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Audi A8 in depth

From its beautifully crafted interior to all its high gadgets and gizmos, the A8 is a veritable automotive theme park.

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Derek Fung

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1 of 63 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Sing it for me Al, part I

From its beautifully crafted interior to all its high gadgets and gizmos, the A8 is a veritable automotive theme park.

If the 60-odd photos in this gallery aren't enough, read more and watch the videos in our reviews of the Audi A8 and its MMI integrated entertainment, nav and car control system.

The A8's body is made from aluminium rather than steel.

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Sing it for me Al, part II

Most cars are still primarily built from steel because, while heavier, it's cheaper too.

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Sing it for me Al, part III

According to Audi, the use of aluminium shaves 40 per cent off the weight of the car's structure. Most of this weight is added back on, though, because the A8 comes fitted with four-wheel drive as standard.

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Catch the rays

A tilt-and-slide sunroof is standard. For an extra AU$1100 the glass pane can be replaced by a solar panel that can power the air-conditioning system while you're away from the car.

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Head on

The A8 is most imposing and impressive front on, where its headlights are distinctive and the grille's fluted chrome slats make a big impression.

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Stuff goes in here

The boot stores a handy 500-plus litres worth of stuff, but can't be expanded as there's no ski port and the rear seat doesn't fold down.

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Saving space

A space saver spare tyre is the default option, but Audi can fit a full-size spare with alloy wheel for free. This does reduce luggage space to 370 litres, though.

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Boot it

The boot lid is powered to save you the effort of opening or closing it yourself. Note the umbrella holder in the background; neat.

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Power people

The A8's 4.2-litre V8 petrol engine pumps out 273kW of power and 445Nm of torque.

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Light arc

All A8s come with LED indicator and driving lights. Our car came fitted with LED headlights (AU$2700) for both normal and high beam.

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Blinded by the light

The adaptive headlight system not only automatically adjusts the beam angle based on road conditions, but switches between high and low beam automatically, and engages the cornering lights when you're, umm, cornering.

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Tell 'em the price son

The 4.2-litre V8 is priced at AU$225,904 after GST and the luxury car tax, but before dealer and statutory charges.

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Ride with me

The V8 A8 rides on 19-inch alloys as standard, with 20-inch rims and wider tyres removing a further AU$2970 from your wallet.

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Wings

The oversized wing mirrors aid vision rearwards, but make roundabouts and tight streets a hassle to navigate. The wing mirrors can be set to fold in and up automatically when you leave the car.

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Blindfold, part I

The AU$2670 electric blinds, for both rear-side windows and the rear window, keep the sun away from your skin.

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Blindfold, part II

Both rear-seat occupants can control each other's windows and blinds, as well as the rear window blind.

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Blindfold, part III

The blinds may even prevent the public from recognising your pretty face.

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Clear my eyes

The headlight washers can be enabled to work in concert with the car's windscreen washer.

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The place to be

With its price approaching that of a house, it's good to know that the A8's cabin is a nice place to spend a lot of time. The leather trim is rich and it adorns many surfaces, including the dash top, armrests and steering wheel.

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Tastes metallic

For over a decade, Audi has set the standard for luxury car interiors and the A8 doesn't disappoint. Anything that looks metallic, actually is. And it all feels so wonderful, we're surprised we didn't leave a duvet somewhere in there.

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Hide it

Every door arm rest has a padded compartment.

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Comfortable yet?

Both front seats come standard with 22-way electric adjustment, including seat length, tightness of the bolsters, lumbar angle and shoulder tilt.

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Climate change

A four-zone climate control air-conditioning system is standard. Heated and cooled front seats, however, are not; bundled together with a massager they'll add AU$5500 to the A8's list price.

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What's the time Mr Wolf?

Neat party trick #748: change the time or time zone and watch the clock hands spin around in all their glory.

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Automatic for some people, part I

The gear lever for the eight-speed automatic gearbox is an odd-looking thing. Changing gears is self explanatory: pull the lever backwards and forwards to change gears.

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Automatic for some people, part II

No matter which gear you're in, the lever will always rest in the centre. This makes it impossible to tell by feel whether you're, say, in park or reverse, or drive or sport. To do that you either have to look at the lights on the lever or this overlay on the instrument display.

You can also manually flick between each of the eight gears via paddles mounted to the back of the steering wheel. As engine noise is well isolated from the cabin, it's difficult to tell which gear you're in without glancing at the gear display that's too small to easily discern at speed.

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Brake it down

The electronic parking brake was the interior's weakest point, with the flick switch moving around considerably whenever we used it. As there's no large physical lever to remind you of its presence, it's all too easy to drive off without paying it any heed. Don't fret, though, the parking brake automatically disengages itself when you use the accelerator.

Clicking the A button (bottom) allows the parking brake to become automatically engaged whenever you come to a complete rest for a few seconds. This can make stop-start traffic a slightly jerky affair.

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Sports limo

The air suspension has two height settings. In the low rider mode (above) and with the suspension and steering to dynamic (Audi-speak for sporty), the ride was firm but compliant, and the A8 tackled corners with aplomb.

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Limo limo

With the ride height raised, the ride became just a tad bit softer. Drive with vigour when the suspension and steering are set to comfort and, if you're like us, you could be left feeling a little bit queasy.

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Lights! Camera! Action!

In auto mode, the headlights adjust beam throw, change between low and high beam, and engage the cornering lights automatically.

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Cruise missile, part I

The active cruise control is an AU$5395 option. It can brake to maintain your speed down hills and works eerily well in stop-start city traffic, too.

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Cruise missile, part II

The driver can configure the cruising distance he or she considers safe.

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Smokin', part I

Clearly the target market likes a puff because there are at least three ashtrays in the car.

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Smokin', part II

We abhor smoking, but this removable ashtray with its heavy metal lid is a piece of art.

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Child safety

An electronic switch for rear child-door locks lives in the driver's side door panel (bottom right, just above the red light). Physical child locks are present in the rear door panels as well.

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Seating comfort, part I

With the front seat pushed all the way back, there's space for a seven-foot bean pole up front.

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Seating comfort, part II

Things are naturally much more comfortable in the back with the front seat all the way forward.

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It's crazy, but true

It seems strange to sing the praises of a hinge, but the one for the centre console bin/armrest is beautiful in its detail, heft and operation. Not only does it cover the shallow bin and provide a place for lazy arms to rest, but it can be ratcheted up to different heights for both driver and passenger.

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Find my door

Puddle lights are present in each door handle except the driver's.

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Light as art

LED tail-lights not only consume less power than conventional light bulbs, but they can also produce more interesting and distinctive light patterns.

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Smile! Part I

The camera in the right Audi ring is of the infrared variety.

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Smile! Part II

To make spotting humans much easier in the night vision display, Audi highlights them with a yellow rectangle.

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Bang for buck

The 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, priced at a pretty AU$14,430, is worth every cent. It reproduces all parts of the audible range with amazing clarity, easily besting many home theatre sound systems we've tried.

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Theatrics

The 19-channel digital amp packs 1400W of punch, and the two tweeters rise theatrically up and out of the dashboard every time the car is turned on.

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Moody, part I

Ambient mood lights adorn the headliner, door trim, bins and foot wells.

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Moody, part II

The driver can configure brightness, as well as choose from three colours: ivory, polar and ruby. Bear in mind, though, that the ruby colour only appears in certain locations.

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Mugs for drink

Unlike the rather shallow cup holders up front, rear-seat passengers can safely transport all but the most monster of beverages.

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Here to do your bidding

The push button scroll dial is one of the MMI system's main sources of user input. It's flanked by four control buttons that correspond to functions listed in each of the four corners of the flip-up LCD screen. Above it are shortcuts to the navigation, telephone, traffic information (not available in Australia) and car configuration screens.

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Music for the masses

The control pod to the left houses basic music and radio functions.

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Touchy feely

The touch pad's purpose changes depending on the screen that you're in. Most of the time it allows you to easily access radio station presets, although it's far too easy to accidentally graze.

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Shark fin

Analog radio reception is fine in the suburbs and beyond, but AM radio devotees will have to think of something else to listen to in the CBD. We had no issues with digital TV reception, although the system can't handle high-definition channels.

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Race across Europe

The MMI system supports both DVD video and DivX movie files. Now, where'd we put that episode of Top Gear with the A8 challenge?

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Where do we go now? Part I

One of the core features of the MMI (Multimedia Interface) system is navigation. There's a 3D map perspective, but Australia misses out on the 3D Google Earth mapping data that's available to European A8 owners.

According to Audi Australia, the reason that it's not offered here is that there's no local service provider to down-convert and reconfigure the Google Earth imagery to suit the MMI display. The company is currently working on bringing Google Earth navigation to more markets and more models.

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Where do we go now? Part II

Lane guidance is present for most roads, but only in the instrument cluster display. There's no text-to-speech for verbal instructions.

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Penny for your thoughts, part I

Destination and phone number entry can be done one of three ways. The "traditional" way is via the scroll dial.

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Penny for your thoughts, part II

You can also write it out letter by letter on the touch pad. Given that most of us are right-handed and we drive on the right, left-handed writing is awkward at best.

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More ways to interact

These controls on the steering wheel's left spoke control the high-res screen located between the tacho and speedo. With control over the gamut of entertainment options, and access to the navigation and trip computer facilities, it was our most common way of interacting with the MMI system.

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Penny for your thoughts, part III

A motley assortment of functions adorn the right spoke. Clockwise from top left: repeat last nav instruction, voice recognition, volume and automatic/manual gear selection.

Be careful when changing the volume, though. Do so during a call or a nav instruction and it will change that specific volume, not the audio system's overall volume.

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To your taste

The MMI system mightn't be able to perform customisations like giving your car a new paint job or racing stripes, but you can tweak a whole range of settings, including ride hide, suspension tune, driver assistance (think stability control, parking aids, adaptive headlights and other safety features) and vehicle settings (like ambient lighting, automatic windscreen wipers, air-con and lighting timers). The current car status (such as wheel inflation state, service intervals and oil level) can also be checked out.

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Even flow

This Cover Flow-style album flipper is only available for music stored on the car's hard disk.

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Flip it and reverse it

Parking sensors and a reversing camera are standard features on the A8. Unlike the AU$50k Prius i-Tech, it can't park itself.

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That's entertainment

The rear-seat entertainment package (AU$9845), not fitted to our review vehicle, gives each outboard rear-seat passenger their own LCD screen and MMI controller.

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POWER!

If you don't purchase the rear-seat entertainment package, you can not only keep yourself entertained with a bevy of portable devices, but have them juiced up the entire time.

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