Vorsprung durch technik, or advancement through technology, has been Audi's tagline for the longest time. Its latest flagship A8 ups the ante with a whole suite of gadgets, including more than 40 driver-assist systems.
Topping the list is its bragging rights as the first production car to have Level 3 autonomy. At speeds up to 60kmh, Traffic Jam Pilot enables the car to self-drive.
If the current A8L is already a large limo, the new car is even bigger. It is 5,302mm long (37mm more), 1,488mm tall (17mm more) and a mite narrower at 1,945mm (4mm less). Wheelbase is 3,128mm (6mm more).
With a lower shoulder-line and wide hexagonal single-frame grille, the car appears wider and leaner, if as understated as before. LED headlamps and taillights are standard fare. The latter, with a strip extending across the full width of the rear, is its signature look.
Although the new bodywork gets more aluminium and carbon fibre to lighten the load, it is insufficient to offset the weight gain from hardware such as a mild-hybrid 48-volt lithium-ion battery pack and its slew of assistance systems. At 2,020kg (65kg more), it is definitely in the heavyweight class.
Fortunately, a new 3-litre turbocharged V6, which will be the initial engine for Singapore, compensates with more power and torque, at 340bhp (34bhp more) and 500Nm (60Nm more). To this effect, sprint time and fuel consumption are marginally better than the outgoing A8L 3-litre supercharged. (In this test-drive, it averaged 12.5 litres/100km.)
That said, in the luxury limousine segment, ride composure and refinement are more vital. This is where the new flagship excels. Even on standard variable dampers, it glides over most road imperfections and occupants are well cocooned.
SPECS / AUDI A8L 3.0 55 TFSI
Price: To be announced
Engine: 2,995cc 24-valve V6 turbocharged
Transmission: Eight-speed Tiptronic with paddle shift
Power: 340bhp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,370-4,500rpm
0-100kmh: 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 250kmh
Fuel consumption: 7.8 litres/100km
Agent: Premium Automobiles
Should you opt for all-wheel steering (AWS) and active suspension, agility and ride-handling balance go up a notch. AWS enables a smaller turning radius at low speeds, while gaining cornering stability at higher speeds, making the all-wheel-drive A8L feel a size smaller, whereas the electro-mechanically controlled suspension keeps the A8L remarkably calm over humps and ruts.
An added safety feature - Pre-sense 360 degrees - enables the A8 to rise 80mm to brace itself for imminent side-impact collision.
The cabin is a modern rendition of clean lines and flush surfaces. Even the air vents hide behind concealed panels when not in use. Befitting the luxury theme are quality materials throughout - from perforated leather seats to brushed aluminium trim.
The cabin is 32mm longer than the outgoing car's, with most gains going to rear legroom. An optional "relaxation seat" comes with a foot massager (first of its kind) for the boss, in addition to ventilation and back-massage features available for all seats - a calming feature when caught in traffic jams.
Equally inviting, Audi's virtual cockpit is now a second-generation full-HD display, whereas the centre console is double stacked with two touchscreen panels for a flush, uncluttered layout, with minimal physical buttons.
The lower panel is for seat and climate controls. It replaces Audi's MMI dial, as the 8.6-inch panel becomes your scribble pad. You may also add your favourite functions for quick access. Other controls are via the larger 10.1-inch upper panel.
Like your smart device, you may intuitively press, pinch, swipe and slide away - complete with acoustic click and haptic pulse. Siri-like voice actuation is part of the package.
It is clear Audi has future-proofed its flagship. More importantly, it betters the outgoing A8L with more pampering comfort, a nimbler drive and enhanced safety.
The car is due to arrive in the middle of next year.
•The writer contributes to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.