2019 Audi A8
2019 Audi A8 First Drive
Cutting-Edge Tech and a New Look for the Flagship Audi Sedan
After nine years on the market, the Audi A8 received a full redesign for 2019. It still has a classic Audi look, yet there are obvious changes, such as the prominent trapezoidal grille up front, accentuated by crisp and angular LED headlights. Out back, fantastically complicated taillights make for a sophisticated and fantastically sleek and luminescent display. Despite all the new details, the 2019 Audi A8 still looks stately and mature rather than bloated or overly complicated.
More Power and Passenger Space
Though its styling is certainly impressive, the A8 also has a commanding presence thanks to it significant size. Underneath its new sheet metal is a new structure, which is bigger and more rigid than before. The new design has a slightly longer wheelbase and extends the A8 from bumper to bumper by 1.3 inches. The A8's slightly larger size delivers more legroom and headroom than the previous model, making an already spacious luxury cruiser even more friendly on the inside.
Under the hood, the A8 will arrive with a new turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 as the standard engine. It puts out 340 horsepower (up 7 hp from the previous supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine) and is surprisingly capable of hauling around the A8's significant weight. A standard eight-speed automatic transmission sends the power to all four wheels through Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system.
A 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 with a much more satisfying 460 horsepower will eventually become available as an option. An even more powerful 12-cylinder engine might arrive later, along with a plug-in hybrid model. A diesel-powered A8 isn't a likely option for the U.S. this time around.
The Future of Luxury
When it comes to technology, this A8 is a showcase of the brand's most innovative new features. From the new MMI touch infotainment interface to Audi Connect services such as traffic sign recognition and on-street parking information, the A8 pushes the limits at every opportunity. Its Level 2 autonomous driving features such as lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control are expected in this class, but its Level 3 features, including the Audi AI (Artificial Intelligence) Traffic Jam Pilot, offer an increased level of automated driving. The Traffic Jam Pilot allows for "conditional automated driving" in which the A8 will handle acceleration, braking and steering below 37 miles per hour. A promising future, no doubt, but it has yet to be approved for use in the U.S.
The A8 will also eventually offer features driven by communication between cars, also known as "swarm intelligence." For example, on-street parking data will be shared between cars, so another A8 could alert you to open parking spots in your area. Another potential use is the transmission of alerts between cars regarding accidents and traffic backups, allowing the driver to avoid an area entirely.
During our drive of the A8, we were able to test many of the Level 2 features, and Audi employees were on hand to give demonstrations of the Level 3 technology. Though many of the features were impressive, none felt flawless. For example, the AI remote parking pilot (in which you control the parking from outside the car on your smartphone) worked well, but it took a few attempts to get the car parked properly. The parallel parking assistant did well, but it required a few tries to get within a respectable distance of the curb.
Still a Driver's Car
For those who actually prefer to drive themselves, the A8 experience will feel just as enjoyable as previous models. From behind the wheel, it feels easily manageable despite its size. The steering is well-weighted and responsive, and visibility is excellent. It is no more difficult to drive than the compact A4.
No matter the engine under the hood, the A8s we drove felt incredibly refined and silent on the road. Whether we were on smooth highways or bumpy city streets, we felt isolated from the world thanks to features such as active noise cancellation and double-pane window glass. It's truly a quiet and serene driving experience.
The lane-keeping assist system did well on relatively straight roads, but curves on the highway seemed to upset it. We were most impressed by the optional Audi AI active suspension and available all-wheel steering. The all-wheel steering was very helpful in tight spaces, and the optional adaptive air suspension was capable of anticipating a speed bump then adjusting the suspension height, causing the car to glide over the bump practically unfazed.
Around every corner and crease in the A8, there are a lot of technologies that make it a very smart car. Touch-sensitive door handles can delay the door opening if they sense a car or bike approaching, and front-mounted cameras can sense someone coming from around a corner.
This A8 is also Audi's first use of an all-new driver interface called MMI touch response. Accessed through two touchscreens (a 10.1-inch screen and a 8.6-inch screen below it), this new interface does away with the center-console-mounted rotary knob used on previous MMI systems. In its place are big, easy-to-read icons on the dual touchscreens. Things aren't as simple they used to be with the rotary knob, but the system is definitely easy to use and it feels sophisticated. For those drivers who will lament the loss of something to turn, there is still one physical volume knob below the screens.
As in previous A8s, the back seat offers a potentially more luxurious experience than the front. All U.S.-bound A8s will be long-wheelbase models, so no matter how tall you are, there's room to stretch out. An available rear-seat remote allows you to control varying massage functions, turn on the heated and cooled seats, or even engage the "relaxation seat" on the passenger side, which folds down the front seat and provides a footrest for the rear passenger.
A Package Deal
According to Audi, the new Audi A8 is not about the details; it's about innovation as a package. The A8 has an impressive array of automation without being detached from the driving experience or sacrificing any of its luxurious feel. If you're in the market for serenity and technology all rolled into one package, we think this A8 puts it all together in a way that will be worth the price.