One of the quieter, more subtle reveals of the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, the A8 L Security sedan debuted as Audi's most secure car ever. It leaps two levels beyond its predecessor and packs enough reinforcements to survive armor-piercing assault rifle fire and hand grenade explosions. This real-life James Bond car can also extinguish its own flames, blow its doors hinges apart for emergency exit and communicate clearly with the world immediately outside.
Last year, Mercedes introduced its VR9-certified Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard, and now Audi is meeting the same benchmark with its luxury flagship. The black A8 makes an appropriately stately but low-profile platform for an armored package.
Audi has built the unitary occupant safety cell up from lightweight but high-strength materials including aramide fabric, special aluminum alloys and hot-formed armor steel. That gives it full VR9-level protection, which in layman's terms, means it can withstand fire from an assault rifle loaded with NATO armor piercing ammunition.
The A8 L Security also offers explosive resistance, giving it the ability to roll through a hand grenade attack. This comes courtesy of reinforced aluminum side sills and a special-alloy armor-plated floor.
The seemingly vulnerable glass has also been reinforced. Audi uses a multi-layer construction with a splinter-inhibiting polycarbonate inside layer on the door windows, windshield and rear window.
The A8 L Security includes enhanced technology, starting with an armored communications box in the luggage compartment housing communication and vehicle electronics, an auxiliary battery and security-feature control modules. An integrated intercom system allows occupants to communicate with the outside world when the windows are up using internal and external microphones and a loudspeaker built into the front grille.
The options list is filled with more high-tech, high-security features. At the press of a sealed switch, the emergency exit feature blows pyrotechnic-activated fracture bolts, separating the door from the vehicle body for swift exit. The available push-button/heat-sensor-activated fire extinguishing system integrated into the underbody puts out flames around the fuel tank, engine compartment, underbody and wheel arches.
Another interesting option is the emergency fresh-air system, handy for driving through clouds of noxious gases and other airborne hazards. The system over-pressurizes the cabin with clean breathing air, preventing toxic gases from getting in.
While all those emergency contingency features look pretty cool on paper, the best plan is to escape any attack or hazard before encountering it. For that, the A8 L Security comes with the buyer's choice of a 429-hp 4.0 biturbo TFSI V8 or a naturally aspirated 594-hp 6.3-liter W12 FSI. The car's top speed of 130.5 mph (210 km/h) isn't quite as high as an international crimefighter might like in a high speed chase, but it's limited to protect the tires, which are equipped with emergency flat-running hardware. The A8 L Security hits 62 mph (100 km/h) in 7.1 seconds when equipped with the W12 option.
The A8 L Security falls a little short of the S600 Guard's 530 hp, but it has one thing that the Benz doesn't: Audi's renowned quattro all-wheel-drive system tweaked for its newly appointed security duties. Audi says that it's the only AWD luxury sedan offered as an armored high-security vehicle direct from manufacturer.
The A8 chassis has been retuned to handle the extra weight of the security package, and the L Security rides on forged aluminum wheels wrapped in special tires.
Audi is now taking orders for the new A8 L Security, and deliveries will begin in spring (northern hemisphere) of next year. Its Neckarsulm plant and a "secure, top-secret factory" will be responsible for manufacturing.