Although the fourth-generation Audi A8 is only four years old, and just received significant powertrain updates for the 2013 model year, Audi isn’t resting on the car’s laurels – after all, there is a new Mercedes-Benz S-Class in town to contend with. While an all-new flagship luxury sedan is still some ways away, the 2015 A8, A8L, and S8 models do receive a modest update, just in time for a public debut at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show.
Aesthetically, the update largely focuses on the front clip. A revised hood stamping boasts two new creases that point directly to the chamfered corners of the front grille, which looks wider and more angular than before. That grille also appears to float over the lower air intake, which now stretches seamlessly across the span of the front bumper. The update is subtle, but more profound than revisions made at the tail of the car: all 2015 Audi A8 variants gain longer, flatter tail lamp lenses, while non-S8 models gain a new rear bumper fascia with rhomboid exhaust tips framed by the diffuser panel.
Notice the new headlamp assemblies, which boast a sweeping, fan-like array. Technologically speaking, they’re as interesting as they look – but they won’t be found on 2015 Audi A8 models sold in North America. Audi’s offered LED headlamps on the A8 for quite some time, but these new Matrix LED assemblies are unique in that individual LEDs can be dimmed, allowing the headlamp to focus light away from oncoming traffic without the use of mirrors or reflectors. The lack of discrete high- and low-beam modes, however, puts the lights at odds with federal motor vehicle standards. Although Audi (and Mercedes-Benz, which has a similar system in use on the European-market 2014 S-Class) hopes NHTSA will amend the rule in the near future, but for now, North American A8s make do with standard LED headlamps.
Mechanically speaking, the new 2015 Audi A8 is essentially left unchanged. Although Europe receives five seven different powertrain options, including an A8 Hybrid that pairs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor, the North American engine portfolio is far less complicated, and is essentially unchanged from the 2014 model. Base cars make do with a 333-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, though buyers can step into V-8 power with the 2015 A8 4.0T, which boasts a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8. For 2015, that engine sees its power rise 15 hp to 435 hp.
Audi isn’t sure the extra cost of the A8 Hybrid necessarily makes fiscal sense in our market, but a diesel TDI variant is offered for aristocrats concerned with fuel economy. The long-wheelbase 2015 A8L 3.0 TDI continues to utilize a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 that produces 240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque and, more importantly, is EPA rated at 24/36 mpg city/highway.
True gluttons of power need only step up to 2015 Audi A8’s top two trims. The sport-oriented S8 makes use of a similar twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 as the A8 4.0T, but with a stout 520 hp and 481 lb-ft on tap -- enough to propel the short-wheelbase A8 to 60 mph in roughly 3.9 seconds. For those who prefer their power served as smoothly as possible, the top-tier A8L W12 continues to utilize a 6.3-liter twelve-cylinder engine, with 500 hp and 463 hp on tap. For 2015, the W12 gains cylinder deactivation, which idles six cylinders under light load -- no easy feat, considering the engine boasts three banks of four cylinders.
Regardless of the engine selected, North American 2015 A8s utilize an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s famed Quattro all-wheel drive system.
As has long been the case, the Audi A8 continues to offer sumptuously trimmed cabins and fanciful technologies. For 2015, the sedan gains a new active park system that can self-park the vehicle, a head-up display, and active lane assist, which can apply small steering adjustments to help keep the car in a given lane. Customers have a new palate of colors and trims available for interior décor, including a brown-silver poplar veneer and a fine grain ash with a brownish-gold hue.
Although these changes are minor, at best, a more substantial revision isn’t that far in the future. An all new Audi A8 is already under development, and is expected to be readied for production in 2015 or 2016. Until that time, look for the updated 2015 A8 range to launch in Europe this November, followed by a U.S. introduction sometime in early 2014.