Last month, Audi promised that we would soon see the fourth-generation A8. At its Audi Summit event in Barcelona, Spain — a gathering similar to the Group Night VW has previously put on before auto shows — the automaker did just that. Due in German showrooms late in the year and in American showrooms sometime after that, likely as a 2019, the new A8 is described as “the first production automobile in the world to have been developed for highly automated driving.”
Like the extant third-generation A8, the fourth-gen will be available in regular and long-wheelbase variants. Only the 204.0-inch length of the former was mentioned, but the wheelbase of the latter is said to be 5.1-inches longer. (Curiously, Audi claims that the A8 “has grown substantially in length in both body versions,” though the length of the short-wheelbase variant only increases by 1.4 inch.)
European buyers will get to choose between three gasoline engines, two diesel ones, and a plug-in hybrid variant — plus the inevitable S8. Thanks to Dieselgate, the chances of the oil burners making it over the Atlantic are virtually nil and the outlook for the range-topping gasoline W-12 isn’t great either, which leaves the PHEV and the two choices already offered in the U.S. A8: a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 and a turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8. Both receive slight power boosts of 7 hp and 10 hp, respectively (at least in German spec), and both will come equipped with 48-volt electrical system and a belt alternator starter, making all versions of the new A8 at least mild hybrids. Quattro all-wheel drive is now standard, as is four-wheel steering.
Powering the plug-in A8 L e-tron quattro (presumably, given the name, it will only be available in long-wheelbase form) will be the same supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 as above, but now mated to an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. Total system output is 449 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque and the battery will hold enough power for 31.1-miles of electric-only driving.
In addition to the mild hybrid functionality, the 48-volt electrics enable the A8’s new adaptive suspension, which can adjust each wheel independently using an electric actuator and will rapidly raise the car if sensors detect an imminent lateral impact such as a sideswipe or t-bone.
Visually, the new A8 bring any particular surprises. The exterior receives the same stylistic updates as the rest of the Audi lineup, the large Singleframe grille taking center stage. It’s accented by LED headlights backed by Audi’s laser lighting. At rear, the A8 features OLED taillights. It’s the same story inside, where highlights include the now-familiar Audi Digital Cockpit, a 10.1-inch center touchscreen, and every luxury feature you can think of, including car-to-X connectivity via the built-in LTE modem.
As for the aforementioned “highly automated driving” that the A8 was developed for, that functionality will start rolling out in 2018. The first functions will be parking pilot, garage pilot, and traffic jam pilot. The first two will enable the A8 to park itself in a parking lot or garage or pull itself out, even if the driver is outside of the car as it can be turned on both from inside the car as well as via an app. The third, meanwhile, will allow the A8 to drive itself through traffic at speeds of up to 37.3 mph on freeways and highways with a central divider (by comparison, Cadillac’s upcoming Super Cruise functions at cruising speeds). To achieve this, the new A8 will use its radar sensors, front camera, ultrasonic sensors, and a laser scanner.
Prices for the German models will start at $104,000 for the regular-length A8 and at $108,000 for the long-wheelbase variant. U.S. versions should be somewhat cheaper when they arrive sometime in 2018, as the 2017 A8 L starts at just $82,500. More details will certainly be released closer to the luxury sedan’s official launch date, possibly in time for its near-certain appearance at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show in September.