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The Audi A8 is Audi's luxury car flagship. It competes against such cars as the Jaguar XJ, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Lexus LS 430 and BMW 7 Series.
The A8 can trace its lineage to the Audi V8 Quattro of 1989-1994, developed by combining two Volkswagen Golf GTI engines. The A8 debuted as a model line in its own right for the 1997 model year in the United States and for the 1994 model year in Europe and was unique at the time for having an aluminium bodyshell, a distinction that is now shared by the Jaguar XJ. The first-generation Audi A8 used Audi's D2 platform. The second-generation A8, which was introduced in the 2004 model year, uses Audi's D3 platform. The first and second generations, therefore, are referred to as D2 and D3, respectively.
In 1997, the A8 became the first car in the world ever to offer six interior airbags.
In 2001, Audi offered a W12 engine for the first time in the Audi A8 L 6.0 W12. The D2 platform Audi A8 L 6.0 W12 is even rarer than the D3 platform W12, and only 750 were produced from 2001 - 2003. This first generation W12 sedan was only sold in European and Asian markets. America was introduced to the W12 in the second generation, or D3, A8 L.
In Europe the following engines are available in the D3-platform A8:
In North America and Australia only the 4.2 L V8 and the 6.0 L W12 are available. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and the 3.7 L and higher models have Quattro four wheel drive as standard. Models in the Americas are sold as the A8, A8 L and A8 L W12.
In 2004, Audi won a Challenge Bibendum award for its A8 3.0 TDI (the A8 variant with the 3.0 L diesel). This particular model uses piezoelectricity in its fuel injection.
The new A8 features Audi's new styling theme with a tall grille inspired by past Audis and the Audi Nuvolari concept car. Many have noticed that a similar look was simultaneously used in the Rover 75 V8 and Volkswagen Golf.
Audi A8 4.2 TDI quattro
For the 2005 model year, Audi offered an A8 4.2 TDI quattro with a new 4.2 L Diesel V8 engine that generates 240 kW (322 hp) of power. Audi claims this model accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.9 seconds. The speed is limited to 250 km/h (155 mph). The car has a six-speed transmission.
The engine in this model represents an advance for Audi — it is the most powerful Diesel engine Audi has ever offered in a passenger automobile. The engine's crankshaft is made of chrome molybdenum steel, and the cylinder head is aluminium. There are four valves per cylinder. The engine has two turbochargers and two intercoolers. Each turbocharger functions exclusively for one set of four cylinders. There is also an oxidizing catalytic converter and a silicon carbide particulate filter that ostensibly never requires replacement. The cylinder spacing in the engine block is ninety millimeters.
The Audi S8 is a high-performance version of the first generation A8, similar to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class's S55 AMG. It ceased production in 2003, before Audi introduced its second generation A8. The Audi S8 is powered by a 4.2 L 360 hp (268.5 kW) V8 engine. With a Quattro IV permanent all-wheel drive system, this performance sedan is equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission. Its base price in 2003 was US$72,500. Forbes magazine has reported that Audi will produce a new S8 and a new-to-the-line RS8 in the future. The 2005 Audi S8 model is powered by a V10 engine (derived from the Lamborghini Gallardo V10 engine).
The S8 came to popular prominence after the movie Ronin, starring Robert De Niro, where its dramatic speed combined with its size became a useful plot element, and gained the car much international attention.
The A8 Coupe
In 1997, IVM Automotive of Munich, Germany built a 2-door Audi A8 Coupe. The car was unveiled at the 1997 Geneva Motor Show. Audi hired IVM to build the prototype, and was considering production of the vehicle. The coupe had a re-engineered alloy body shorter than the production A8 sedan. Like the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, there was no central pillar, giving the car a seamless design with a gradually sloping roofline. The car included custom leather seats and could seat four. Ultimately, Audi decided not to put the coupe into production, citing lower-than-expected sales figures for the similar BMW 8 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe. Only one A8 Coupe was ever built. The single prototype, painted a color called "Ming Blue Pearl," remains the property of IVM Automotive and resides in Munich. Its last public appearance was in 2002 on a series of test drives.