Audi is gearing up to tackle the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series with a smart new A8. We still haven't been treated to a look at the finished flagship, but teasers have started to trickle out of Ingolstadt. Having shared details about the car's lightweight body, Audi says the suspension on the new A8 will automatically adjust itself based on the road ahead.
This forward thinking suspension system is facilitated by the car's 48-volt main electrical system. Each wheel is hooked up to an electric motor, which can exert up to 1,100 Nm (811 lb.ft) of force on the suspension through a coupling rod. A similar system has been fitted to the SQ7 SUV, which uses an electric motor and three-speed planetary gearbox as a form of active anti-roll bar to reduce bodyroll in the corners, and pitch when accelerating or braking.
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In the upcoming A8, a front-mounted camera is used to detect bumps in the road ahead. It scans the road 18 times per second, and shares the information with the new electronic chassis platform processor, which subsequently tunes the suspension to match what's coming up ahead. Audi says the electro-mechanical system delivers a smooth ride without negatively impacting on handling.
Speaking of handling, Audi says a combination of adaptive front-wheel steering and rear-wheel steering will make the A8 feel significantly smaller than it actually is. At low speeds, the system will give the car a smaller turning circle than you get in an A4, while it should deliver a stable, planted feeling at high speeds.
Audi's smarter suspension is also handy in an accident. When the A8's active safety sensors detect an imminent side-impact collision, the suspension actuators raise one side of the car by 80 mm (3.1 in) within half a second. This allows the stronger parts of the car – including the sills and floor structure – to absorb more of the force. Audi says the system reduces the load on occupants by up to 50 percent in a serious side-impact collision.
The new A8 will launch at the Audi Summit on July 11th.