Audi’s flagship sedan shows light (and comfort) is might

By Michael Bettencourt

Audi Canada CEO Martin Sander showed off the German brand’s new four-door flagship in Toronto by highlighting the increased use of lightweight aluminum, which helps make the A8 one of the lightest and therefore sportiest full-size luxury sedans, as well as significantly more fuel-efficient than its predecessor.

2011 Audi A8

2011 Audi A8

The new 2011 A8 is the third generation A8, with an all-aluminum space frame that helps keep weight about where its predecessor fell, but in a three-inch (7.6 cm) longer and two-inch (5.1) wider car that’s better equipped car with a new eight-speed automatic (versus six-speed currently).

The A8’s 4.2-litre V8 engine uses the same architecture as found throughout the Audi line (R8, Q7, A6) but upgraded from 350 hp in the previous A8 to 372 now. Final fuel consumption numbers aren’t in yet for North America, but Audi expects the latest A8 4.2 will achieve a 15 per cent improvement in fuel economy, as it scores 9.5 L/100km on the European overall cycle.

Just looking at the curb weights, the A8 – which comes standard with quattro all-wheel drive – is already significantly lighter than its main S-Class and 7 Series rivals, especially the all-wheel drive versions. While the outgoing A8 used an all-aluminum space frame as well, the use of the lightweight but pricier technology has now been extended to the entire chassis as well.

The 2011 A8 will be available in late summer this year, when the sportier A8 arrives that’s almost the size of the previous long wheelbase version, with a new A8L version to come that will provide more legroom and features for rear seat passengers.

A full hybrid version of the A8 is expected to appear at the Geneva auto show in March, in order to compete with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, as well as the Lexus 600h, the first full-size luxury sedan to go the gas-electric route.

Inside, the A8 will feature a touchpad that can be used to write in the name of where you’d like to go with your finger, to make inputting destinations into its navigation system easier. It will also offer a 19 speaker Bang & Olufsen capable of pumping out a monstrous 1,400 watts of sound.

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