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The trinity is complete – all three major German luxo-barge makers now have their “latest” editions of the road, with the oldest car now being the S-Class which has just been facelifted. Whenever a flagship car like the A8, 7, or S is launched, you usually get to see some new technologies which will soon trickle down to the rest of the range. It may just look like a giant A4 or A6 from the outside, but let’s see what the A8 has in store for us.

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First of all is the updated MMI, a system that you will undoubtedly have to interact with alot to use the A8 to its full potential. The handwriting recognition system that was said to be integrated into the new MMI is real and here in the new A8.

The touchpad is called MMI touch. It can be used to control the navigation system as well as input addresses and etc via writing with your fingers. The handwriting recognition system even recognizes Cyrillic, Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean characters. MMI touch can also be used to navigate on the map. When not in use, it becomes a control panel allowing you to choose between 6 favorite radio systems.

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The MMI’s navigation plus system also uses its map data to help the various control units in the car make their decision, such as the ACC Stop & Go cruise control, adaptive lighting, and the automatic transmission. For example, ACC Stop & Go cruise control can exactly compute the lanes even on curves; it also avoids minor errors like inadvertently accelerating in front of a junction where the driver wishes to exit.

The tiptronic system can use the map data to make sure it does not upshift on shoft straight stretches when you are going through a curvy country road. These systems have already been found on some Japanese cars for Japan roads, but this is possibly the first European road version.

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Like BMW’s ConnectedDrive system, mobile data is also in the A8. For now it uses a GPRS module (just like BMW’s system) but there are plans for a UMTS (3G) module to be added sometime next year. The GPRS system is built around services from Google which provides news and weather information, etc. Audi owners can determined their map routes at home on their computer and send it to their car over the internet.

The UMTS upgrade that will come later will allow faster internet speeds which the system will use to full use. MMI will download 3D satellite images from Google Earth and display them in a bird’s eye view on the monitor, while the roads are superimposed on the images. Audi will also be allowing the MMI system to share its internet connection with the car’s passengers via Wifi, thus turning the car into a very expensive mobile hotspot. The Wifi connection can also be used to provide over the air transfer of music and etc into the car’s audio system.

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A new feature of the Audi A8 is ambient lighting. White LEDs add a few subtle highlights here and there to the interior, but with the optional ambient lighting package, many of the interior LEDs are two-colored or three-colored. The result: color schemes of ivory, polar and ruby can be selected at the MMI.

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The standard front seats feature 12-way electric adjustment. The comfort seats offer much more – 22-way adjustability including the sides of the seats. Audi also offers optional seats with a sporty look and top-stitched diamond patterns.

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A xenon system is standard on the A8 but you can also splash some more cash for a full LED headlamp system. The low beam of the led lighting system comprise of ten individual modules forming an arc situated below the wing-shaped chrome contour known as the “wing.” Below this is another arc of 22 white and 22 yellow LEDs for the daytime running lights and the turn signals. Their thick walls makes them appear from the outside as a continuous strip of light.

Above the wing, you will find the high beams which use two powerful four-chip LEDs and a free surface reflector system. Additional high-power LEDs generate highway lights and cornering lights. A fan and heatsink module is used to control the whole system’s temperature. The lighting systems colour temperature is 5500K, a little colder than what we’re normally used to seeing. For example, BMW’s xenon lamps are 4200K.

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And now to what’s under the hood. There are two V8 engines, one burning petrol and the other an oil burner. The petrol V8 is the familiar 4.2 litre FSI V8, producing 372 horses and 445Nm of torque from 3,500rpm. 0 to 100km/h takes 5.7 seconds when equipped with this V8, but on the EU cycle it only consumes 9.5 litres per 100km. This is a 13% improvement over its predecessor.

The most torque found in a new A8 so far is 800Nm, thanks to oil-burner V8, also with 4.2 litres of displacement though not exactly the same cc. It only makes 350 horses but peak torque of 800Nm is achieved between 1,750rpm and 2,750rpm. 0 to 100km/h is even faster than the petrol by 0.2 seconds. At the same time, fuel consumption is just 7.6 litres per 100km on the EU cycle.

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What’s not to love about diesels? A 3.0 TDI 6-cylinder engine will join the line-up later, sipping just 6.6 litres of fuel per 100km and has an auto start-stop system.

All of these engines are mated to a new 8-speed tiptronic automatic transmission, which you can expect to find its way down to any Volkswagen group cars that require it later. On the TDI V8, you can also install an optional dynamic sport differential. The V6 TDI’s auto start-stop system has no issue working with this automatic, increasing the number of start-stop systems that work with auto, as it is traditionally a manual-only system. As expected with an Audi, the A8 is equipped with quattro permanent all-wheel drive.