Article and photos by Jacob Black

2015 Audi A8 and S8
2015 Audi A8. Click image to enlarge

For any other company, in any other segment, and in any other time, a tagline like, “The best headlights in the world” might have drawn chuckles.  If such a claim had come from any other brand you might dismiss it as a PR department grasping at straws – but with Audi, and the A8 in particular, the claim actually resonates.

Audi is the brand most closely linked with LED headlights – I know, I know! Lexus had them first – but it was Audi who made them famous. And now the 2015 A8 can be fitted with Audi’s new Matrix headlights, which not only shine around corners, but automatically dim high-beam when another car is ahead or oncoming [and probably cost about as much as a Toyota Matrix… –Ed.].

“With these headlights, the high-beam unit is made up of 25 individual segments,” an Audi press release explains.

“The small light-emitting diodes, which work in conjunction with lenses and reflectors connected in series, are activated and deactivated or dimmed individually according to the situation.

“This enables the system to react precisely to other cars, which it recognizes using a camera, and always illuminate the road brightly. Additional features of the new headlights are the intelligent cornering light, new-look daytime running lights and dynamic turn signals.”

2015 Audi A8 & S82015 Audi A8 & S82015 Audi A8 & S82015 Audi A8 & S8
2015 Audi A8 & S8. Click image to enlarge

This also allows the headlights to aim the high-beam during cornering, without the need for a pivot mechanism in the headlight itself.

The top-down shot of the car driving a winding mountain road in the release video showed impressive illumination – and it remains to be seen if that video matches reality – but after watching the short clip I was a believer in LED-only lights. Audi claims there are 1 billion light points in the system based on the available diodes, mirrors and lenses. I don’t know what that figure actually proves, all I know is they look sensational, and lit up a darkened stage brilliantly.

Speaking of big claims, Audi poked its compatriots with a cheeky claim that the A8’s sport variant, the S8, is the “sportiest premium sedan in the luxury class”, citing its 4.2 second 0–100 km/h time, sports suspension and the 520 hp, 4.0L TFSI engine.

2015 Audi A8 & S82015 Audi A8
2015 Audi A8 & S8. Click image to enlarge

The last standout claim from the launch was slightly watered down. “The Audi A8 3.0 TFSI with the normal wheelbase has a curb weight of just 1,830 kilograms (4,034 lb) – best in class for models with all-wheel drive,” Audi says. Not a bad number for a car like this, but A8 scale readings see-saw like a bridesmaid with a KFC addiction in the months before a wedding; 1,830 is the lowest they go but the long wheelbase W12 comes in at 2,165 kg. That’s not an entirely fair comparison though; the W12 is only available in long wheelbase trim.

“Big Range” is really an excellent way to explain the A8. Engine sizes range from 3.0L V6 to 6.3L W12, and fuel economy runs from 5.9 L/100 km to 11.7 L/100 km.

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