The next Audi A8 will hit back at the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series on the technology and efficiency fronts، UK-based Auto Express magazine reported.
The new A8 will use more aluminium in its construction than ever before، as well as components made out of magnesium and carbonfibre - but it’s still likely to gain a few kilos because of autonomous tech and a proposed hybrid powertrain. The new 2017 Audi A8 is due to be revealed this summer، with sales starting by the autumn.
The German brand’s flagship A8 saloon has a history of lightweight construction - but engineers admit that responding to customer demands is likely to bring a small gain in kerbweight for the new version. The car’s bare metal construction is around 50kg heavier than the structure of the existing A8.
Three key factors are said to have caused the new Audi A8's increase in mass. The first is the requirement for a full-length panoramic sunroof، because this demands extra bracing to avoid chassis flex. The second is the extra autonomous technology that will feature on the next A8; it’ll use 48-volt electrics to power an army of sensors، but the additional electronics and cameras will add extra bulk.
The third factor is alternative powertrains; Audi will introduce at least a plug-in hybrid version of the A8، and the batteries for that vehicle bring a ‘double whammy’ in weight gain - the units themselves are hefty، but the amount of extra protection they require adds kilos to even the A8’s bare shell.
To minimise the gain، Audi’s engineers are using more aluminium than ever before - the material accounts for 58 percent of the body - and introducing magnesium and carbonfibre. The magnesium is used in the front strut brace - a component that is 28 percent lighter than it would be if it were made out of aluminium.
The carbonfibre component is what Audi calls the ‘carbon wall’ - in effect، an angled، carbonfibre-reinforced plastic panel at the back of the passenger cell. Formed using ‘stripes’ of carbon weave and a process called resign transfer moulding - which can stamp the form the panel into shape in five minutes - the wall weighs just 2.6kg، a saving of around 50 percent on a metal part.
New Audi A8 to be the first truly autonomous production car
As well as the groundbreaking weight-saving tech، Audi's upcoming replacement for its flagship luxury saloon is set to be one of the most high-tech cars ever put on the road. As it occupies top spot in Audi's current range، it's no surprise that the company puts its most advanced technology into the A8 first - and that's why it's set to be the first production car ever built with full 'Level 3' autonomous driving tech. That means the A8 will be able to completely take over control، allowing the driver to relax and take their eyes off the road.
Revolutionary piloted driving tech has been confirmed for the A8. Long-range radar sensors، 12 ultrasonic sensors، laser scanners and hi-resolution video cameras will constantly monitor the car’s surroundings، with the system also able to guide a car safely through traffic jams at up to speeds of 37mph.
Audi believes up to 90 per cent of all innovation in the automotive sector will come from electronics، with lighting playing a significant part. Matrix LED technology is still relatively new but Audi is already working to move the game on further. “We are working on the integration of organic LEDs،” said Ricky Hudi، Head of Electronics at Audi. He claims the advancement will enable “new forms of expression and differentiation”، with their main use expected to be in a car's digital displays.
Those displays will also be operated by gesture control، a feature also confirmed for the facelifted VW Golf. “We are already working on a new gesture control system as an advanced development،” said Hudi. In-car operations such as adjusting the temperate، answering incoming calls and switching between radio stations will move from button operation to gesture control.
“The A8 is a good car to introduce some of these technologies because it is always good to start with a premium offering،” added Hackenberg.
New Audi design language set for A8 debut
The A8 is the first model using inspiration from the Prologue concept، penned by recently appointed design head Marc Lichte. Despite the more subtle exterior shown here، clues like the more exaggerated front grille and intricate rear lights can be seen through the body disguise.
Audi’s new technical development boss Stefan Knirsch told Auto Express that the new car will also feature a 48v electrical system، similar to the one debuted on the new Audi SQ7. And like the SQ7 it will also feature an electrically-powered compressor to boost low down response. This new ‘electric turbo’ technology would work in both hybrid and non-hybrid models.
A plug-in version of the new A8 is also expected، but the non-plug-in mild hybrid tech is much cheaper and likely to be used for a lower point of entry to the new luxury car range. We're unlikely to see a full electric version، however، as that will be saved for Audi's forthcoming Tesla rival.
With technology such as electromechanical Active Roll Control set to feature، the new A8 will also get Audi’s 48v electrical system. However، the hybrid tech would be used to replenish the electrical system as well as boosting engine performance and efficiency، according to Knirsch.
Although the electric compressor would be used to improve low-rev responsiveness of turbo engines، Knirsch told us that they can also be used to boost efficiency by allowing engineers to choose more efficient gear ratios for models. He also confirmed that the application could be used across the entire Audi range، including small capacity petrol turbos.
With such a wide array of engines and chassis setups to choose، Audi's CEO Rupert Stadler has promised a solution to make choosing a model easier.
Everything from Audi's piloted driving autonomous car tech to gesture control، and organic LED lighting will also find its way into Audi’s flagship saloon، ensuring it becomes the technological showcase it needs to be to tackle the Mercedes S-Class. The new A8 will also be the first model from Audi to feature the brand’s new design language as showcased by the Audi Prologue concept at the LA Motor Show last year.