Want to know more about the new Audi A8?

Find out what Motoring Journalist John Swift thought when he took one for a spin.

We all know that the era of the truly autonomous car is just around the corner. It is not just the big names in the motor trade developing them but tech giants such as Google and Apple too and with resources like that it is only a matter of time before they are here.

In fact though, you can go into a showroom today and buy a car with a degree of self-driving technology and Audi’s new A8 is said to be the most advanced of its kind yet.

Let's get to the nub of this car from the outset. This Audi will steer for itself and keep you in your lane, it will keep a safe distance from a car ahead, it can park itself and – get this - it can even tilt slightly to one side if it detects a vehicle coming too fast out of a side road and about to cause a T-bone crash so the impact is absorbed by the sill which is a much stronger part of the structure than the door!

As things stand we are still in the era of driver assist’ rather than car control’ systems if only because the law has not caught up with the technology but with insurers (broadly very much in favour of it) and politicians racing to catch up it is pretty much a done deal that new laws will soon be passed allowing cars which can get themselves from A to B with little human intervention.

So what? Does this really matter? Well yes, I think it does and for one very simple but fundamental fact which is that unlike humans, the A8 and its various radars, cameras and scanners, are never, ever, off-guard, drowsy or distracted.

It is why the insurance industry is keen to see these cars in the roads. Computers-on-wheels cars will make driving safer, of this there is no doubt but more relaxing? Maybe.

Speaking as one who (a) can barely find the `on’ switch on a computer and (b) is a reasonably skilled driver, I approach cars like this with a degree of suspicion bordering on the cynical so did I revise my views after driving it?

Read on and find out.

Front of an Audi A8


Let’s just say that Audi has saved its firepower for the computers and interior. If you want standout style in the top end of the saloon car market, may I steer you towards the Jaguar XJ. The A8’s `three box’ form is not the most visually arresting I have ever seen and I’ll leave it at that.


Big engines, eight speed transmissions, air springs, an interior to rival in luxury that of a private jet albeit much bigger – what’s not to like?

To drive or sit in the Audi is to be in an environment where the normal and tiresome niggles of lesser cars just don’t register. A rough ride, mechanical, road and wind noise are factors so slight that you only notice them by their absence. And so to the autonomous control bits starting with the steering, or `lane control’ to be more accurate.

Currently this only works on a road such as a dual carriageway with a central reservation where it can `see’ the defined edges. It won’t – or didn’t – work on a narrower B road where the kerb was mushed up with winter debris and the white line separating one side from the other sometimes worn away. I found a safe area to try it and for the first time in my life, drove in hands-free mode.

On a bend or curve the steering wheel will move to keep you in your lane if it senses you drifting a little wide. The corrections are a little jerky with the car in `Dynamic’ mode, smoother in the softer ones, but there is no question it definitely works.

The distance control is nothing particularly new but it is hugely effective and you can set what gap you want between your car and a vehicle ahead before it activates. I deliberately accelerated towards an obstacle and the brakes came on in a hurry when I got too close, freeing off as the distance opened again.

So, the lane assist and distance control work certainly as advertised and once you get used to things it must be reassuring to know you have a co-pilot keeping you safe from a silly crash.

I thought it best not to try the side collision tilt system….


Here the A8 steps up several gears and invites you into a wonderful place. It is every bit as luxurious as you would expect of a car starting at around £65,000 and wearing the four rings of the Audi badge. It goes without saying that in terms of room, comfort, finish it is beyond reproach.

You will enjoy clearer instrumentation than in the previous car and easier to access and use functions. You can even operate them through voice control and although found in a growing number of cars, I still find it strange to talk to a machine. But, as the Swansway sales exec pointed out, the more tech-friendly of us talk to Amazon’s Alexa unit in our houses…

The hand over process will take a little longer than normal though because you need a course on just what this remarkable car can do. The adaptive suspension and drive modes, cabin settings and so on are all pretty familiar but it is the safety systems that get the attention as you can read next.

A8 interior
Rear view of an Audi A8 driving at night


If you want it Audi offers it. Can I leave it at that because the list of features for this hugely sophisticated, advanced and luxurious car would fill many pages.


This is tomorrow’s car today. You are looking at the future and although the technology and legislation are still immature – especially the law on what is and is not allowed – vehicles like the Audi A8 are a clear pointer to the direction we are going in and it will be a cleaner, safer and more relaxing travel environment.

Explore the Audi A8



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