2015 Audi A8

These large-footprint premium sedans have very outspoken fan clubs, for at this scale a company's design logic is laid out big on the table for all to dissect. Speaking for myself, I am an Audi A8/Volkswagen Phaeton kind of person. I absolutely enjoy the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class and have a certain weakness for the BMW 7 Series, but it's the A8 in this class that yanks me by the ear lobe. The large Japanese models, Jaguar XJ and Hyundai Equus are great work, and the newer Cadillac XTS is good stuff, but I'll still take my A8.

The 2015 model is a mid-life updo for the A8 (and S8), and it is essentially a nice gaggle of commendable tweaks that chisel the exterior some, plush up and personalize the interior, add onboard assistance systems and improve the powertrain's numbers and efficiency. Though this has certainly been a planned exercise, the timing of the work on this A8 will seem like a reaction to the new S-Class, a car that has frankly taken that Mercedes flagship onto an untouchable, higher plain.

The main item that Audi stressed at this updated A8's presentation in northern Germany is something which currently cannot be brought over to North America: the optional Matrix LED headlights and the yellow sequential LED turn signals. A regulation from our distant past prevents this type of adaptive light mechanism from imperiling the lives of American drivers.

Driving Notes
  • About every gas and diesel engine available for the European market was present, but only the big muzzer 494-horsepower W12 came in long-wheelbase format. The LWB model is 25 percent of volume in Europe and 75 percent in the US. I zeroed in on a handsome "cuvée silver" 4.0-liter V8 TFSI with cylinder-on-demand, now amped to 429 hp (from the current 414 hp) and boasting improved fuel efficiency.
  • In any of these big-shot cars, I just love to cruise. This latest A8-with-V8 is just the ticket, too. Whether at 150 miles per hour in full-on Dynamic mode of the Audi Drive Select interface or creeping along at 20 mph in the city in Efficiency, the cylinder-on-demand transitions, adaptive air suspension and shifts from the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission are just buttery.
  • Audi has added greater isolation from exterior noise, and it sincerely is as quiet in here as I ever remember a premium car being. The new light brown Unicum leather option is exquisite, massaged and aged with olive extract to save the environment. There are also five additional exterior colors possible now, though what of these may end up in North America is undetermined.
  • The exterior front and rear is more aggressive in its design, with more contour lines introduced, a chrome accent strip connecting the taillights and the massive grille missing a rib now to take it to seven and rein in that whole snout a bit. The front, lower air dam is presented in one continuous piece now, though the S8 retains the sportier sectioned look.
  • New tech for the assistance systems includes active lane assist, park assist with 360-degree sensors and night vision that can also now detect large animals and not just Forrest Gump running on the shoulder. This latter tech vision is displayed in the center of the instrument cluster and it is so good that it struck me as potentially distracting. The A8 also finally gets a standard head-up display.
  • In the cargo vault, space is gained by the rear seat backs being now nearly five inches further forward due to far fewer system electronics being stuffed into the seatbacks themselves. I was always one of those complaining about the small luggage space in the A8 and I shall now cease.
  • It's a pity that we are not able to get the optional Matrix LED headlights since they are the single finest setup I have ever tested. When the lights sense oncoming traffic, just that portion of the field of vision is dimmed as it follows the passing object. That is, your light is frequently split into two parts, instead of an entire fixed portion left or right being blocked mechanically. Vision is maximized and glare for on-comers is nil, while the corner-following abilities improve. Every manufacturer in this class is bound to get this technology soon and Audi is pushing US authorities hard to make it legal on our streets. For now, our A8 keeps the current swooping LEDs with existing corner-following ability.
  • The 20-inch Pirelli PZeros handled brilliantly all the power and 443 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 through 5,000 rpm of the 4.0-liter V8. That make's for an estimated 4.4-second acceleration run to 60 mph, and I'll not complain ever about that.
  • Pricing is not going to increase much for these newer A8s, so look for this V8-powered base price to hang in at around $85,000 for the standard wheelbase. Our new tweaked A8s and S8s should arrive between March and April of 2014 after starting deliveries in Europe in November 2013. We get the 3.0-liter V6 supercharged TFSI, this V8 in both A8 and S8 power levels, and the recently introduced 3.0-liter TDI rendered even more efficient.
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