BARCELONA, Spain – The new fourth-generation Audi A8 is unveiled ahead of a planned public premiere at the upcoming Frankfurt auto show and the launch of North American deliveries in 2018. 

Hailed as the dawning of a new era for the German automaker, the restyled luxury sedan has been comprehensively re-engineered in a bid to more successfully challenge upmarket rivals such as the BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The new A8 features the latest evolution of Audi’s MLB platform and a 48V electrical system that provides the basis for a new hybrid drivetrain offering an electric range of up to 31 miles (50 km) as well as an advanced road-scanning active suspension and contemporary touchscreen control system within a heavily redesigned interior.

The sedan also is claimed to be the first series-production road car to have been developed expressively for what Audi describes as “highly automated driving.”

Among the showcase features available as part of a long list of optional equipment for the new Audi, which goes under the internal codename D5, is a so-called traffic-jam pilot system. Part of an available suite of 41 individual driver-assistant functions, it takes charge of driving in slow moving nose-to-tail traffic up to a speed of 31 mph (50 km/h) on roads where a physical barrier separates the opposing lanes.

As well as relying on cameras, short- and long-range radar and ultrasonic sensors, traffic-jam pilot is the first Level 2 automated driving system to be offered on a production car that employs a laser scanner, which is integrated into the front bumper. Information gathered from each device is processed in a central controller – the key to what Audi describes as permanent merging of data for added autonomous driving precision.  

The new system, which is planned for other future Audi models, manages the starting, accelerating, braking and steering functions. But without a legal framework for its operation in many markets, Audi says it will introduce its new autonomous-driving technology step-by-step.