Motors

Audi A8: The car of the future, now

The new Audi A8 is more high-tech than any car which shares its name with the road to Larne has a right to expect

Audi A8

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AUDI has taken the covers off its new A8 luxury saloon, and with it stakes a claim to make the world's most technically advanced car, writes William Scholes.

It is certainly far more high-tech than any car which shares its name with the road to Larne has a right to expect.

The A8 takes automated, or 'piloted', driving to hitherto unseen levels and, in another highlight, incorporates a fully adaptive suspension system.

Less obvious is the latest evolution of Audi's design language and the A8 also debuts the next generation of touchscreens. Luxury surroundings and superior quality are a given.

The first cars will reach Northern Ireland at the end of the year, though order books open next month.

Here are three reasons why you might want the A8 on your driveway...

Audi A8

1. It can drive itself

Audi has tooled up the A8 with what it calls 'traffic jam pilot', which can take charge of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 37mph, so long as there is a physical barrier separating the two carriageways - somewhere like a motorway, dual carriageway or the Westlink in Belfast, in other words.

The car manages starting, accelerating, steering and braking, and the driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently.

They can take their hands off the steering wheel permanently and - depending on national laws - focus on a different activity that is supported by the car, such as watching the on-board TV.

As soon as the system reaches its limits, it calls on the driver to take back control of the task of driving.

Audi says that the "statutory framework" in each market "will need to be clarified", so it may not be available on UK market cars immediately.

Radar, cameras, ultrasonic sensors and laser scanners help the car's computers 'visualise' the A8's surroundings, and thus determine how it should drive.

2. It can defy physics

Audi says the A8's suspension "pushes the very limits of what is physically possible".

This includes four-wheel steering and Audi's trademark quattro four-wheel-drive system but the most high-tech feature is fully active suspension.

This is capable of raising or lowering each wheel separately by using electric motors to smooth the car's ride, and works in conjunction with air suspension.

3. It's wireless

Engines include 3.0-litre V6 petrol and diesel units, a 4.0-litre V8 diesel and a W12 6.0-litre petrol.

These are all so-called 'mild hybrids', using a 48 volt electrical system and a belt alternator starter to allow the car to coast with the engine switched off and then restart smoothly and instantly.

But the one you really want is the plug-in hybrid, which pairs a 3.0-litre V6 petrol and an electric motor to produce a total of 443bhp and 516lb.ft.

Audi says the car's battery stores enough energy to allow it drive for around 31 miles solely in electric mode.

The real wow feature is the fact that you don't even have to plug it in to recharge the battery - wireless charging is optionally available, with a pad installed in your garage floor transferring the power inductively to a receiver coil.

Audi A8

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