The new Audi A8 moves upmarket and gains artificial intelligence

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Audi is moving its largest sedan further up the luxury scale with the latest version of the A8. As Audi's flagship, the A8 naturally gets the best and newest technologies that the brand has to offer, including a range of mild-hybrid powertrains, a 48-volt electrical system, standard Quattro all-wheel drive, a lavish lounge-inspired interior, and automated driving systems. Two wheelbase lengths will be offered, the A8L getting a 5.1-inch stretch over the standard A8. The A8 also sets the style direction that the rest of Audi's lineup will emulate.

While some of Audi's competitors will likely take umbrage at the claim that the A8 is "the first production automobile in the world to have been developed for highly automated driving," there are some new technologies for self-driving employed by Audi's flagship. At speeds of up to 37.3 miles per hour, the Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes control of starting, accelerating, steering and braking duties, allowing the driver to perform other tasks not related to driving... like watching the on-board TV, says Audi.

Audi AI technology brings artificial intelligence to the A8. The AI system will presumably learn the driver's habits, likes, dislikes, and regular routes, and will make recommendations based on all that data. The Audi AI remote parking pilot and the Audi AI remote garage pilot perform exactly what you think based on their names, and the driver doesn't have to be in the car to make them work using a smartphone app.

The 48-volt electrical system also exerts control over the A8's suspension. Not only can the system raise and lower each of the car's four wheels independently, it can position the A8 in a way to improve safety in an accident. Four-wheel steering with a variable ratio up front should make the big sedan stable at high speed and maneuverable at low speeds.

Five engines will eventually be available in Audi's home market of Germany, and we'd assume some of those will come Stateside as well. Two 3.0-liter V6 engines – one gas and one diesel – will be optional at production time. The gas version puts out 340 horsepower. A gasoline-fed V8 will follow shortly thereafter with 460 horsepower, and a range-topping W12 will eventually be available with 585 horses. A belt alternator starter system is standard across the line. Later, an A8 L e-tron Quattro plug-in hybrid will hit the road with 449 total horsepower, 31.1 miles of electric range and a cool inductive wireless charging system.

There's no more rotary switch or touchpad for controlling the A8's infotainment system. A 10.1-inch touchscreen will be the main interface for the driver, followed by voice commands. Haptic buttons couple with a second smaller LCD display in the center console to complete the switchgear. The new A8 is larger inside and out than the model it replaces. The long-wheelbase A8L gets an optional "relaxation seat," with heating, cooling, and massaging for the body and the feet.

Pricing in Europe starts at 90,600 euros, or about $103,225. US pricing will come later. The launch of the all-new A8 is part of Audi's move into what it calls a premium digital car company. Expect many of the A8's new high-tech bits and pieces to move across the rest of the automaker's lineup within the coming years.

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