A new generation Audi A8 range containing the UK’s ‘cleanest’ luxury saloon is about to prove even more emphatically that size and environmental consideration are far from mutually exclusive. The new A8 2.8 FSI with 199g/km CO2 output is the highlight of the new 2008 Model Year A8 line-up, which opens for order in late August priced from £49,995 OTR and benefits from improvements to styling, equipment, ride and handling and refinement across the board.
With 210PS and peak torque of 280Nm at 3,000rpm, the sophisticated FSI unit sweeps the front-wheel-driven A8 2.8 serenely from rest to 62mph in 8.0 seconds and on to a top speed of 147mph. More crucially for an increasing proportion of drivers, it also makes possible a combined consumption figure of 34.0mpg and a significant drop in CO2 output to 199g/km, enabling the A8 to comprehensively undercut not only petrol hybrid rivals in the luxury segment, but also all diesel alternatives.
First seen in the A6 Saloon and Avant earlier this year, the new 2.8-litre V6 capitalises even more fully than existing A8 units on the efficiency-boosting features for which the A8 is already renowned. Given the freest rein possible by the lightweight aluminium Audi Space Frame (ASF) body shell, and complemented by unique-in-class multitronic CVT automatic transmission which in many cases actually improves fuel economy compared with a manual, it can fully demonstrate the benefits of its FSI direct petrol injection and new Audi valvelift technology.
FSI already enables exceptionally precise metering of the fuel injected into the combustion chamber, ensuring that there is minimal wastage during each cycle, but the valvelift technology augments this by controlling valve opening far more precisely than conventional systems, improving fuel economy by a further 10 per cent. Valve lift is variable between two levels through the use of sliding cam units mounted on the intake camshaft. When strong acceleration is required, an electronic control mechanism selects a cam profile which opens the valve as fully as possible for optimum ‘breathing’. When throttle usage is more relaxed, the control mechanism selects a lower profile, reducing the amount of fuel and air compressed.
FSI efficiency is an advantage offered by the six, eight and ten cylinder petrol models in the 2008 Model Year A8 range, and the 3.0-litre V6 TDI and unique-to-Audi 4.2-litre V8 TDI models are no less technologically impressive with their state-of-the-art common rail piezo direct fuel injection.
Mechanical improvements to the latest A8 range extend beyond the engine bay to include re-engineering of the rack-and pinion speed-dependent steering to permit a more direct feel, and revision of the dampers, supports and general settings of the adaptive air suspension designed to give the A8 even tighter body control through corners and an even more unruffled ride. In conjunction with these measures, supplementary insulation using innovative new materials has also been added throughout the car, the result being that the A8 now records the lowest rolling, road and ambient noise levels in its class.
All A8 models also benefit from enhancements to their already virtually all-encompassing standard equipment list. The 9-speaker, 230-watt sound system with six-CD changer is also now complemented by a DAB digital radio module for reception of ultra-clear digital broadcasts from an expanded choice of stations. Climate control is upgraded to a more sophisticated four-zone system with individual temperature and air distribution controls not only for front seat passengers but also for each of those in the rear. All models also now benefit from heated front seats and Bluetooth mobile phone connection.
Aesthetically, the interior that is constantly praised for its ‘feel-good factor’ and for the quality of its fit and finish is boosted by new trim inserts, colour schemes and inlays. Sport models in particular benefit from a new bi-colour leather trim and three-spoke perforated leather-rimmed steering wheel from the flagship S8 quattro.
On the outside, bi-Xenon headlamps are a new standard feature across the range, and other distinguishing marks for the 2008 Model Year include a revised single frame grille design, new exterior mirrors with integrated LED strip indicators and a new LED tail light arrangement. Sport models also feature a new alloy wheel design and S8-style bootlid spoiler.
Optional extras new to the 2008 Model Year A8 include the Audi side assist and lane assist systems first seen in the Q7 luxury SUV. Using intelligent radar technology, Audi side assist warns the driver of potential hazards when undertaking lane-changing manoeuvres. Whenever another vehicle enters the critical zone, a yellow LED display in the exterior mirror housing lights up and remains on. If the A8 driver activates the indicator to change lane even though the warning display is lit up, the LEDs become brighter and flash more quickly at shorter intervals. This signal is almost impossible to miss as the peripheral vision of the human eye is extremely sensitive to changes in contrast.
Audi lane assist warns the driver to prevent an unintentional departure from the lane in which the A8 is travelling. A small camera positioned above the interior mirror on the windscreen observes the road ahead of the car and a high-speed computer detects the lane marking lines. If the driver moves towards one of these lines without indicating, Audi lane assist makes the driver aware of this by a vibration in the steering wheel.