Audi is looking closely at the Mercedes-Maybach S600, according to Dr. Stefan Knirsch, the company's new technical leader. The company recently introduced a one-off A8 limo, shown above, although we'd imagine an S600 rival would be a more manageable size.
"We are thinking about it," Knirsch told AutoExpress at the launch of the new SQ7. "The success of the extra-long version of the S-Class has got us wondering about whether there could be a business case for that in the future."
Knirsch's comments raise a number of questions about a potential ultra-lux A8. Would it be longer than the A8L? The extra backseat space is a key part of the Maybach S600's appeal. What about the badge? Audi doesn't have a nameplate to rival Maybach to distinguish such an exclusive A8 from its more affordable siblings. Will the Audi offer more or fewer shades of black/silver than the S600?
But the biggest question is what a bigger, more luxurious A8 could mean for the rest of the A8 range. As AE explains, Mercedes has done a remarkable job of fleshing out the S-Class range, with the normal sedan, Maybach, Coupe, Cabriolet, and their accompanying AMG variants. The Maybach S600 started that process – could an extra-large competitor kickstart Audi's full-size luxury expansion? The A8 has long been subject to gossip that it'd spawn an A9 Coupe (2014's Prologue Concept only fed that particular rumor mill), after all.
Beyond hinting at a more luxurious A8, Knirsch expounded on another piece of exciting news: the next A8 will get Level 3 automation. That would mean full driverless ability "with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene," according to the SAE's official definition. While Audi confirmed last year that the A8 could drive itself at speeds up to 37 miles per hour, Knirsch's more specific comments make it sound like the system could be even more advanced than originally thought.