The first model to showcase designer Marc Lichte's new progressive design language, the A8 is an understated contrast to the more glamorous styling of its chief rival, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. A long dash-to-axle ratio, traditional sedan proportions with upright, clearly defined A, B and C-pillars and a clean side profile with subtle character lines help develop an elegant look.
This is accentuated by the design of the tail. Full width tail lamps, as previously seen in models as disparate as the Saab 9-5, Lincoln Continental, Dodge Charger and Bugatti Chiron, are used by automakers to emphasise the width of the vehicle. Audi uses this particular design element to the same effect with the new A8. The full-width light bar is complemented by the chrome strip below to create a low and wide stance.
The design of the hexagonal front grille likewise mirrors the 'low and wide' stance developed by the tail.
Left: 2014 Audi A8. Right: 2018 Audi A8.
Unlike the vertical, waterfall grille design of its predecessor, the new A8 incorporates a wider, more obviously hexagonal grille that widens the look of the car in a fashion similar to the full width tail lamp.
Of particular note is the design of the side sills and bumpers of the A8. As seen in the photos above, a wraparound chrome strip runs around the car, and also helps to seamlessly integrate the tailpipes into the rear bumper. Overall, this wraparound design demonstrates Audi's attention to detail with regard to the exterior design and adds a further touch of class to the vehicle.
The A8's interior continues to develop themes from the exterior design. The wood trim at the top of the dashboard encircles the interior in a similar fashion to the wraparound exterior chrome strip described above. The elegant concealment of the A8's air vents likewise echoes the seamless integration of the exterior tail pipes into the rear bumper, and imbues the interior with a sophisticated, graceful feel.
With the infotainment systems integrated into a clearly demarcated horizontal dashboard and vertical centre console, the interior architecture of the A8 also follows the preferred 'T' interior design, and follows the mould of other recently launched vehicles such as the Range Rover Velar in minimising physical buttons in favour of configurable software controls.
The A8 builds upon Audi's industry leading automotive lighting technology. Whilst the 'HD Matrix LED' headlights apparently refer to the increased number of diodes compared to the previous generation, the A8 is arguably the first mass-produced vehicle with OLED tail-lamps, with the technology only previously available on the limited production BMW M4 GTS and optional on Audi's TT RS.
With regard to powertrains, it's surprising that there are no plans to make a fully electric A8. With instant torque and completely silent operation, an electric drivetrain would be an ideal fit for the refinement and low NVH that customers expect from the car. Nevertheless, it's applaudable that every powertrain is at least a mild hybrid. This is a step in the right direction.
Audi claims that the new A8 is also the first to offer autonomous driving where the driver does not have to pay attention, if the vehicle is travelling below 60 km/h on highways that are divided by a physical barrier. To do this, Audi incorporates an image processor from Mobileye, which was previously a supplier for Tesla's Autopilot before the relationship between the two companies broke down. Consequently, a comparison between Audi and Tesla's autonomous driving systems will serve as an interesting yardstick for Tesla's in-house Autopilot 2 self-driving system.