Bizarre Audi A8L concept could rival Maybach
Audi is considering the possibility of extending its A8 flagship line in response to the onslaught of new luxury-saloons in the market from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
The A8 is currently only available in its conventional form and a long-wheelbase version for the more discerning; but one of its main competitors, the S-Class, is offered in these two set-ups as well as a pair of even longer models, the Maybach and Pullman, and two coupe versions in the form of the S-Class coupe and convertible, bringing the flagship family to a total of six vehicles.
Speaking at the launch of the new Audi SQ7, new technical boss Dr Stefan Knirsch admitted that an extended A8 line was definitely under discussion. “We are thinking about it,” he said. “The success of the extra-long version of the S-Class has got us wondering about whether there could be a business case for that in the future.”
Knirsch also confirmed that the next-gen A8 will be fitted with standardised SAE Level 3 automation, where the driver can remove their hands from the wheel for long periods of time and at higher speeds than anything else currently on the market. “We are working on the new A8 to introduce this new level of piloted systems,” he said. Level 3 automation constantly monitors the vehicles surroundings but still requires an alert driver to be ready to intervene.
Currently, UN Regulation 79 restricts automated vehicle steering functions to speeds of up to 10km/h – but this restriction is expected to be lifted later this year. “We’re confident it won’t be an issue by the time the A8 goes on sale,” said Knirsch.
Audi’s tech boss was also reserved on whether or not an even more potent version of the Q7 would be released flaunting the coveted RS badge. “We are only launching the SQ7 now and obviously we hope it will be a great success,” he said, “but I don’t know if it would make sense to have an RS version of this car.”