Although it was actually introduced two days before the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show - and on the other side of the country - we've included the 2011 Audi A8 in our LA show coverage because that's just how small the world has gotten. Revealed to the world in conjunction with Design Miami 2009, the fourth-generation Audi A8 features sharper sheetmetal and a richer interior, along with a host of cool technological tricks and a new powertrain that includes Audi's first eight-speed automatic transmission.

See and Touch(screen)

On the outside, a large chrome grille and LED- riddled headlights lead the charge, followed by a more coupe-like roofline and more crisply styled rear. The 2011 Audi A8 is also three inches longer and two inches wider than its predecessor. Inside, Audi's acclaimed design ethos evolves to include such touches as a retractable navigation screen, "yacht-like" transmission selector and a touch screen that recognizes handwriting for quick entry of navigation destinations, among other functions. The optional Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker sound system now packs an impressive 1400 watts of music power.

Other newer-fangled technologies include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, night vision assistant with pedestrian detection highlighting, Audi lane assist (alerts the driver when the car inadvertently leaves its lane) and Audi side assist (blind-spot monitoring with active alerts).

Driving Forces

The A8 revealed in Miami was what Audi referred to as the "normal" wheelbase model (NWB); the long wheelbase model will be introduced later, and will constitute the bulk of A8 sales. Audi says the NWB will be positioned as more of a driver's car, with a greater emphasis on sportiness. Standard equipment helping to deliver on that promise are a 372-horsepower 4.2-liter V8 (up from 350 hp in the outgoing model), eight-speed automatic transmission quattro all-wheel drive (with 40:60 rear-biased torque split), and a four-mode Audi drive select system, which incorporates adjustable suspension, steering, transmission and accelerator settings (among others) to let the driver adjust for sport or comfort, depending on mood and road. Optional is the Sports differential, with varies torque between the rear wheels for improved cornering.

Audi says the 2011 Audi A8 (NWB) will power to 62 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds. And while bigger and more powerful, the company predicts a 15-percent improvement in EPA-estimated fuel economy compared to the outgoing model.

Where and When

Audi says the all-new 2011 Audi A8 - normal and long-wheelbase versions - will go on sale in the U.S. in late 2010, with pricing that should remain in line with today's models (which start at about $75,000). After that, the lineup will expand to include performance, prestige and alternate-fuel variants.

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