One of the greatest things about the tech industry is that it’s dynamic, mainly because it follows Moore’s law. The auto industry on the other hand is relatively static and in more recent years have taken a back seat to in-car electronics. Why? Well first, it’s quite an investment—more than you might think. The electronics must pass certain regulations and try to keep the driver’s eyes on the road.
When the 2011 Audi A8 came ashore earlier this year, it brought with it not only a well needed update for the next decade, but also established a less distracting interaction between man and his machine. Coming from a tech standpoint, we think Audi does tech right. The A8 isn’t just another car with a laundry list full of standard and optional features, it’s a car that outfits the tech in a way so elegantly that the driving experience stays top priority.
Driving an A8 is something that everyone can enjoy; the balance between sport and luxury is perfect. A younger person such as myself can easily enjoy the 372 hp 4.2-liter V8, and the 328 lb-ft of torque in the back roads. And those with a greater annum can enjoy the ride provided by the iron clouds and deadly silent chassis. No matter who you are, you can’t help but appreciate all the small things that make this an Audi.
Behind the wheel, everything feels tight and strong. Just press any of the multifunction steering wheel buttons and it returns a very strapping click. Why should you care about the sound the button makes? Let me put it this way, if someone can put that much thought into one single button, then think how the rest of the car is treated.
Like the new 8-speed transmission, it is the most amazing auto we have ever experienced. It is flawless. And it helps the A8 achieve an amazing 17/27 miles per gallon. Real world numbers—an aggressive real world—were about 22 mpg. It could also be that at 80 mph on the highway the RPMs are at a stalling 1500. It just is pure Bavarian cream.
Not only does the car stand out with it’s huge cow catcher—and it does get noticed—but the LED headlights can be seen from miles away. The eyebrows are aggressive and mean, and make the car seem as it were about to pounce on its next victim. The A8 has, for the first time, fog lights that actually make a difference. They dim the upper level of light and project beams low and far to the side. The rear fog lights are just bright LEDs.
During a night drive on some back roads in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we learned that every single zone of interior light could be controlled from color to brightness. The lighting is normally ambient, but when you need total darkness, it’s just a click away. We would like to see a few more color options here, the only choices were Ivory and bright white.
There are different driving modes available on the A8. We’ve heard of them before, modes like comfort and dynamic. But usually there aren’t noticeable. These modes are. Most would think that dynamic would be our favorite, with it’s tight steering and firm ride, but it wasn’t. Instead it was kept in comfort most of the time. The ride quality in comfort is so smooth you feel as if you were on a magic carpet. The engine is also more relaxed and contributes to a quiet ride.
The customizing that can be had in the A8 can certainly scare people away if done improperly. But, because Audi came up with such a clever interface, they were able to add tons of options to make the driving experience, truly your own.
The putter shifter. Many have been critical of the new shifter that looks like a golf putter. It’s all electronic and gear selections can be weird until getting used to. There were times when I had to do a quick U-turn, reverse then go, all in traffic, and got the car stuck in park. The thought behind the shifter was to have drivers rest their wrist on it while controlling the MMI touch.
The new MMI touch is great. Audi was able to make the in car electronics less distracting than you would think. Main reasons: no lag, intuitive menus and accurate reading of driver input. Oh did I mention it’s fast.
Growing up in Germany, a country very prideful of das autos, the A8 was built for fast comfort. Not only can it keep a high speed with a low RPM, but it also renders its electronics in high speed with low distractions. For many of you that think the A8 is just another coffin on wheels that will distract drivers even more, you’d be surprised in an A8. On unrestricted speed zones, the last think the Germans want is a 4400lb saloon colliding with others. The A8 has all the modern safety features to protect the passengers and other drivers. Safety is a non-issue in this car. In fact, I’ll bet that no executive would ever shed a drop of sweat arriving to a big meeting.
Our test vehicle didn’t come with all the options like rear seat entertainment or infrared night vision but it did come with all these.