Audi has unveiled its future today with the debut of the all-new Audi 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 flawless road surface. Audi says it's still working out a framework to make the system is road-legal in this country.
The A8's Level 3 autonomous driving means that the driver is still present and can intervene if necessary, but is not required to monitor the situation in the same way it does for the previous levels. Rear passengers can also control an array of functions such as ambient lighting, the new HD Matrix reading lights and seat massage, and can make private phone calls via a separate operating unit.
Rear-seat passengers can control the car's climate, media and other settings via a tablet computer docked in the centre console, similar to that installed in the BMW 7-Series. Some are seeking ways to skip Level 3 entirely, jumping from Level 2, where a hand is required on the wheel at all times, to Level 4, where the auto does not need to give back control in any situation.
The vehicle will be put up for sales this year, starting Germany for expected prices more than United States dollars 100,000.
The level 3 autonomous technology - which uses cameras, radar and laser sensors - can drive the vehicle, including starting, accelerating, steering and braking, at speeds up to 37mph on major roads where a physical barrier separates the two carriageways, with the driver not even required to monitor the auto. We spoke about it before as well. This system then works in conjunction with the luxury sedan's front camera which detects bumpers and allows the suspension to automatically adjust to offer the smoothest ride possible.
In terms of mechanical details, the major switch for the A8 is the presence of electrification across the entire range.
We'd hate to see the fix bill for that complicated piece of gadget wizardry out of warranty. Speaking of which quattro too is standard with the A8 primarily being rear wheel biased. Audi adds there are 41 different driver assistance systems, and the MMI can be set up for six different user profiles with up to 400 different functions.
Audi says two eight-cylinder versions - a 4.0 TDI with 320 kW and a 4.0 TFSI with 338 kW will follow slightly later.
At launch the new A8 will have a choice of two V6 turbo engines - a 282bhp 3.0-litre diesel and a 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol -and a range-topping 6.0-litre W12.
All three will offer some form of electric driving and a full-on plug-in A8 L e-tron with a 3.0-litre turbocharged six combined with an electric motor will also be available, offering 443bhp and 516lb ft of torque with an EV driving range of circa 30 miles. The power figures though are yet to be disclosed.
The side profile of the new A8 now features low rung shoulder lines that complement the width of the luxury sedan. This, according to Audi, helps to cut 0.7L/100km from fuel consumption.
The teased relaxation seat is exclusive to the long-wheelbase A8 L, but frankly we're more interested in those fancy semi-autonomous features.