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Auto blogTue, 10 Sep 2013 14:29:00 EST
It's turnover time in the extra large premium sedan segment. With Mercedes having stuffed HAL 9000 in its new S-Class, other luxury marques are quickly updating their own super sleds to keep up with this persistent march of technology. While far from a full redesign, the Audi A8 has changed enough for 2015 in terms of styling, powertrains and new technology to keep it in the conversation.
For starters, the A8's exterior design has been redone, with the most noticeable changes happening up front. The trademark 'gaping maw' grille is a little less gaping, while the headlights now feature a straight lower edge of LEDs, excising the old model's droopy-eyed look. Speaking of headlights, Audi now offers optional Matrix LEDs, the latest in headlight tech, with 25 individual elements per side that can be turned on or off and dimmed as the situation demands. The rear of the A8 has also been resculpted and looks very much inspired by the derrière of the A7, with a single chrome strip connecting the new LED taillights.
The A8's full suite of powertrains has also been upgraded, with the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 now producing 310 horsepower (up 20 according to Audi, though down 23 compared to the US-spec 2013 model). The twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 is now rated at 435 hp, a solid 20-horse increase that lowers the car's 0-62 time to just 4.5 seconds. That's within spitting distance of the 520-hp S8's time of 4.1 seconds. That aforementioned super sport sedan's engine remains unchanged, as does the 6.3-liter 12-cylinder powerplant in the A8 L W12, but Audi's two diesel engines have both improved, with the 3.0-liter V6 producing an extra eight horsepower (256 total) and the 4.2-liter V8 gaining an extra 34 hp (385 hp) to go along with its more-than-adequate, though unchanged, 626.93 foot-pounds of torque.
The closer automotive technology comes to making good on the promise of fully driverless vehicles, the better we see just what difficult work reaching that ultimate goal will become. That's because, unlike so many other in-car technologies that need only integration into a vehicle, truly autonomous cars will also insist on involvement with the surrounding environment, fellow motorists, infrastructure in cities and other communities and making it all work without exposing automakers to law-breaking or tremendous possible litigation. Clearly that isn't all about to happen in one go.
At CES in 2012, Audi told us about a debuting technology that would mark a significant step along the path towards self-driving cars: Traffic Jam Assistant. This year, the German automaker invited us out to Las Vegas to see the jam-busting technology in action, on a relatively busy freeway.
The Traffic Jam Assistant (we're pretty sure that name is still in Beta) promises to relieve drivers from the tedium of slow-moving freeways by taking care of braking, acceleration and staying inside of the lane - all with no input from the human behind the wheel. While still a fair step from truly autonomous driving, the goal here is to give a commuter some respite from the mechanical, time-wasting traffic jam paradigm, potentially opening up a space for productivity in the process. (Audi can't come right out and say that TJA will allow you to use your cell phone in traffic, as that's still against the law in many places, but something like that is clearly on the radar... er... LiDAR.)
Latest, Greatest Autobahn Bomber Will Not Be Denied - Except To Us
Back in 2008, I was fortunate enough to test the second-generation Audi RS6 Avant in southern France on the supremely well-sorted circuit at Le Castellet, a.k.a. Paul Ricard. I was thrown out there with the 572-horsepower bi-turbo 5.0-liter V10-equipped behemoth behind one of Audi's DTM pros and was convinced in short order that the flaming hippo in my hands was going to get the better of me on one or another of the track's tight esses. I made it out alive and invigorated, of course, but knew that that RS6 Avant was the heaviest that these thunderwagons should ever be allowed to get. At around 4,650 pounds with driver aboard, it was just way more lateral momentum at speed than any pilot needs on a track - or for that matter, on a favorite hot curving road.
Now it's time for the 2013 Audi RS6 Avant to lay us out with a flying scissor kick from the corner ropes. This version of the highway and byway marauder from Quattro GmbH is a decidedly greater piece of work than was the car I drove in 2008. This time, there will only be the Avant body configuration - no RS6 sedan - and, as with the previous generation, North America won't be at the receiving end when deliveries start at the end of July this year.