New Audi A8 unveiled

* Lighter, faster and greener * Tech includes revised MMI system * Better value than before; on sale April...

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What Car? Staff
01 December 2009

New Audi A8 unveiled

Audi's all-new A8 luxury car has been unveiled at a lavish bash in Miami hosted by Hollywood star Lucy Liu.

The new A8 is bigger than before (in fact, it's bigger than a Mercedes S-Class and Jaguar's forthcoming XJ), yet weighs less, is faster and 20% more economical.

Better value than ever
Most prices have risen, but only slightly, with the entry-level six-cylinder 3.0 TDI costing 52,800, a rise of 645, yet with considerably more safety and luxury equipment as standard.

The V8-powered 4.2 TDI costs 61,500 (up 270), while the petrol V8 FSI costs 59,500 (a drop of 160).

SE Executive models will cost an extra 2500, but that will get you bigger, 19-inch-wheels, keyless entry and go, parking cameras and LED headlights.

Entry-level models are SE, but they're far from badly equipped: they still get a DAB radio, double glazing, adaptive air suspension, iPod connection and snazzy LED 'signature' lights front and rear, amongst a host of other gizmos.

Although new A8s can be ordered now, you'll have to wait for delivery until April next year for a V8 model, or September for the bigger-selling 3.0 TDI. Long wheelbase models should arrive towards the end of next year, too, while an eco version of the 3.0TDI is also expected to be announced with a CO2 figure of 159g/km and economy in the low 40s mpg.

Interior and exterior evolved
The look of the new A8 is an evolution of the previous model, but features many of the latest Audi design cues as seen on the A4 and A5 models. In fact, the smoother front end and lipped tailgate hide the A8's considerable size well.

Inside, it's again an evolution, although the detailing and quality of the interior has stepped up a notch.

As have some of the technological features Audi's MMI multimedia interface has received a thorough overhaul and now features a touchpad with handwriting recognition, the display screen is bigger with better graphics, there's a night vision system available with pedestrian recognition, massaging and ventilated front seats and even an ioniser.

Design details from the gearshift lever to the interior LED lighting with changeable colours lend the A8 a real air of cool sophistication inside, while the multi-adjustable seats in the front and the back mean there's plenty of comfort and space for all on board.

More power and greater efficiency
All three engines have been thoroughly reworked to offer more power, while using less fuel and with lower emissions.

The 3.0 TDI has had a power boost from 230 to 247bhp, with the 0-62mph time dropping by 1.2sec to 6.6sec. Average fuel economy improves from 33.6 to 42.2mpg, while CO2 figures go from 224g/km to a class best 177g/km, meaning a considerably lower company car tax bill.

The two V8 engines get similar improvements with even the petrol-powered model posting CO2 figures of 219gkm, while still being capable of 0-62mph in just 5.8secs. The V8 diesel betters both those figures with 199g/km (equating to 37.2mpg) and 0-62mph in 5.4sec.

Once again the A8 benefits from lightweight aluminium construction, yet those figures are achieved with the extra weight of an advanced version of Audi's four-wheel-drive Quattro system on board.

The air suspension system is now adaptive using Audi's Drive Select so you can opt for more comfort or sport-oriented settings, while the standard automatic transmission is more efficient thanks to eight ratios and a system that heats the oil more quickly.

Tough choice for chauffeurs
With a revised version of a Mercedes S-Class already on sale to meet the challenge of the new Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ, the battle for supremacy in the luxury car market will be tougher than ever. All three cars offer style, quality and performance with a reduced impact on the environment.

We'll be driving the new Jag and the new Audi early next year to find out which comes out on top.