The other major innovation that the A8 brings to the game is air suspension. At all four corners, the Audi deploys air-suspension struts on which there are air-suspension bellows arranged concentrically around the continuously variable twin tube shock absorbers. That sounds complex, but what it does in simple terms is give the big Audi the ability to react in milliseconds to changes in conditions.
The system basically figures out what level of damping you need, from stiffer through fast, tight corners, to softer for straight ahead highway cruising. And to give the A8 the widest breadth of dynamic ability, there are four modes of suspension setting available. They include automatic mode, which maintains a standard 120 mm ground clearance until you exceed 75 mph at which point the body is lowered 25 mm. Then there is dynamic mode, which lowers the car to 100 mm clearance and stiffens up the damping and springing. Comfort mode does the opposite to dampers and springs and lift mode enables the driver to select 25 mm extra height for rough going.
It works. In dynamic mode, the A8 is noticeably more tied down, although the ride quality suffers quite significantly. In this mode and over challenging roads, the A8's ability to change direction is deeply impressive, as is the tremendous grip available from that four-wheel drive quattro chassis.
And don't try this at home - halfway through one long, fast sweeper, I selected comfort mode to see what would happen. Things loosened up to a not entirely welcome degree, although I did make the corner. And while automatic mode is a good compromise between ride and handling, I've never been a fan of cars that ask you to make decisions about suspension settings. How do I know what's around the next corner?
The A8 is the first Audi to be offered with PAX run-flat tires, which allow you to drive to safety even when the tires are entirely deflated. And there are other really intelligent options, too, like voice control for the MMI system as well as adaptive cruise control which constantly monitors the distance to the car in front and automatically adjusts the speed through the accelerator or brakes. There are even auxiliary headlights, which allow you to peek around corners at night.
Spend a day in the new A8 and you emerge thinking that this really is the most intelligent choice among the Euro luxury brigade. Stupendously well made, dynamically breathtaking and visually subtle in the classic Bauhaus style, the A8 has to be the one to go for.
Especially if you don't need to deliver the coded messages contained in the more predictable German badges.
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