a longer EV-only range were in the pipeline for later in the car’s life. When challenged as to whether a four-cylinder petrol engine would make more sense in this car, Kruse smiled and said: “It could be, yes.”
New Audi A8 lightweight technology
The German brand’s flagship A8 saloon has a history of lightweight construction – but engineers admit that responding to customer demands is likely to bring a small gain in kerbweight for the new version. The car’s bare metal construction is around 50kg heavier than the structure of the existing A8. A number of key factors are said to have caused the new Audi A8’s increase in mass. The first is the requirement for a full-length panoramic sunroof, because this demands extra bracing to avoid chassis flex, while the extra autonomous tech – and that hybrid system – will add bulk, too.
To minimise the gain, Audi’s engineers are using more aluminium than ever before (the material accounts for 58 per cent of the body), while also introducing magnesium and carbonfibre. The magnesium is used in the front strut brace – a component that is 28 per cent lighter than it would be if it were made out of aluminium.
The carbonfibre component is what Audi calls the ‘carbon wall’ – in effect, an angled, carbonfibre-reinforced plastic panel at the back of the passenger cell. Formed using ‘stripes’ of carbon weave and a process called resign transfer moulding – which can stamp the form the panel into shape in five minutes – the wall weighs just 2.6kg, a saving of around 50 per cent on a metal part.
New Audi A8 to be the first truly autonomous production car
As well as the groundbreaking weight-saving tech, Audi’s upcoming replacement for its flagship luxury saloon is set to be one of the most high-tech cars ever put on the road. As it occupies top spot in Audi’s current range, it’s no surprise that the company puts its most advanced technology into the A8 first – and that’s why it’s set to be the first production car ever built with full ‘Level 3’ autonomous driving tech. That means the A8 will be able to completely take over control, allowing the driver to relax and take their eyes off the road.
Revolutionary piloted driving tech has been confirmed for the A8. Long-range radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors, laser scanners and hi-resolution video cameras will constantly monitor the car’s surroundings, with the system also able to guide a car safely through traffic jams at up to speeds of 37mph.
Audi believes up to 90 per cent of all innovation in the automotive sector will come from electronics, with lighting playing a significant part. Matrix LED technology is still relatively new but Audi is already working to move the game on further. “We are working on the integration of organic LEDs,” said Ricky Hudi, Head of Electronics at Audi. He claims the advancement will enable “new forms of expression and differentiation”, with their main use expected to be in a car’s digital displays.
Those displays will also be operated by gesture control, a feature also confirmed for the facelifted VW Golf. “We are already working on a new gesture control system as an advanced development,” said Hudi. In-car operations such as adjusting the temperate, answering incoming calls and switching between radio stations will move from button operation to gesture control.
“The A8 is a good car to introduce some of these technologies because it is always good to start with a premium offering,” added Hackenberg.
New Audi A8 design language
We scooped spy shots of the A8 earlier this year, but while the test mule looks similar to the current A6, we can reveal it’s actually going to debut a new design language for Audi. With less of a ‘Russian Doll’ approach, each line of cars will be given its own distinct identity.
The A8 is the first model using inspiration from the Prologue concept, penned by design head Marc Lichte. Despite the more subtle exterior, clues like the more exaggerated front grille and intricate rear lights can be seen through the body disguise.
Everything from Audi’s piloted driving autonomous car tech to gesture control, and organic LED lighting will also find its way into Audi’s flagship saloon, ensuring it becomes the technological showcase it needs to be to tackle the Mercedes S-Class.