Audi Middle East has launched its Gen IV top end executive sedan, the 2018 A8L for the region. Carguide.ME motoring editor was invited to check out the car in UAE
Photos: Jorge Ferrari / Charles Varghese
If you have visited an event like the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in the US, then you might have noticed that it’s not just a hardware or software exhibition anymore. In fact, due to its extremely high footfall, a lot of carmakers are beginning to explore common ground in shows like the CES and similar platforms around the world to highlight technological innovations that are now driving cars today and in the future.
And it’s no secret that most luxury and sports carmakers are loading new entries with state-of-the-art tech applications. To some it’s a welcome measure, and to some it could be overwhelming. Well, one has to live with it since the environment that we live in, driving a car has many more considerations than what it used to be a few years ago.
Ingolstadt, Germany-based Audi has been able to establish itself among the foremost companies that have wholeheartedly inculcated progressive technologies and with each generation the feature list seems to grow. As a result, there’s no exception of the fine marriage of technology and luxury in its all-new Gen IV A8L for 2018. This top-of-the-line sedan is often equated with the likes of home country produced Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series in particular and foreign luxury brands like Lexus, Cadillac and Infiniti.
Since part of the drive experience began a few hours after midnight, it was a good opportunity to experience the car’s matrix LED lighting system in dark. The matrix set-up constitutes of 32 individual LEDs which can be turned on and off as needed. One clever aspect of the system is that in corners the LEDs are not physically turned as in other active lighting systems but their function is controlled by the car’s GPS navigation system. This knows when a corner is coming and activates the LEDs accordingly.
With day break and a few stop overs for driver change, the silhouette of the sheetmetal and detailing emerged and instantly we could connect it with the Prologue concept of 2014. In profile, it is similar to outgoing production car, pleasantly proportioned, but sports a new face, angular horizontal grille with surrounds and chiselled bonnet. Even with its conservative looks, the car appears elegant, imposing, but its design is not revolutionary. The front face takes a while to get accustomed to.
Taking a closer look at the sheet metal also reveals a few curious ideas — the way the bonnet shut line ends up near the A-pillar as it actually hangs out a few millimetres to enable it blend with the door’s lines. Compared with the outgoing car, dimensions have changed marginally — the car stands 208.7in length, 76.6in width and 58.6 in height.
Thanks to long wheelbase, the cabin of the car is extra spacious, elegantly packaged with genuine wood trim and most of the familiar bells and whistles are there beside innovative use of LEDs to light up the interior. Instrumentation is all-digital now with two high-resolution TFT screens offering an array of information. The central console hosts a tab-like vertical information centre and there’s also a display on the centre console for air-conditioning settings. Higher grades get heads-up display and semi-autonomous driving features like automatic parking. Seating is as expected — cosseted and comfortable.
But it’s the rear cabin area of the car that outshines anything that we are familiar in this class of a car. It comes with a business class ambience and both passengers can pamper themselves with multi-adjustable, heated, cooled, massaging seats or amuse themselves with their own entertainment systems, docking tab screen and host of features designed for occupants who like to work while travelling including Wi-fi connectivity, Appleplay/Android pairing among others.
We can agree with the latest MMI system, which seems to have been planned logically with reduction in operational aspects in mind. Having said that, the art of learning and mastering of the multitude of vehicle systems controlled by touch or voice commands can be overwhelming for non-tech savvy individuals but with some perseverance and guidance one does get there.
Under the bonnet, unlike the previous editions, there will be no W12 engine in this model series anymore, unless specially ordered, we are told. For regular mortals, two powertrain set-ups will be offered – a V6 and V8. Our test car was the entry level new 3.0-litre TSFI V6 turbocharged version good for 340hp and torque that is available from 500Nm that is available as low as 1,370rpm right up to 4,500rpm. This forced-fed turbo mill posts extra 7hp when compared to the outgoing supercharged engine of same displacement. The bigger 4.0-litre 460hp engine variant will join the Middle East line-up later. Top speed is limited to 250km/h.
All A8Ls come with 8-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive. Audi also adds Drive Select, which lets drivers toggle vehicle systems through comfort, automatic, sport pre-sets and individual programmes. Unlike other Audis, the A8 makes the most of Drive Select. While, it can’t dial in more steering feel, but it does narrow the multiple characters into a few which means you can get your highway cruiser and asphalt bruiser in a single package.
Suspension packaging is new as it combines mechanical hardware with some clever actuator based systems. The active set up includes cameras that read the road ahead and relay the data to the computers which plot the individual rise or lowering of each wheel to keep the car as flat as possibly over bumpy roads. We’ve experienced a similar set-up in the S-Class ‘magic carpet’ ride a few years ago.
The new A8 also bring in a few tech firsts to the region – it’s the first production car to offer Level 3 automated driving at speeds of up to 60km/h. The catch is it will work only on highways where a physical barrier separates cars travelling in the opposite direction. And wherever conditions permit, the car besides keeping a watch on the driver will assume all responsibility for the safe operation of the car so long as the driver remains prepared to resume control within 10 seconds.
One interesting technology related fact is the car’s standard 48v DC main electrical system, which enables a belt alternator stop-start system and extended coasting with the engine off. The mild hybrid car promises to be significantly more fuel-efficient than the outgoing A8 models.
Safety features include a comprehensive package of active and passive systems like ESP, EBD, SRS airbags, lane departure warning among other kit.
Our first drive with the car was in the wee hours of a pleasant morning following a hot air balloon ride. On the move the first thing that strikes common with the balloon ride is how quiet this car is and the near silence is striking. What also is striking is the limousine like leg and head room and the smoothness in the ride.
Driving the A8L with its 340-hp V6 tucked underneath gives and impression of a confident silky smooth, quiet powerful motor. On road, the car is no slouch either. In fact, for its size and weight its 0-100km/h effortless sprint of 5.7secs is impressive. We can vouch for the fact that the V6 seems powerful enough to suit most Middle East market driving conditions. We noted that at motorway cruising speeds of 120km/h the engine revs just under 2,000rpm indicating superb torque delivery resulting in that ride quality.
Acceleration is brisk and gear shifts silky smooth and the shift quality will also vary with the drive mode chosen. The car’s all-wheel steering system and optional torque-vectoring rear differential impressed us most as unseen driver aids. Same could be said for the wide range in steering ratios which guarantees stable high-speed handling and amazing low-speed turning. Parking this large sedan in tight spots is a breeze.
Setting off for a first drive in Margham followed by a long loop through secondary roads the drive revealed the car’s exemplary performance and agility even on narrow and winding roads despite its sheer size. We also tried out the different driving modes and we think unless you are a road maniac, the A8 L is probably best enjoyed by leaving it in Comfort mode for that chilled out experience. The car’s steering set-up offers nice weight and feedback and with active suspension on the job makes the ride even more sophisticated.
The new A8L may appear highly complicated if you read the spec sheet initially, but when it comes to driving or experiencing it, the true colours of a delightful, savvy machine comes through. In more than one way, Audi has raised the technology bar in its top end proposition while keeping it as agile as an A4.
INFINITI Engineering Academy – Sifting for future tech leaders
Amidst the hustle and bustle of a Formula One weekend, there is a quiet revolution taking place. While most team bosses are scouting out and testing new driver talent, the folks at Renault F1 are taking their partnership with related luxury brand and title sponsor INFINITI to a new level by building on their multi-year effort to scout engineering talent.
And there is no better proof of their commitment to the program than the fact that this multi region competition run under the INFINITI Engineering Academy moniker has resulted in employment contracts to past participants.
The year ending race at Abu Dhabi served as the selection platform for participants from the Middle East region, with ten semi-finalists going into a protracted skills and strategy selection process that resulted in three finalists who were put through another set of skills contests after a session where invited media (including us) put various questions to them, with scoring input that added to the judges scores.
After this session, the three finalists moved on to the final challenge, which involved assembling a four-cylinder bank header with the series of pipes and splitter of the exhaust assembly. It was here that the region’s winner Fahim Choudhary won his opportunity to join the winners from the six other regions to participate in a year long internship program with the two companies in the United Kingdom, complete with a good salary, company car, travel and accommodation – six months with Renault Formula One’s facilities and a further six months at INFINITI’s European Technical Centre at Cranfield.
Fahim is a student with Lancaster University in Dubai.
Tommaso Volpe, Director, INFINITI Global Motorsport and Performance Projects, said: “The INFINITI Engineering Academy has grown every year, and now in our fifth year, competition for our limited number of slots is intense. Our partners at Renault Sport Formula One™ Team and Harvard University have helped us select the brightest engineering students from around the globe who will contribute to the future of the sport and the automotive industry.”
Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport Racing, also commented: “Attracting top new talent is crucial for success in Formula One™, so we want to make sure that together with INFINITI we select the best engineers to work for this programme. Each one of these young engineers brings fresh perspectives and new ideas to the race team, which are vital.”
Interestingly, this year’s edition of the program saw Harvard University involved with Dr. Julia Minson, an expert in decision science, involved in the process. Dr. Minson is working with the INFINITI Engineering Academy to conduct ground-breaking research into decision making in engineering, and how the very best engineers perform under pressure to make decisions when faced with vast amounts of complex data. The learnings from the research will then be incorporated by both the INFINITI engineering and motorsport teams to optimize their decision-making processes.
2018 Audi A8 L
|Length Width Height (mm)||5302 x 1945 x 1488|
|Engine||3.0-litre V6 turbocharged|
|Power HP@RPM||340 @ 5000-6400|
|Torque Nm@RPM||500 @ 1370-4500|
|Drive||quattro all-wheel drive|
|Fr Suspension||Five-link front axle; tubular anti-roll bar; air spring suspension|
|Rr Suspension||Five-link front axle; tubular anti-roll bar; air spring suspension|
|Brakes||Dual-circuit brake system with black/white split for front/rear axles; ESC/ABS/EBD; brake booster, hydraulic brake assist|
|Wheels||Forged aluminum 8.0J x 18”|
|Tyres||235/55 R18 104 Y|