The new 2019 Audi A8 is not just a luxurious land yacht capable of covering large distances in astounding comfort — it can also soothe the anxiousness of the typically hectic urban trip as well.
Luxurious cars that are smooth and perfect for long road trips can sometimes be a bit of a handful in cramped city streets. In these situations, cyclists zip through traffic, construction cuts down a vehicle’s road space, and parking spots have to be secured quickly and confidently.
As a flagship sedan, the A8 is brimming with advanced high-tech features that help mitigate the stress and risks of driving in any setting. While adaptive suspension and cruise control, intense matrix lighting, touchscreens, and high-resolution displays are nothing new, the Audi A8 also packs a number of really thoughtful features that are not just gee-whiz-cool but actually useful for day-to-day living.
Thinking Outside the Box
Pairing existing components with new computing technology, the car makes extra use of the parking sensors to help prevent you from curbing your rims while parallel parking (and saving your wallet from costly repairs). Furthermore, integrating the blind spot information system with one’s door release, the car can warn and prevent you from opening the door into an approaching vehicle or cyclist. A car that might be more aware of its surroundings than its driver, the vehicle can use wide panoramic cameras to peer around hidden intersections and warn you of traffic you can’t see crossing ahead of you. And in case you need a closer look wherever you’re maneuvering around, there’s a 3D representation that’s combined with a bird’s eye view to give you a very accurate idea of what’s going on around the car.
Further demonstrating its awareness, A8 models equipped with the active suspension system will scan the road ahead of the vehicle for irregularities like potholes or speed bumps and can raise or lower the suspension to make them feel insignificant (if you end up feeling anything at all). This active suspension allows for easier entry and exit as well, with the vehicle rising to greet you. On the road, the system benefits drivers because it can iron out any rolls when cornering or pitching while accelerating or braking. But more interesting is if the car is in a collision striking the side of the vehicle, it will raise the suspension up, to let the strongest part of the car — the lower sill area between the front and rear wheels — take the hit to maximize the safety of the occupants.
Safe and Agile
Speaking of safety, you would expect a car like this to come with all the usual high-end safety features like pre-collision alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assistance features, but the vehicle also includes the hardware necessary to enable partial autonomous driving. Officially described as Level 3 autonomous driving by the SAE, the car would be capable of recognizing road signs, following traffic, including stopping and starting again, and can even manage turns. Audi calls it Traffic Jam Assist, but it’s not actually available yet because it’s not legal to operate a car autonomously for now.
You might think that a big, long car like this (with an available longer-wheelbase version) may be a bit intimidating to drive, requiring extra space to pull off U-turns or other tight maneuvers, but thanks to a rear-wheel steering system that can turn the rear wheels up to five degrees, the car actually has a smaller turning circle than the much smaller Audi A4. The car also has a clever way of determining how much steering angle you actually need when you twirl the wheel and can deliver it as needed, so you never feel like you’re sawing at the wheel, or turning hand-over-hand too much. Many of these features mentioned use a part of the car’s AI system, which coordinates the self-driving capabilities as well.
Under the hood, you can find six, eight, or even 12 cylinders of action. We tested the six- and eight-cylinder turbocharged gas models, while other markets can get diesel, hybrid, and W12 configurations as well. All engines are paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which helps to provide additional performance, confidence, and traction as needed. As mentioned before, the car packs a new 48-volt battery system, which helps power all these high-tech systems and also allows for a more proactive start-stop system that can shut down the engine before you come to a stop. Audi will tie the engine range to a new naming scheme. The A8 55 is the six-cylinder gas model, while the A8 60 is the eight-cylinder gas model.
The engine options fit the smooth, luxurious nature of the vehicle. It’s not hair-raising quick in either setup, but an upcoming S8 might solve that problem. Instead, the car has a lot of torque and has the guts to get going from a stop and initiate a pass with ease. There are various drive modes including a fuel-friendly mode, a sporty dynamic mode, and a customizable setting as well. Paddles behind the steering wheel can help make the car a bit more engaging to drive, but this car is about smooth, soft and cushy operation.
A car that’s like a soft, inoffensive bank vault on wheels might sound like a cell in an insane asylum to some, but it’s more like to a spa experience in reality. Nothing in the car takes effort or advanced planning — everything is effortless. You ask and it delivers with no follow-up questions or hesitations.
How It Drives and Rides
The car offers high-end transportation with an emphasis on quality and premium details. Fit and finish is class-leading. For example, open-pore wood is contrasted with soft Alcantara, while piano black panels are accented with eye-catching chrome accents. There are several information-heavy screens in the car too, with two high-resolution touch panels with haptic feedback (like a tablet) dominating the center console. The lower screen typically manages HVAC settings, while the top screen handles infotainment duties, but the two screens can work together in some situations, like when typing out a destination in the navigation system. They’re quick to respond and very easy to use and Audi shows drivers the most amount of information possible with its fantastic Virtual Cockpit digital dashboard placed right behind the steering wheel. This can show the map information as well as the usual tach and speedometer, but the car also features a head-up display. It’ll be hard to truthfully answer no to the questions, “Did you miss that turn?” and “Do you know how fast you were going?”
The cabin features a fully customizable ambient lighting system and a fragrance dispenser for those who are all about the extravagant details. But for maximum opulence, the rear thrones can feature massage capabilities and reclining functions that, when paired with the thick window shades and naturally quiet cabin, turn the car into a den of luxury.
The design of the A8 is safe — it’s not a huge departure from previous models. You can tell almost instantly that it’s a new model, and the fancy light array helps give off the vibe that it’s a high-tech car. The recently debuted Lexus LS competes with the A8 in size and price, and in terms of style, the Lexus is far more interesting to look at, but the A8 might have it beat in every other way.
The Verdict: 2019 Audi A8 Review
Pricing and fuel economy has yet to be announced for the A8, but the last generation started at just more than $80,000, so expect the 2019 model to start around there as well. There are many additional questions that still linger after the first drive of the new Audi A8, like the availability of the hybrid or W12 models in North America, or the legal usage of the Level 3 autonomous driving, but one thing is certain: The German automaker truly has delivered a luxury sedan that’s more than just capable on the Autobahn, but safe and easy to drive in other environments as well.