Audi recently announced pricing for the V6-equipped A8, arriving in dealerships this fall for the rock-bottom price of $83,800. Alright, so that’s not exactly chump change, but Audi promised tech that would embarrass practically everything else on the road — including the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
In some markets, it seems as if the brand will deliver on those promises. The sedan is practically dripping with technology, including the impressive-sounding Traffic Jam Pilot. The system offers a claimed hands-free experience at speeds below 37 mph, as the vehicle can crawl in heavy traffic without the need of a driver. You’ll still need to turn it off and take over in urban environments but, so long as it’s a relatively straight shot, the car will do all the work.
Unfortunately, Audi seemed to have axed its availability for the United States.
Audi claims America’s legal system, mixed-bag roadway infrastructure, and recent consumer issues has forced it to stall the technology. That doesn’t mean it won’t eventually get here, but it definitely won’t arrive when the A8 shows up in the autumn.
When Traffic Jam Pilot was announced, the automaker recommended only using the feature on straight roads where a “physical barrier separates the two carriageways.”
How relevant the suggestion is in regard to Audi’s decision, is debatable. It’s not as every roadway in Europe is separated by a center median. Our guess is that the growing safety concerns surrounding autonomous cars is the primary culprit here — with a dash of legal fears. Despite the federal government green lighting unproven technology from auto manufacturers and tech firms that would never in a million years be okay to test out on your garage build, there’s been moderate backlash against self-driving hardware following a string of high-profile accidents.
However, the 2019 A8 will still come with the sort of tech that may have contributed to those incidents. Instead of the hands-off Level 3 system, the car will be available with hands-on Level 2 adaptive cruise control with lane keeping and full braking support. It’s basically Audi’s version of Tesla’s Autopilot or Cadillac’s SuperCruise.
There’s still a lot of tech on offer here, though. The base model comes with ridiculously adjustable front seats, adaptive air suspension, and uses a 48-volt mild hybrid system with regenerative braking and stop-start (which nobody really likes in practice). There is also an enviable safety suite that’s chock full of driving aids.
Audi’s MMI infotainment system is split between two screens — a 10.3-inch top unit for entertainment or navigation and an 8.6-inch lower screen for in-car settings (climate control, seat warmers, etc). Meanwhile, a wildly customizable 12.3-inch gauge display keeps the driver abreast of the vehicle’s status. Leather everything is standard and you can kit the already well-equipped sedan out to a ludicrous degree if you want to spend more. But the only upgrade that really springs to mind is the engine.
The base model’s 3.0-liter V6 produces 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. While those numbers are serviceable, the heavy all-wheel drive sedan is only about as fast as a Volkswagen GTI (5.7 seconds to 62 mph, estimated). We don’t really see that as a problem, but some buyers of a prestigious super sedan are going to want to have the ability to embarrass as many cars as possible. For them, the V8 variant will be the way to go.
It isn’t slated to arrive until next summer and, unless Audi brings in Traffic Jam Pilot within the next 12 months, you’ll have to use your hands and eyes to drive it.