Audi touts the new A8's coupelike roofline and "silhouette flow." The latest generation of the flagship sedan gets a new grille treatment with lateral lines that give the car a squat profile from the front.
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Lots of attention was paid during the launch to the A8's new LED lights, which comprise a set of 10 LED modules for low-beam lighting, 22 white LEDs for daytime running lights, and a further 22 yellow LEDs for turn signals. Two more four-chip LEDs above provide the high-beam lighting.
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One of the unique tech advances on the A8 is the networking of the headlight control unit with the optional MMI plus navigation system to provide dynamic lighting that adjusts to the conditions of the route ahead. The navigation system analyzes the route ahead and adjusts the lighting for a variety of conditions including highway driving and cornering, which is illuminated by dedicated cornering lights.
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The A8's downward-sloping beltline gives it a forward-leaning profile, while its cropped rear end has design echoes of the R8 supercar.
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Inside, the A8 boasts all the technoluxury one would expect from Ingolstadt's latest flagship as well as some surprises. The new A8's cabin is wider than that of its predecessor and boasts a two-tier wraparound cowl. In between the gauges a 7-inch LCD display houses the driver information system, which displays navigation, entertainment and systems information.
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First debuted on the new Q5, Audi's updated MMI Advanced system makes a follow-up appearance on the A8, complete an 8-inch pop-up LCD display. Drivers control the hard-drive based navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio and DVD video sources using a central turn/push control dial.
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The navigation system in the A8 is linked to the adaptive cruise control, headlamps and transmission control units, allowing the car's systems to preempt upcoming driving conditions. According to Audi, this allows the car to ignore "small errors" such as acceleration near a highway exit or automatic upshifts on short sections of winding country roads.
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The most notable new tech toy in the A8 cabin is the optional touchpad with built-in alphanumeric handwriting recognition for phone or destination entry. Touchpad entries, which must be made one letter at a time, are acknowledged acoustically. Unlike input recognition interfaces on some mobile devices, MMI Navigation plus recognizes complete letter inputs, even when scrawled in disjointed handwriting.
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Like its predecessor, the new A8 is motivated by a 4.2-liter FSI V-8 making 372 horsepower mated to an eight-speed tiptronic gearbox. Due to the new car's lighter body and some tweaking to the engine chain wheels, the 2011 A8 delivers an improvement of 1.2 mpg relative to its predecessor.
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Unsurprisingly, Bluetooth hands-free calling comes as standard on the A8 and can be accessed either via a cabin speaker or through one of two in-car phones. In Europe, the A8 offers the additional option of GPRS data transfer, which pulls news and weather information from Google. According to Audi, next year, the in-car connectivity offering will be upgraded to include a UMTS module for high-speed uploads of Google earth maps and the option to turn the car into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.
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Curiously, Audi sticks with its SD card inputs on the A8 for those diehard (presumably current Audi owners) who still carry media around in that format. For the rest of us, the Audi Music Interface provides USB, iPod, and aux-in connections for external media sources, while the MMI Navigation plus sets aside 20GB of user-addressable hard-drive space for "jukebox" purposes.
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The A8 comes standard in the US with a 14-speaker Bose surround-sound system, delivering 600 watts through 12 channels. For those wishing to upgrade, the optional Bang and Olufsen Advanced Sound System packs two amps and dishes out 1400 watts of crystal-clear sound via 19 speakers.
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Befitting its limousine status, the A8 swathes its rear-seat passengers in comfort. Optional reclining rear seats and the ability to move the front passenger seat from the rear shows those up front who's really in charge. The optional rear-seat entertainment system includes two 10-inch displays complete with wireless headphones and a separate 20GB hard-drive for media storage.
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