2019 Audi A8 bows in Barcelona
UPDATE: You can now read our first review of the 2019 Audi A8
Audi chose its first-ever "Audi Summit" in Barcelona, Spain to pull the wraps off of the all-new version of its flagship luxury sedan. The 2019 Audi A8 promises to be a masterpiece of deep style and over-the-top technology, which sort of became the theme for the event.
Since the new A8s we saw in Barcelona are European-spec cars, the guarantees about equipment and technology that will make it to the U.S. are not yet absolute. Here’s a brief idea of what we know and what's possible (almost definite, really) for the U.S.-bound A8s.
What we know
Stretching 208.7 inches from nose to tail, the new A8 L (all of the A8s coming to the States are the long-wheelbase "L" versions) is about 1.5 inches longer than its predecessor. It's a little taller than the previous A8 as well. A8 spotters will note the signature Audi big-damn-grille and narrow headlight and taillight treatments lifted from the Prologue concept cars. Make up your own mind from the images, but seeing the new sedan in person in Barcelona, we were struck by the A8's sharp-edged character lines, its flat nose and the new LED headlight and OLED taillight designs.
No surprise to anyone, the 2019 Audi A8's interior is the leather-wrapped, wood-trimmed automotive version of whatever the name of that utopian island that Wonder Woman came from is—even the air vents in the dash disappear into the wood trim when not in use. With more room inside than ever (biggest interior in its class, says Audi) the extended-wheelbase A8 comfort-fits everybody. For the driver and front-seat passenger, the new A8 boasts an ultra-sharp full HD resolution Audi virtual cockpit and new MMI infotainment setup with two black-panel touch screens that display big virtual buttons that require real finger pressure to operate. This ensures that the screen button you hit while the car is moving is really the one you want.
Initially, the new A8 will be powered by the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 that's currently making fans out of Audi S4 and S5 drivers in the U.S. As it does in its current S4/S5, that engine will deliver 354 horsepower and a healthy 369-lb-ft helping of peak torque starting just off idle. An 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission will deliver that power to the driven wheels. All 2019 A8s come with permanent Quattro all-wheel drive.
Autonomous ability and more
Surrounded by more ultrasonic sensors, cameras, radars and laser scanners than a second-year medical student's worst nightmare, the 2019 Audi A8 is a tour de force of interesting and revolutionary technology. Let's take a look at what's most-likely in store for us stateside.
Taking care of the revolutionary side of the ledger, the new A8 will be the first production car to come to the U.S. fully ready for Level 3 on the 0-5 scale for autonomous vehicles. That means the A8 can take over "all aspects of the dynamic driving task" with no oversight required unless the car gives the driver a warning that human intervention may be required. Specifically in the A8's case, Audi calls its self-driving feature "Traffic Jam Pilot." To engage, the driver simply pushes the "AI" button on the center console and, as long as the sedan is traveling less than 60 km/h (37.3 mph) on a divided freeway/highway, the car will drive itself, freeing the driver to answer email, put on makeup, play cards with passengers, whatever. If the commute speed goes above the 37.3-mph limit, Traffic Jam Pilot will alert the driver that it's time to take over driving again. Worldwide, the U.S. included, Audi will roll out activation of the A8's autonomous driving features as each area's laws allow.
Two other greatest hits from the new A8's 360-degree sensor/camera/laser-scanner technology are Audi AI Remote Parking Pilot and Remote Garage Pilot. Using the myAudi app—press and hold the "AI" button on the app—you get to stand outside of the A8 and watch on your smartphone as the car pulls itself into a garage, a parallel parking space, or a right-angle parking space. It'll even put the A8 in Park for you and shut off the engine. When it's time to leave, all you need to do is use the smartphone app to start the car and, again, press and hold the "AI" button on the app, and watch as the A8 extracts itself cleanly from the garage or parking space.
The availability of a fully active suspension scores another tech triumph for the new A8 sedan. Using an electric actuator at each wheel and the A8's 48-volt electrical system, the active suspension can instantly raise or lower each wheel separately to give the driver a choice between luxury-sedan comfort and sports-sedan handling. Further, the suspension can make low-speed road imperfections like potholes and speed bumps disappear. As an added safety bonus, if the car senses an impending side collision, the suspension will raise the side of the A8 about to be hit by 3.1 inches to get the initial point of impact closer to the sedan's floor and side-sills where more impact absorption will be done by the car rather than by the occupants.
Another Audi first in the A8 is its new all-wheel steering option. This system, which is integrated with variable steering effort depending upon speed, can turn the rear wheels up to 5 degrees in the opposite direction of the front wheels for easier negotiation of tight corners and parking spaces, and it gives the A8 a turning circle that's closer to a midsize sedan rather than a full-sizer. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn up to 2 degrees in the same direction as the fronts to make lane changing—even abrupt lane changing—a cleaner, smoother and safer affair.
As we get closer to the 2019 Audi A8's launch date in the spring or summer of 2018, we'll get back to you with trim-specific equipment levels and, of course, pricing. Until then, we'll look forward to driving the car early next year.