THE German super-saloon scene is set for a shake-up early next year with the long-awaited arrival of the next-generation Audi A8, which takes direct aim at the latest tech-fest BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Slated to be one of the stars of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, the fifth iteration of the Ingolstadt carmaker’s luxury flagship adopts the freshly-minted MLB Evo modular architecture which underpins models as diverse as the Audi A4 and Q7, the still-secret Mk2 Porsche Panamera, and Bentley Bentayga SUV.
The lightly disguised prototype is the closest-to-production example of this new D5-series model we’ve seen yet, and the visual relationship to the latest A4 is most obvious in the nose treatment, clamshell bonnet and sleek tail-light styling. Additionally, there’s more than a hint of the Audi Prologue Avant concept car from the 2015 Geneva Show. Whether this means that the long-awaited wagon version will finally come to fruition is still unknown.
Intriguingly, it has also been suggested that a stretched super-sedan version of the next A8 - to take on the Mercedes-Maybach S600 - is in the pipeline, probably with a far more formal (read less swoopy) roofline than the standard vehicle. That would be over and above the two wheelbase and body-length choices also planned.
The 1993 D2 A8 was an aluminium space-frame body construction pioneer, but the newcomer is said to take that to a much higher level, thanks to improved construction and bonding techniques that, along with the lighter MLB Evo platform and downsized all-turbo powertrains, cuts weight dramatically from the current 1880kg mass of the existing 3.0 TDI quattro.
Speaking of engines, the new Audi flagship will bring a range of petrols and diesels to the table, from 3.0-litre V6s to 4.0-litre V8s, while a 6.0-litre 12-cylinder unit might make it into the upper-echelon variants. The venerable S8 high-performance bahn-stormer is a certainty, while the brand’s e-tron Plug-in electric hybrids are also coming, we hear – though Australian buyers will most likely miss out on those. Of course, automatic transmission will be standard across the board, as will quattro all-wheel drive for this market.
Being an Audi, the interior should be sumptuous, evolving the Virtual Cockpit theme of the current Audi TT and A4, with touchscreen and gesture-activated interfaces, combined with the usual fanatical attention to technology, quality, and detailing.
For a clue as to what it might all look like, check out the e-tron quattro concept from last September’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
Sharing DNA with blue-chip brands like Bentley and Porsche means that 2017 A8 is also expected to adopt a range of advanced driver-aided tech, reportedly including ‘level three’ autonomous driving capability that can accelerate, steer, brake, and fully stop the vehicle to help avoid an accident.
Such tremendous progress will most likely be reflected in the next A8’s local pricing, with numbers that will surely start well north of the $197,100 asked for the existing 3.0 TDI quattro.
Look for an Australian launch sometime late next year or in the first half of 2018.
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