2011 Audi A8 Unveiled

Well ahead of its auto show debut at the 2010 Detroit auto show, Audi unwrapped its all-new 2011 A8 flagship at a design celebration in Miami, Florida.

It was an appropriate venue, as the new A8 is quite a looker. Although the typical Audi familial cues (i.e. LED lighting, large grille aperture) are in place, the overall appearance is striking and quite modern -- a four-door version of the Sportback concept shown last year, if you will.

Underhood, you’ll find Audi’s 4.2-liter V-8, which now pumps out 372 hp and 328 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 22 hp and 3 lb-ft, respectively. In the A8, the engine is mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, and it channels power to all four wheels via the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi predicts the A8 will sprint from 0-62 mph in 5.7 seconds, yet return a 15-percent improvement in fuel economy.

The fourth-generation A8 continues to use an aluminum space frame, which is now 25-percent stiffer than the previous model. This car also expands upon the use of aluminum -- for instance, all control arms are now crafted from the metal.

Still, there are numerous technologies packed into the new A8. Audi’s Drive Select system is standard (it helps tune the standard air suspension), but the torque-shifting sports differential, also seen on the S4, is optional. The cabin accent lighting can be programmed in three different manners, and if you’re willing to shell out the money, full LED headlamps -- like those introduced on the R8 5.2 FSI V-10 -- are optional. Night vision, which actively highlights pedestrians detected in the vehicle’s path, is also an option.

Perhaps most interesting is the latest version of Audi’s Multimedia Interface (MMI). Along with the traditional knob, the interface now includes a touch pad off to the side. Here, users can write characters to help delve through contact lists or input data into the navigation system. Unlike Palm Pilots of days gone by, the system doesn’t require a special writing style, and can even recognize Cyrillic characters.

The car shown here is the “normal wheelbase” model, which measures in at just under 17 feet in length. Audi plans on marketing this model as a driver’s car when it reaches dealers in late 2010. Those who prefer to be coddled in luxury may wish to hold out for the long-wheelbase A8 L, which will debut sometime next year.

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