Rare Rides has featured the predecessor of today’s sedan previously, in a very pearly 1990 V8 Quattro. After Audi spent a few years unsuccessfully trying to sell its first-ever attempt at a flagship full-size sedan, it took the lessons learned from the D1 and developed the D2 A8 and S8.
It’s the end of an era. Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz announced the death of the SLC (formerly SLK) roadster, and today Audi announced it will do the same to its own two-seat roadster and four-place coupe.
The TT first appeared in late 1998, bringing youthful excitement and distinctive design to the brand’s sedan-heavy lineup. It also served as an excellent rival to the SLK, which bowed a couple of years earlier. Thanks to dwindling sales and Audi’s push for electrification, the recently refreshed TT is now doomed.
It’s not the only gas-powered model that could disappear from the lineup, either.
There’s a bit of an automotive renaissance occurring just below the radar. While pure electrics and plug-in hybrids garner endless headlines, several luxury brands are sneaking more mild hybrid arrangements under their vehicles’ hoods via a 48-volt electrical system.
Audi is a firm believer in the technology and is making moves to implement the system in numerous vehicles in its lineup, starting with the fourth-generation A8 arriving later this year. Combining regenerative braking with a small lithium battery and belt-driven alternator, the system harnesses wasted energy and is a more affordable way to tap into the benefits of hybridization. So affordable, automakers are using the KERS-like system on models as standard equipment, not a optional extra.
In this regard, Audi’s A8 is no different. The next generations of the A6 and A7 will also use the technology.
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.
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.
I see so many stunningly depreciated German luxury cars in pretty nice condition at the cheap self-service wrecking yards that they don’t register in my consciousness much more than your typical Sebring or Sephia. These days, though, I’m making an effort to notice such cars, since it seems that many of you thought this big V12-powered BMW was interesting.
I was headed over to the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay last week, in search of some bits for my ’41 Plymouth project, and I resolved to find and photograph a high-end Audi. Sure enough, here’s this clean A8, not as new as I’d like, but still an excellent example of what happens to such cars soon after they get into the hands of their third or fourth owners.
Bloomberg is reporting that Audi will reveal the next A8 sedan at the upcoming Frankfurt auto show in September and that Ingolstadt’s flagship will more get upgrades so it can more effectively compete with the next generation S Class from Mercedes-Benz, which is currently being launched.
The Audi A8’s fifteen minutes of fame in Super Bowl XLV showed that Audi did not intend for its flagship to fall into the luxury sedan trap of courting mainstream aspirational lust with a stodgy, obviously “upscale” demeanor. And since America’s economic recovery is too halting to inspire over-the-top indulgence, and Mercedes owns the “bulk-and-bling” approach to luxury anyway, Audi’s attempt at a more subtle, sophisticated brand of luxury flagship makes good marketing sense on paper. But does Audi’s cleaner, leaner design aesthetic strike the right tone for a “new era of luxury,” or does it doom this A8 to the over-subtlety that kept its predecessors from breakinginto the mainstream of full-sized luxury? More to the point, does Audi’s sophisticated marketing message reflect a car that really does offer a different approach to luxury? Let’s find out…
“Didn’t he say they had only one of the new A8s?”
“That’s an A4, Dad.”
Some people will walk away at this point, refusing to even consider spending $85,000+ on a car that can be so easily confused with one costing less than half as much. A similar problem killed GM’s luxury car sales back in the second half of the 1980s. But, by walking away, are these buyers missing out on the best large luxury sedan on the market?