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Audi's new A8 is a car full of fun and interesting features. Not all are particularly relevant to everyday driving, but some of it is going to end up in normal cars sooner than you think. We've rounded up five of the cooler features in the new Audi A8.
All A8s ship with Audi's air suspension set-up but if you're happy to spend a bit more, you can get active suspension. Working in concert with the air set-up, active suspension adds electrical actuation to each wheel.
At the global launch in Valencia, Audi's engineers set up a series of tests to show its capabilities. The first thing they showed us was that the car instantly lifts eight centimetres when you open the door. Air suspended cars can raise or lower themselves, but the active version picks the car up like a cat leaping on a mouse.
On the move, the car's laser sensor and camera scan the road ahead. A hefty manhole cover test showed us that the air suspension does a good job ironing out the road pimple, but the active suspension made it disappear. It's eerie.
Amusingly, there's a safety feature built in - when an impending side impact is detected, that side of the car is immediately raised so that the sill takes more of the hit. The car is obviously strongest there but has the added bonus of reducing the effects on passengers by up to 50 percent. Audi demonstrated by firing cardboard boxes at the A8. Windows down, the boxes trundled towards us and as they bashed into a perspex screen a couple of centimetres away from the side of the car, the A8 jumped, wound up the windows and pulled the seatbelts tight.
Auto-parking is nothing new and rival BMW will let you remotely park the car with the key, but Audi's 'Parking Pilot' gear is very clever. Using the AI package, the car will scan the side of the road you want to park on, get you to pull to a stop and then get you to hold down the AI button. It pulls itself in and you're done.
Yeah, so what? Ah-ha. If you've set up your phone to talk to the car, you can step out (making sure you take the key with you) and holding down the button on your phone's Audi Connect app, you can park it and then hop it - the A8 will lock itself and close the windows.
Other Audis already have exit warning, a tremendously clever system that uses the side sensors to detect oncoming cars or bicycles coming down the side of the car. On the A4, it uses the lane departure warning lights to flash a warning. The A8's electrically operated door locks use a soft handle - you only need to pull the door handle about half a centimetre and the door will open an inch or so. When exit warning is activated, the door won't open unless you're really determined (and it only lasts half a second), hopefully allowing you to miss that cyclist or car.
We might be passing from cool to silly here, but the sheer range of massage functions in the A8 is what's impressive. Rear seat passengers can choose from a huge number of massage styles and intensities.
Most massage seats are pretty lame, but the A8's back seats are full of airbags that inflate and deflate quite alarmingly if you're not prepared for it, giving your back a good going over. If you really push the boat out when you're ordering the car, you can get a foot massager. When activated, the front passenger seat rolls and tips forward and the plastic panel drops away. Take off your shoes, put your feet against the back seat and you'll get a foot massage. It's... weird.
Like active suspension, four-wheel steer was a thing in the '90s which suddenly disappeared, almost without trace. Honda and Mazda were the most enthusiastic proponents, but they both dropped it suddenly.
Porsche's 911 GT3 resurrected it, and now everybody seems to be returning to the all-wheel steer game - the new Renaultsport Megane has it. Things have moved on, though, it's not just a couple motors waiting for steering input and checking the speed. On the A8, the rear wheels can be turned in either direction depending on speed. It's clever, though - if you're pulling out of a park and wind on full lock, you won't get the full five degrees of counter steer until you're far enough away from the kerb. If you did, you could kerb a rear wheel or even wipe the rear bumper along someone or something on the footpath.