By on May 4, 2016

2016 Audi A8 L Security

After pumping out a respectable range of luxury sedans, coupes and SUVs for years, Audi now finds itself scrambling to counter an onslaught of high-end boutique models from Mercedes-Benz.

The automaker is hinting that more versions of the range-topping A8 could be on the way, AutoExpress reports, including a long-wheelbase Maybach fighter.

In recent years, Mercedes stretched its S-Class six ways to Sunday, yielding ultra-lux models like the Mercedes-Maybach S600 and Pullman, as well as a full-size convertible. In contrast, Audi doesn’t have any half-block-long versions to offer — just its A8 and slightly stretched (by five or so inches) A8L.

That might have to change.

“We are thinking about it,” said Dr. Stefan Knirsch, Audi’s technical head, during a recent launch in Germany. “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.”

A full-size A8 coupe is another possibility for the brand, though a long-wheelbase version seems the most likely spin-off, at least initially. Audi already offers an armored “Security” version of the A8L.

During his speech, Knirsch revealed that the next A8 will feature a greater level of automation, allowing the driver to go hands-free on the highway for longer periods of time and at greater speeds. That might be great for individuals who drive their own A8, but not for chauffeurs of (future) stretched versions who should be busy chauffeuring, not texting their buddies.

The next-generation A8 arrives next year with upgraded technology and an available mild hybrid drivetrain. There’s now a good chance that new versions could join it.

[Image: Audi AG]

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42 Comments on “Audi Forced to Climb the Luxury Ladder, All Thanks to Mercedes-Benz...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    A8 Grand Tourer!

    Actually VAG has to be careful here as the Bentley Continental is already a GT and people buying this crap new can probably swing Bentley cash but may opt for the cheaper A8.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      You’d think they are going to reach platform length limitations with the MLB underpinnings on the A8 now. No longer has it got its own special platform like previous generations.

      D2 will always be my favorite. The interior of that car is amazing.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        No limitations apart from the distance between the front axle and the pedal box in the cockpit. Otherwise, dimensions are completely fungible, including wheelbase, track, etc. Same as with MQB on the transverse mounted platform.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          That is true. MLB and MQB are not really platforms in the traditional sense. They’re just a set of a few fixed dimensions that makes it easier to manufacture the products, mainly.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        They recently built an A8 limo for some minor European monarch (Netherlands or Norway or something IIRC). An A8 the size of the Maybach S600 is easy compared to that; the limo version has six doors and three full rows of seating, including a 3rd row with the kind of legroom a LWB version normal has or more.

        http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/audi-stretches-a8l-something-expensive

    • 0 avatar
      Hydromatic

      People who have Bentley cash will opt for a Bentley. Very few Bentley buyers think like the B&B here.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Bring on the A10.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    How do you know chauffeurs are texting their buddies and not car owner’s wife?

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “allowing the driver to go hands-free on the highway for longer periods of time and at greater speeds.”

    I wasn’t aware yu are ever allowed to drive hands free.
    Did something change?
    Did I miss something on auto driving?

    Seems t me this is reaching a bit since up till now even the best auto cars were not able to successfully have drivers even remove their hands from the wheel. They were driving ok…but without drivers not taking their hands completely off the wheel.

    I think a few insurance companies have something t say about these features..if they are allowed at all. It will be the insurance companies and the legal realities that slow this.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m thinking they need jazzier styling if they want to move upmarket. Their design ethic basically hasn’t changed since Clinton was in office.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    There are a couple Mercedes-Maybach’s in my town that I see occasionally. It’s not my style, but they are opulent and beautiful. Maybe it’s just me, but Audi sedans all seem to look very similar if not a little plain for me, and I just don’t see exclusivity in their styling. At least enough to pull business from Bentley, Maybach, or even Rolls, which are all the norm where I live.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    All for naught. A8 sales, at least in the US, have always been basura. Nobody cares. Only Audi that sells worse is the TT. S-Class outsells a lot of legit Benzes and is tops in its segment. The benchmark, always and forever.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Except that the S-class is outsold by Tesla.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I don’t know that I would call an electric car a competitor to a gas car. There are similarities in size, form and price but that’s about it.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Only the most expensive Teslas are priced with the S-class, and at that they are where the S-class BEGINS. The cheaper Model S variants are 5-series/E-class money, and they are in no way outselling those cars.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Agreed. I am just going with the classifications I’ve seen. Longer term, I think the Model S will be more comparable to the 5/E. The back seat feels more midsized to me.

            The E-class does sell well, but it looks like Tesla is selling about 15-18K Model S every quarter now, so they may be able to overtake MB.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The Tesla Model S – “a 5-series GT that costs as much as a 7-series with all the luxury of a 3-series”. Actually, my ’11 3-series is nicer inside than any of the Model S I have been in. A giant iPad glued to the center console does not a luxury experience make. And I don’t even consider my 3-series particularly luxurious, it is just beautifully built.

            Tesla might be able to outsell MB (with the Model S) in the combined E and S-class market in the US (~80K cars per year), but they have very little chance of outselling MB, BMW, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti, Cadillac, Volvo, and even the top Acuras and Lincolns in that combined market, even with sedan sales shrinking. Just not gonna happen. Ultimately, who cares anyway, the real measure is profitability, and Tesla sure isn’t doing so hot there, regardless of what they are spending their money on. Mercedes, BMW, and Porsche are some of the most profitable car companies on the planet.

            And these days, the real money is in S/CUVs. And let’s face it, the Model X is becoming a bit of a joke. That thing is just dumb, it’s the world’s worst and most expensive minivan – how did they ever think those ridiculous doors and center seats that don’t fold were a good idea? That should be a HUGE money spinner given the crazy market for luxury CUVs, but it probably won’t be.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I’ll grant there was a lot of hubris in the design of the Model X, and Tesla paid for it with a messy launch process. Keep in mind that the original BMW X5 was the most recalled vehicle in the history of the US market (tied with the Ford escort). And remember how well Mercedes did with the R-class?

            First time isn’t always a charm. The difference is that BMW and MB have the resources to recover from mistakes. Does Tesla?

            But the Model X seems well received, so we’ll see. Tesla expects to sell a 80K/year of the Model S and Model X combined, which is pretty impressive.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I agree that 80K expensive cars is fairly impressive – but it’s also a great way to go broke when you have no sugar daddy volume brand to back you up. Even if you weren’t trying to own your own distribution AND roll out your own refueling network. And mind you, that 80K for MB is US sales only, which is a relative drop in the bucket of their global E and S-class sales.

            Scale is everything in the auto industry. As I have said before – Tesla is trying to launch as Lexus and then somehow become Toyota. Good luck with that… Though even that said, at this point it probably is the ONLY way to make a completely fresh start in the auto industry, because nobody has the capital to gear up to sell 500K cars right out of the gate, and no matter how cool the car is, there just is no market for that volume on day one.

            But I have to wonder how much worse Tesla would be doing without the clean air credits they have sold, the various government purchase tax credits and other handouts (Norway alone…), and the free passes to the HOV lane. The playing field for them has been not particularly level. I have to think a lot of the fever over the Model 3 is going to go away once the tax credits stop and the HOV lane passes dry up. I know a couple people who put down deposits not understanding that chances are they are not going to see any of that sweet $7500 from the Feds, as they are not current owners, live on the East Coast, and want the base model. Back of the line, kids.

            But ultimately, as I also keep saying, while I am extremely skeptical of Tesla’s chances to pull this off, I hope they do. The industry could use a little shakeup, and there is very little downside to more competition. I love the idea of reasonably priced electric commuter mobiles. I just don’t have a commute, so I have zero use for one.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The gem of the Audi line, is the A6 sized regular wheelbase A8. Much tidier than any S class, and even the latest 7. Yet it wafts just as well as those, making the A6/E/5 feel like the Euro taxicabs they really are.

      By the time you go longer than an L, or S Class, bring on an F150, Ram Megacab or similar. Much easier to hang armor on (especially HD) BOF trucks, if that’s a requirement.

  • avatar
    Phillin_Phresh

    Audi has become like the German version of Acura. The bulk of their model range are badge-engineered copies of VW products. I recently tested out a new A3 and A4, and they both feel pretty cheap. The interiors – once a market-defining strong point for Audi, felt very downmarket and obviously pulled heavily from the VAG parts bin.

    There are plenty of folks with money who will pay for the Audi badge, but if we’re looking objectively at product quality, I don’t think they compare to BMW or Mercedes.

  • avatar
    Paul Alexander

    And to think Cadillac just put the kibosh on the CT8.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    What’s this “half-block long” talk? The S600 is 227 inches long. That’s the same as the 1965 Imperial Crown on a slightly shorter 129 inch wheelbase. The full size cars of the early 1970s (Buick Electra, Cadillac Sedan DeVille, Lincoln Continental, Imperial LeBaron) were longer and wider than the S600. And there are readers here old enough to have actually driven those cars. Yes, they handled like tuna boats, they sucked expensive 50-cent/gallon premium, and their strangled engines were an abomination, but they were common on America’s roads. The S600’s size is nothing special, by old American standards.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    It’s amazing how the “Audi is just a gussied up VW” thing absolutely refuses to die, when the last time the A4 shared any relationship with a Passat was some two decades ago.

    VWs engines sit sideways. Audi’s engines sit longways. Engines are not something you can just flip around willy nilly. The 4Motion and Quattro AWD systems are also completely unrelated, except for the Golf based Audis that still carry the Quattro badge.

    If you want to talk parts bin, the Lexus LS has the exact same cruise control stalk as a Toyota Corolla. Audi and VW on the other hand don’t share those parts, or most other parts. It was painfully obvious that the early Bentley Continentals used VW parts straight from the bin. You don’t see that in even an A3.

    That being said. starting with the current S-class and continuing with the C-class and now the 2017 E-class, Mercedes has re-established themselves as the unquestionable leader in interior design and quality, something that used to be an Audi specialty. The new Q7 and A4 have begun to right the ship, (if you think an F30 BMW 3 series has a nicer interior than the 2017 A4, you’re dreaming) but they had better deliver a MUCH better interior than the outgoing A8 has if they want to make any kind of a dent in S-class sales.

    Audi would also do well to figure out a way to finally banish their blank button problem. Not only do you not see blank buttons (at least obvious ones) in any other luxury brand, they haven’t even been on Kia center stacks for a decade or so. And yet if you don’t absolutely load your Audi up to the gills, you’ll have a good half dozen blank buttons right in the middle of the dash staring you right in the face. And because not every option is available in our market, even a loaded Prestige model may STILL have two or three or four blank buttons. It looks like crap, and I’m amazed that the “interior masters” still haven’t figured out how to deal with it after all of these years.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Well, to be fair,

      – A3/Q3 are fancy Golfs
      – Last Passat with a long engine was sold here just over 10 yrs ago
      – Until very recently Q7 WAS a gussied up Touareg
      – Until very recently A8 was an aluminum Phaeton

      That said, I personally don’t care about platform sharing if it produces good cars. Cars like the Lexus ES/RX and A3 would not be any better with bespoke platforms. Even with a “luxury” platform things can still go south- Alpha platform is the posterchild of this. It matters a lot less than it used to.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        – Until very recently A8 was an aluminum Phaeton

        Got that one backwards. The A8 came first.

      • 0 avatar
        10000 Angry Vegans

        And the A1 is a fancy Polo on another VAG platform with another transverse layout. The idea that VW engines sit one way and Audi engines sit another is as true as the idea that all BMWs are rear wheel drive.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Close, but not quite, sportyaccordy.

        The current Q3 is indeed a warmed over PQ35 Golf platform (and is the best example of “slap a badge on it and people will buy it” outside of the Merc CLA). As for the A3/Golf comparison – they share a lot of common bits (HVAC, engines, transmissions), but VW and Audi have really done an amazing job of building cars that *feel* very distinct in everything from powertrain to the obvious design and interior feel.

        Part of the issue Touareg had is that the platform was designed for Audi to start, but had to fit a Volkswagen image/price point.

        A8 and Phaeton were completely distinct. A8 has always been an aluminum space frame, Phaeton was a traditional steel build. Phaeton and Bentley were shared.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Have to agree with Dave. As much as I appreciate the A8 (especially the previous generation which just had great proportions), it really does pale in the “who is more boss” comparison with the current Merc S-Class.

      The new Mercs really are pretty machines with great interiors. Subjective, I know, but as much an Audi fan as I am, I’d take the S over the A8 any day of the week. The current A8 just never worked for me: nose looks tacked on, proportions don’t flow, everything just seems a bit hacked together and ‘off’. The S, on the other hand….is elegant, bossy and just flashy enough without being too ostentatious.

      Audi’s differentiator, especially in interior design moving forward, is to look more futuristic compared to Merc’s luxury angle. Perfectly reasonable attempt.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Last time I was in central London S Class are everywhere, and A8’s are fairly rare. I saw more Bentley, Rolls and Aston’s than A8’s. Certainly in Europe and the Middle East, the S Class owns the large luxury sedan market.

  • avatar

    It is all about staying on par with, if not better than, your competitors when you are dealing with a highly profitable industry like automotive. Ideas need to constantly be enhanced and new improvements need to constantly be on the way in order not to lag behind and lose potential customers.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      webbrowan – not sure if you were being facetious there, but if we’re talking about profitability, the auto industry ranks pretty darn low on the scale. I’d argue it’s one of the reasons why you see automakers take so few real risks when it comes to design.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Were you around during the time when we had Nancy bot? There was a woman who typed like this – making terribly obvious statements all the time, for no apparent reason. They were wordy enough to seem written by a real person, but also obtuse enough to seem bot-like.

        I think this is her replacement.

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