There's plenty to love about Audi's new flagship, but it comes at a cost.

Audi says the new 2018 A8 represents the future of the luxury automobile class. After numerous teasers and spy photos, the future is now upon us and if we’re honest, it doesn’t look that much different than the past. It’s a little bit bigger overall, and it comes in 12 exterior colours including three all-new shades, but it’s a conservative approach that we suspect most Audi followers will appreciate.

However, that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of futuristic bit contained within the new package.

The biggest difference outside is the automaker’s new Singleframe grille, accented with additional tweaks to the front and rear fascias. Among those tweaks are new lasers (yes, lasers) within the HD Matrix LED high-beam headlamps. No, you won’t be able to pull a Spy Hunter and blast cars off the road, but the laser system does effectively double the range of high beams at speeds above 69 kilometres per hour, which is when the system activates.

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Lasers are cool, but it’s inside where the A8’s claim to the future begins to make more sense. The flagship gets a new virtual cockpit with a digital instrument cluster that displays key vehicle information in full HD resolution of 1,920 x 720 pixels. The 10.5-inch centre infotainment screen is nearly flush with the dash, but perhaps the biggest difference is a surprising lack of buttons and knobs compared to the current A8. Audi’s new Multi Media Interface relies more on the touchscreen and voice commands to access various functions, though main functions can still be accessed through steering wheel controls. Aural and tactile feedback helps drivers know when commands have been entered and executed.

And there are a lot of commands. Audi says the A8 has 41 different driver assistance systems, and the MMI can be configured with six different user profiles with 400 different functions. Just a few of those include a “smart” navigation system with a self-learning function, adjustments for the optional head-up display, connecting smartphones, configuring the bevy of cameras and sensors, adjusting the audio system which includes 3D sound available for the first time in the rear, and oh so much more.

2018 Audi A8
2018 Audi A8
2018 Audi A8
2018 Audi A8

Yes, that also includes the relaxation seat available only in the long-wheelbase A8 L. Relegated to the passenger side rear, the relaxation seat provides various heating/cooling and massaging functions as well as a footrest that also includes foot massaging functions. Luxury, indeed.

Also among those settings is the A8’s much talked about autopilot system. Audi is the first manufacturer to use a laser scanner (yes, more lasers) in conjunction with radar and other sensors to get a layout of the surroundings. As such, the manufacturer says it’s a highly automated system that will let drivers be completely hands-off in slow-traffic situations on divided highways. As long as speeds remain under 60 km/h, the A8 can handle the rest. In parking situations, the A8’s autonomous system can maneuver and park itself in a garage or space without the driver even being in the car. The system can be activated by a smartphone and monitored by the driver from a remote location.

The big news on the mechanical front is that every single A8 is now a hybrid. The car will launch with a pair of turbocharged V6 engines – a 3.0-litre TFSI gasoline mill good for 340 horsepower, and a 3.0-litre TDI diesel with 286 horsepower. Each will work with a mild hybrid system that can let the A8 coast for up to 40 seconds without the engine engaged, at speeds from 55 to 160 km/h. The system also allows for slow-speed operation as well as start-stop functionality. Audi says 4.0-litre V8 engines for both gasoline and diesel power will be coming in the future, as well as a W12 model and e-tron plug-in hybrid. The A8 will dispense power to all four wheels through a newly developed eight-speed tiptronic automatic.

 

2018 Audi A8
2018 Audi A8

 

Audi’s new active suspension is also of some interest. Billed as AI active suspension, it incorporates an electric motor and numerous other components for each wheel, allowing the system to adjust suspension load independently. As a result, Audi says the A8 can have the isolated compliance of a proper luxury sedan, with the agile stance of a sports car. That’s a feature we’ll be very keen to investigate on our own.

The new 2018 Audi A8 will launch this fall in Germany, but the future doesn't come cheap. The V6 model opens with a starting price of €90,600, with the A8 L costing €94,100. That translates to approximately $135,000 and $140,000 in Canadian dollars – a far cry indeed from the A8's current $86,150 base price. Time will tell if lasers and advanced self-driving modes are worth the price of admission.

Source: Audi

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