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Audi A8 (2010) at Detroit motor show 2010

Mon, 30 Nov 2009

Just unveiled at the 2010 Detroit auto show, this is the new 2010 Audi A8, Ingolstadt’s flagship limo designed to take on the BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class and Jaguar XJ. Like the previous two generations of A8, the new car is built entirely of aluminium, meaning it achieves some incredible fuel figures. There’s also a gorgeous interior, some very cool gadgets, and the promise from Audi that the A8 will be the sportiest luxury saloon in its class.

Is the new 2010 Audi A8 really tech central?

Yes indeed. And by far the most impressive feature is the new touchpad. Not happy twirling and clicking the MMI dial? Then you can write the name of your destination or the telephone number you want on the pad next to the gearstick and the car will recognise it – over 25,000 characters are stored in the A8’s memory banks (including all scripts from Russian, Chinese, and any which language you care to mention). The latest generation MMI system also has 3D graphics, and the multimedia system stores your music on its hard-drive and then displays your albums in the same style as an iPod.

There’s all the other expected tech too, including night vision with pedestrian recognition, adaptive headlights that work in sync with the sat-nav, adaptive cruise control that can brake the A8 to a standstill, plus speed limit detection, lane change warning devices, parking cameras, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 19 speakers and over 1400 watts of ear-bashing.

There’s also Audi’s new Pre Sense safety system, available in three guises. The basic version closes the windows and sunroof, tightens the seatbelts and flashes the hazard lights in the event of an extreme skid or emergency braking. More advanced versions help mitigate against front- and rear-end impacts, either working with the adaptive cruise control to apply the A8’s brakes, or moving the front seats into a position to help better protect the passengers. Very like Merc's Pre-Safe, in other words.

The A8 is made of aluminium, bringing a lower kerbweight than its steel rivals and better performance figures as well, says Audi. It's also 24% stiffer than its predecessor. The new regular A8 is vast: now 5137mm long, 1949mm wide and 1460mm tall, up from 5062/1894/1444mm, meaning it’s longer and wider than any rival. As for the looks, they borrow heavily from the A4 and A5, making the A8 look quite low and sleek, if not particularly visually exciting.

What about inside the new Audi A8?

Absolutely stunning. It’s similar to the current car but more curvaceous and welcoming. There’s a hint of Renault Laguna in the layout of the buttons on the dash, but there the similarity ends. The central screen that slides out of the dash measures eights inches, the screen between the dials is seven, and you control the ZF gearbox by either rocker switches on the steering wheel, or via a gearstick inspired by a yacht’s thrust lever. It’s shift-by-wire too, so the selector clicks back into its central position after you’ve selected P, N, D or R.

The cars at Audi’s launch party in Miami were all high-spec, with Alcantara door inserts and roof linings, plus gorgeous wood inlays on the dash, doors, front and rear centre consoles and on the backs of the front seats. A long-wheelbase A8 won’t be available until the end of 2010, but there’s more than enough room in the back already.

By Ben Pulman