What's New for 1997
Audi revolutionizes luxury sedan construction with the Audi Space Frame, which employs seven new aircraft-grade aluminum alloys to lighten weight and provide a tighter, more crashworthy structure. The new A8 is also the first passenger car equipped with six airbags. The usual accoutrements associated with a premium German sedan are all in place.
After 10 years, 40 patents, and intensive collaboration with aluminum-giant Alcoa, Audi has created the technological tour de force called A8. Sporting senior A4 styling, sumptuous interior appointments, and the revolutionary Audi Space Frame (ASF), the A8 is lighter, tighter, and more responsive than competitors such as the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Cadillac Seville.
The ASF employs lightweight aluminum alloy construction designed to provide superior structural rigidity, improved handling and responsiveness, better fuel efficiency, and easier recycling. Two models are available: the A8 3.7 with front-wheel drive is powered by a 3.7-liter twin-cam aluminum-alloy V8 engine that produces 230 horsepower, and the A8 4.2 Quattro has all-wheel drive and a 300-horsepower 4.2-liter twin-cam aluminum-alloy V8 engine under the hood. The 4.2 Quattro also comes standard with a 200-watt Audi/BOSE Music System.
A8 3.7s are equipped with the same four-link front suspension design found on the A4. This setup virtually removes torque steer while providing precise, neutral steering. Both models have a fully independent rear suspension, which features passive rear-wheel steering to help stabilize the A8's handling at all speeds. Standard Electronic Differential Locking (EDL) provides low-speed traction control operating through the antilock braking system on all A8s, while the A8 3.7 also benefits from Anti-slip Regulation (ASR) which controls wheel slippage at all speeds by modulating engine power.
Airbags are provided for all passengers. Dual front airbags are supplemented by side airbags tucked into the front seats. Rear passengers also get side airbags, mounted to the seat rather than the door panel. Other features include special glass that blocks 99 percent of UV radiation and 30 percent of total radiation energy, and a climate control system that circulates residual heat from the engine through the interior to keep things warm on very cold days. Optional is a warm weather package that includes a power rear window sunshade and a solar sunroof that generates its own electricity to operate fresh air ventilation while the car is parked in the hot sun.
Standard is an ergonomic interior slathered in burled walnut and Nappa leather upholstery. Instrumentation is superb, and features soothing red nighttime backlighting. Front seats are power adjustable in 14 different ways, and a memory feature accommodates four different settings for the driver's seat, exterior mirrors, driver's headrest height, and steering wheel position. The steering wheel tilts out of the way when the key is removed from the ignition. The automatic dual-zone temperature controls employ two sunlight sensors to help maintain accuracy. A central locking system controls windows, door locks, sunroof, trunk, and fuel door. All windows have one-touch up/down function, enhanced by a pinch protection system.
Audi claims that the A8 4.2 Quattro will get from rest to 60 mph a hair under seven seconds. Retail price is exactly $65,000 at this writing. In comparison, the 740iL runs a smidge more while the Mercedes-Benz S320 short-wheelbase model runs a tad less. The A8 3.7, at more than $57,000, is more expensive than the Cadillac STS, the Infiniti Q45 and the Lexus LS400. Audi is on a roll lately, thanks to the excellent A4 sedan, which manages to undercut nearly all of its competition in the entry-level luxury class without sacrificing the luxury portion of the equation. Time will tell if the rather expensive A8's technological advances are desirable enough to bring BMW, Lexus and Benz intenders into Audi showrooms.