Equipment: Exemplary standard specification
There is no doubt that the exceptional quality of the new Audi A8's standard equipment, as well as its sheer diversity, redefines the standard in the luxury class.
With its ASF-type aluminium body, aluminium running gear, adaptive air suspension, quattro permanent four-wheel drive and 17" wheels on the V8 versions, Audi's new flagship model is undeniably positioned as the most sporty saloon in the exclusive car class.
The A8's steering has speed-dependent and now also steer angle-dependent servotronic. The steering effort required thus varies according to road speed and steering-wheel angle.
The new 6-speed tiptronic, the new leather multifunction steering wheel with 4-spoke design and the optimised deluxe automatic air conditioning with moisture sensor and sun sensor provide maximum comfort and convenience. The rear lid with power-assisted closing and the cruise control system likewise enhance these qualities.
But that is not all. Pioneering technologies such as the MMI Multi Media Interface, battery energy management, the electromechanical parking brake with starting assist function and LED technology in the rear lights and side turn indicators are the best possible proof of Audi's proverbial "Vorsprung durch Technik", exemplifying a competitive edge that extends right up to the luxury segment.
The same can justifiably be said of the passive safety equipment. The two-stage driver's and front passenger's airbags, with ring-type airbag on the driver's side, provide very effective protection against the consequences of a frontal collision. In the event of lateral impact, airbags in the seat backs and the sideguard head-level airbag system afford maximum safety for the occupants on the outer seats.
Upfront sensors and crash sensors in the B and C-posts ensure that the restraint systems are triggered off efficiently. The new active head restraints in the front seats effectively reduce the risk of whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision.
Active safety is enhanced by the latest version of the Electronic Stabilisation Program ESP with hydraulic brake assist. The high-performance brake system with 17-inch disc brakes ensures safe and effective deceleration.
Buyers of the A8 have a total of 14 body colours to choose from.
The character of the interior is shaped by the two-section inlay running all the way round, in Brown Walnut and Matt Palladium. Numerous different combinations are available for the seats and trims, for nuances covering the entire spectrum from black to a light beige hue.
The striking use of aluminium highlights the dynamic character of the new Audi A8 at numerous points in the driving area, such as the MMI terminal and the transmission gate, the surround on the instrument cluster's tubular rings and the bridge of the standard-fit multifunction steering wheel.
The standard front seats of the new A8 are electrically adjustable. The generously dimensioned centre armrests at the front and rear provide comfortable support.
The standard radio system is a welcome source of audio enjoyment and up-to-the-minute information. 4-way aerial diversity and a total of eight loudspeakers plus subwoofer guarantee outstanding reception and sound quality for all occupants. An equipment-specific equaliser takes account of the different interior acoustics produced in combination with cloth or leather upholstery.
Thanks to its integration into the MMI operation concept, operating convenience has reached new heights. At the press of a button a list of all stations that can be picked up in the region appears and is constantly updated by the tuner.
Important optional extras
Particularly in the luxury car class, individuality is one of the most important criteria when a person chooses their new car. The new Audi A8 offers almost unlimited scope for the buyer to customise its design, equipment and technical features.
In the case of a vehicle whose dynamic qualities are its principal characteristic, sports components and technical systems are of course top of the list.
Even more sporty attributes as an option
In recognition of the affinity of many A8 drivers for systematic sports appeal, Audi offers the option of adaptive air suspension - sport. This sports suspension permits a level of driving dynamics that represents a new dimension in the segment of luxury-class saloons.
The 18 and 19-inch wheels are attractive to look at and optimise road behaviour. The new A8 is the first Audi to be available with wheels with run-flat tyres (PAX system); even when entirely deflated, these tyres remain securely on the rim and afford a hitherto unprecedented level of operating reliability in an emergency.
The optional tyre pressure monitoring system keeps the driver constantly informed of the status of the tyres, and prevents a loss of tyre pressure from going unnoticed.
The radar-controlled adaptive cruise control represents a major advance on conventional cruise control systems. The intelligent convenience system constantly monitors the distance between the car and the preceding vehicle, and adapts the car's own speed accordingly by manipulating the accelerator and brakes. This makes the driver's task decisively easier.
The adaptive light cornering lights, which Audi is unveiling for the A8, noticeably broaden the driver's field of view. Depending on the road speed, steering angle and turn indicator signal, the system activates an auxiliary headlight that enlarges the illuminated area sideways - a clear safety gain.
Individuality in the interior
The interior can be given a highly exclusive note with one of the two available leather grades or the Alcantara/leather specification: Valcona leather or natural leather represent the benchmark in this field for their quality and craftsmanship. If the extended leather package is ordered as an option, the armrests in the doors and the centre console are also trimmed in these pleasant smelling hides.
The interior can be given a further distinctive flavour with Amber Vavona wood or Beige or Grey Birch. An extended aluminium package, with numerous trims around the centre console and instrument panel, accentuates the sporting flair of the A8's driving area.
There are 3-spoke leather-covered multifunction sports steering wheels in addition to the standard 4-spoke multifunction steering wheel with leather rim. Additional functions, such as the shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel and a heating function, can be ordered as add-on modules.
The optional comfort seats enhance long-distance comfort and sports seats provide extra lateral support. Both have additional scope for electrical adjustment: the upper backrest and thigh support are individually adjustable.
With its several predefined lighting profiles, the interior lighting package with ambient lighting illuminates the interior to suit each particular situation. In addition, the ambient lighting provides a new level of harmony with the interior design as a whole.
The four-zone deluxe automatic air conditioning allows temperature and air distribution to be adjusted separately for all four seats.
Communication and comfort
The range of infotainment options is equally broad: the audio system with optional CD player or changer, perfectly matched acoustically to the interior of the new A8, transforms the Audi flagship model into a mobile auditorium.
The entirely reconfigured BOSE Surround Sound system affords a very special quality of audio enjoyment: five amplifier channels distribute the sound around the listener as in a concert hall - an audio experience that sets new standards even in the luxury car class.
The BOSE system in addition includes electronic compensation of the vehicle's specific acoustic backdrop.
Like the audio system, the navigation system with DVD can be operated via the MMI terminal. With the larger storage capacity of the data carrier and the significantly broader range of functions, the Audi system is of a calibre that befits the car it is designed for.
The new A8 is the first car worldwide to be available with a hands-free car phone with cordless receiver. Bluetooth technology has not merely paved the way for cordless communication between the handset and the built-in base station. It also permits the exchange of other data, such as address books stored in the set. All important telephone functions can be activated both via the receiver and via the MMI terminal.
The voice control system for a great many infotainment functions enhances the ergonomic convenience of MMI even further.
Advanced key permits the driver to open the new A8 without having to take hold of the key. A signal transmitter in the key releases the central locking when the vehicle is approached and allows the engine to be started at the push of the starter button as soon as the key is inside the car.
The one-touch memory personalisation system allows up to four drivers to specify individual presets for a wide range of functions and settings, and to have them activated spontaneously once they themselves have been automatically identified. The system identifies each driver by his or her fingerprint, which is scanned by a sensor pad on the advanced key system's starter button.
An array of processes are initiated once the system has positively matched the fingerprint up to a stored print: the seats, mirrors and steering column are adjusted in line with the preselected configuration, as are the air conditioning system's temperature and air distribution settings. Driver-specific infotainment settings too can be activated by means of the one-touch memory.
The market for luxury saloons
The new Audi A8 is entering an extremely demanding market segment containing competitors of superlative calibre, both technologically and in other respects - especially from Germany.
Almost half of all luxury saloons sold worldwide are produced by just three German manufacturers.
As things stand at the moment, a total of around 230,000 vehicles enter the luxury-saloon market each year. Around 70 percent of these cars are sold outside Central Europe, the majority of them in North America.
The luxury-saloon market has generally remained constant for many years as far as volume is concerned. The level of demand is affected much less by economic fluctuations than by attractive new arrivals on the market.
The A8, built from 1994 to 2002, has firmly established the Audi name in this segment. Its most important product features, the aluminium body based on the ASF principle, quattro permanent four-wheel drive and its particularly dynamic character, have helped to set it apart in a segment that was for some time noted above all for its conservative values.
However, a transformation has since become apparent that goes hand in hand not least with a change in the potential customer groups. The group of luxury-saloon buyers has become significantly more heterogeneous than was the case a few years ago. The percentage of 40-50 year olds in particular has increased at an above-average rate.
A lowering of the average age, however, is not the only significant factor for the change in demands on the luxury segment. Emotional factors now also influence the customer's decision to buy much more than before:
Against this background, one thing is clear: the new Audi A8 can, on the one hand, depend on a broad base of loyal drivers whose positive expectations derive from their equally positive experiences with the predecessor.
At the same time, the change in values outlined and the different target group has produced potential for winning over new customers that should not be underestimated. The decidedly sporty character of the new Audi A8 provides the ideal basis for setting it apart positively from the key competitors - a characteristic that applies for virtually all potential markets.
Compared with the predecessor, an expected increase in volume of to 50 percent throughout the entire life cycle is certainly realistic. An increase in sales of between 10 and 50 percent can be expected in Europe, while the possible increase in overseas markets may clearly reach triple figures.
Germany is expected to account for over 35 percent of sales, while the other European markets will contribute more than 20 percent. Around one third of A8 production will be exported to the USA, the largest single market after Germany.