NAIAS 2004: 12-Cylinder Audi A8 L

DETROIT (2004 NAIAS) – Audi proudly presents its new flagship model: the 12-cylinder A8. The brand with the four-ring badge yet again defines the benchmark for dynamic performance in the absolute top automotive bracket.

Because the launching of the A8 L 6.0 quattro marks the appearance of a vehicle full of superlatives – the sportiest luxury saloon car in the world. Twelve cylinders, 450 bhp and 580 Newton-metres of torque make this a supremely excellent car.

The A8 6.0 L quattro sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds, and it accelerates from 0 to 200 in a mere 17.4 seconds. The twelve-cylinder model reaches its electronically governed top speed of 250 km/h after scarcely 30 seconds. The most impressive thing about it is just how spontaneously the six-litre engine translates every adjustment of the throttle into acceleration, and just how smoothly it can rev right up to the rated speed of 6,200 rpm if desired.

At the same time more than 95 percent of the engine’s peak torque is available between 2,300 and 5,300 rpm; the ideal basis for supreme pulling power in every velocity range. The torque characteristic of this large-capacity naturally aspirated engine is utterly unequalled.

The six-speed automatic transmission with tiptronic function makes sure that exactly the right amount of power is always available. And it additionally offers the driver the chance to intervene actively in the tiptronic gearshift gate. The automatic transmission’s Sport program waits for higher engine speeds before shifting up, and shifts down sooner, allowing the full revving ability of the twelve-cylinder engine to be utilised.

In conjunction with the low weight of the aluminium body built using the Audi Space Frame ASF principle, the engine and transmission turn in an excellent performance coupled with exemplary economy.

quattro permanent four-wheel drive remains unequalled in the luxury segment. It translates engine performance with superb efficiency into propulsion and lateral support. The aluminium chassis with air suspension as standard is a feature found only on the new A8 L 6.0 quattro, a system that delivers the right characteristic for every situation: by means of the continuously variable damper settings, the adaptive air suspension reduces body movements, while optimising roadholding and ride comfort.

The driver can choose between four predefined settings, for a suspension characteristic ranging from overtly sporty to ultra-comfortable.

The interior presents an atmosphere of superb luxury. The top quality of the materials and finish, visible and palpable down to the smallest detail, perfectly complements the spaciousness and perfected ergonomic layout. The driver and passengers alike can savour an ambience, the style, exclusivity and functionality of which are remarkable, even in the luxury car bracket.

All these characteristics highlight the sheer technological calibre of this luxury saloon and – in conjunction with the superlative drive train and suspension – create a unique vehicle: the Audi A8 L 6.0 quattro.


Even at a glance, the flowing outlines of the new Audi A8 make the overall character of this 5.19-metre long, 1.89-metre wide and 1.45-metre high saloon perfectly clear. It is a harmonious blend of clarity, sports appeal, agility and elegance.

The flat front end with strikingly short overhang, a high, imposing tail end and the pronounced wedge shape of the new A8 L 6.0 quattro lend it an overtly dynamic architecture. The crouched silhouette and the shoulder line rising sharply to the rear accentuate its sportiness. The prestigious size of this large luxury saloon only becomes evident upon closer inspection.

The A8 L 6.0 quattro is identifiable at first glance as the top model in the range. Its front end is distinguished by the new formal idiom of Audi design. Its central element is the striking single-frame radiator grille, the outer chrome ring of which surrounds the painted grey fins of the grille with horizontal chrome strips. The W12 badge serves as a visual indication of the engine’s high performance.

The clear glass headlight covers visibly display the technology that they protect: the 12-cylinder A8 is the first car in the world to be equipped with LED daytime driving lights, whose distinctive 5-pointed star-type lighting elements have a dual function as new design features for the vehicle’s front end. A revolutionary technology: because the A8 L 6.0 quattro is the first vehicle in the world on which the use of daytime driving lights adds virtually nothing to fuel consumption – a clear safety advantage, as the car is more easily spotted whatever the light conditions.

This advance has been made possible by the use of LED units, the energy consumption of which is only a fraction of that of conventional bulbs. When the low-beam headlights are switched on by the standard-fit light and rain sensor, the daytime driving lights remain on but are dimmed to the brightness of the side lights. The LED daytime driving lights thus serve as a distinguishing feature both by day and by night.

At the rear end, the trapezoidal exhaust tailpipes integrated into the rear bumper single out the A8 L 6.0 quattro as the new Audi flagship model.

18-inch wheels with a 12-spoke design act as a further typical feature of the 12-cylinder A8 when viewed side-on. The wheelbase of the long version of the 12-cylinder Audi A8 measures 3074 mm. The extra 130 mm in the body’s length has been most elegantly incorporated between the B and D-posts. The rear doors, which are also 130 mm longer, blend harmoniously into the dynamic side line. They make it extremely easy to get in and out of the car.

The driver-oriented overall design of the driving area that is a characteristic of all A8 versions is a notable feature of the interior. The central architectural features are the rising centre console – reminiscent of a sports car – incorporating the MMI terminal, with its retractable display in the instrument panel.

The MMI and the absence of a conventional handbrake lever pave the way for the neat, expansive design of both the centre console and the instrument panel.

The smooth transition between the instrument panel and the door top shoulder is another feature that is typical of Audi. This line, structured by a two-section trim insert, continues back into the rear compartment, creating a new ambience. Depending on the choice of materials, the interior can be given a sporty flavour, or a tastefully elegant direction. One exclusive trait of the top version’s driving area is a horizontal aluminium strip running below the wooden trim inlay.

Another equally visible feature of the 12-cylinder A8 is the new 4-spoke multifunction steering wheel. The new generation is distinguished by the visual reference to the single-frame trapezium with the four rings on the central airbag cover. Its oval exterior geometry is likewise a variation on the single-frame shape.

There are three new versions of seat available, developed specifically for the A8, to match the various specifications and thus assure a harmonious interior appearance.

The electrically adjustable front seats (with active head restraints at the front) combine perfect long-distance comfort with good lateral support and maximum safety. Qualities from which the rear occupants likewise benefit: they too will appreciate the individual seats, available as an option at no extra charge. There are ultra-ergonomic Comfort seats, again available as an option for all passengers, and for which a massage and ventilation function is available.

The engine: Compact power plant

Here is an engine beyond compare: the twelve-cylinder power unit in the form of a double “V”, or “W”, for the Audi A8 L 6.0 quattro is quite unparalleled by any other modern-day unit. This engine made its successful début in the top version of the previous generation. There, the W12 developed 420 bhp and made the luxury saloon the most highly powered representative of its class at the time of its unveiling.

The “W” design principle has one inestimable advantage: despite the larger number of cylinder units, and despite a clearly higher displacement, the W12 is as compact as a V8 and thus has much smaller dimensions than a conventional V12 engine.

The scope for pairing of this engine with quattro four-wheel drive is thanks solely to its unusually short length of 513 millimetres and its width of 690 millimetres. Other twelve-cylinder engines installed at the front of the car can only drive the rear wheels – in this case there is not enough space under the bonnet for additional front-wheel drive components.

Another advantage of this compact design – together with the use of the light metals aluminium and magnesium – is the very low weight of the twelve-cylinder engine. And this in turn helps to produce an unbeatably low total vehicle weight of 1995 kilograms, lighter than any of its competitors. One horsepower on the Audi A8 L 6.0 quattro has to accelerate just 4.4 kilograms – a figure that is on a par with a high-performance sports car.

The W principle

The Audi twelve-cylinder engine is also unparalleled in the history of engine technology – despite the fact that there have already been examples of this

W-engine design in automotive history. The legendary 1920s Rumpler “tear-drop” car, for example, for which its designer developed a six-cylinder engine in 3×2 formation. Or, just a few years later, the world record car driven by Campbell, Seagrave and Cobb: this was powered by a W12 aircraft engine with a capacity of 24 litres and developing 502 bhp.

Audi, too, has already made use of a W12 engine in the past: the legendary Avus super sports car study, presented in 1991, had an output of 509 bhp.

A direct comparison with these engines clearly reveals the special feature of the Audi engine. Unlike its historical predecessors, it is not a W-engine in the classic sense with three separate cylinder banks, where three connecting rods are mounted on a single crankpin. The new twelve-cylinder engine, which the Audi design engineers have developed together with their Volkswagen colleagues, is different: in this case, there are two connecting rods per crank pin.

A glance at the engine’s cylinder blocks shows that two ultra-compact inline V6 units have been combined into one. Each of the two cylinder blocks contains six cylinders arranged in pairs at an angle of 15 degrees. This offset configuration makes an ideal synthesis of the very compact width – compared with the classic V6 – and the very short length of a four-cylinder engine.

Joining these two units at an angle of 72 degrees to produce a twelve-cylinder engine has a third advantage: the shallow height of the engine means that the aerodynamically beneficial, flat silhouette of the A8’s front end can remain unchanged.

A further advantage is that the unmistakable sporty aura of the Audi A8 design has been retained in the top-of-the-range version, where perhaps it is most expected.

Another benefit of this design is the high rigidity of the engine as a whole. This means extremely low levels of vibration and translates into a standard of vibrational comfort which surpasses even the high level expected of a conventional twelve-cylinder engine.

The heart of the W12 engine is the crankshaft running in seven bearings and weighing just 21.2 kilograms. The crankpins are offset to achieve a constant firing order as on a V6 engine.

Optimum charging, low emissions

Double overhead camshafts per cylinder bank are responsible for the valve gear. Driven by a single chain, they operate two inlet and two exhaust valves per cylinder via low-friction roller cam followers, a principle which helps not least to reduce fuel consumption noticeably.

The camshafts can be adjusted variably – by 52 degrees at the inlet valves and 22 degrees at the exhaust valves – which means that the optimum valve timing can be realised across the entire engine-speed range. It is thus possible to achieve good idle-speed quality, low crude emissions, low fuel consumption and ample torque across the speed range.

Mixture preparation is performed by the Bosch Motronic ME 7.1.1 with electronic sequential injection. This system includes electronic throttle control, hot-film air-mass sensing, cylinder-selective knock control via four sensors and permanent lambda control.

Exhaust emission control is performed by four close-coupled ceramic catalytic converters. Eight heated oxygen sensors continually monitor the exhaust gas. As a result, even such a powerful engine as this easily satisfies the emission limits according to EU 4.

Greater power, lower consumption

The latest generation of the twelve-cylinder engine has been substantially uprated. Its extra 30 bhp mean that its power output has increased by fourteen percent.

It can call upon 560 Newton-metres of torque across a broad speed range from 2,300 to 5,300 rpm. This gain – along with the 20 Nm increase in peak torque to 580 Nm – is the outcome of painstaking improvements to many different areas.

The new 6.0 W12 for instance has lighter pistons and connecting rods – the lower weights are a vital condition of this large-capacity engine’s stability at high operating speeds. At the same time the exhaust system’s pressure losses in the intake zone and the counterpressure have been reduced. This means that the power unit is able to breathe more freely, that the charge cycle proceeds more swiftly and consequently that the engine is more responsive to operation of the accelerator pedal.

Another outcome of the engine’s enhanced efficiency is its lower fuel consumption – even compared with its predecessor, which developed 30 bhp less. Together with the particularly effective modifications to the new 6-speed tiptronic, the detailed engine optimisation measures have cut fuel consumption by 0.8 to 13.8 litres of Super Plus fuel over 100 km – a reduction of over five percent.

Inimitable twelve-cylinder sound

There’s no doubt that a successful twelve-cylinder engine owes a great deal to its very special sound. Audi thus also placed a great deal of emphasis during development on these specific acoustic qualities.

This means an extremely low-vibration idle-speed quality, which is also free from low-frequency components thanks to the incorporation of an exhaust flap. The W12 in the A8 moreover achieves a particularly low noise level during partial-load acceleration and at constant vehicle speeds.  

At the same time, Audi’s acoustics engineers have composed an extremely sporty, powerful sound pattern, albeit with a touch of refinement, for when this engine is accelerating at full load.

This unmistakable sound design combines the demand for maximum acoustic quality with the emotional and dynamic component, which ultimately also typifies the overall character of the vehicle in conjunction with its excellent performance.

These acoustic strengths are based on the meticulous tuning of the vehicle as a whole, for which several components are responsible: alongside dynamically optimising the crankshaft and camshaft drives, the focus was placed on fine-tuning the unit mountings, the exhaust and air intake system and the body silencing and damping concept.

Efficient power transmission

The new 6-speed tiptronic with Dynamic Shift Program DSP and additional Sport program is available for the first time in conjunction with an Audi twelve-cylinder engine. Thanks to the extra gear, the engine’s output and torque are always unleashed with such precision that the conflicting requirements of spontaneous power flow, high performance and perfectly refined running are all achieved.

The additional sixth speed moreover means that the spread between the lowest and highest ratios has been increased to 6.04 – a vital requirement of greater dynamism on the one hand, and optimum economy on the other.

As an option, it is possible to change gear either using the selector lever in the tiptronic gate or via shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. The ergonomic advantages of this concept have already been demonstrated on the Le Mans champion model, the Audi R8: drivers can also change gear when cornering, without having to take their hands off the steering wheel.

quattro permanent four-wheel drive continues to lead the way in the luxury segment. It converts the engine’s performance with superb efficiency into propulsion and cornering stability, and effortlessly translates the immense torque into locomotion.

The body: lightweight construction and agility

The innovative aluminium body, based on a refined version of the Audi Space Frame ASF, provides the high-strength basis for low weight, a dynamic performance and excellent handling. It was possible to reduce considerably the number of components on the fully enclosed ASF compared with the first A8 generation through the use of large functional castings and extruded sections. Static torsional rigidity was increased by 60 percent and ensures a substantial improvement in vibrational comfort, safety and dynamic handling potential. The bodyshell weighs 50 percent less than a steel body: minimum mass combined with maximum stability.

The chassis: further increased dynamism if the driver so chooses

The new Audi A8 L 6.0 quattro has a refined aluminium chassis with four-link front suspension and self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear suspension. The brakes and steering system with variable ratio and servotronic are a new design.

adaptive air suspension – a 4-corner air suspension system with continuous damper control – resolves the classic conflict between good handling properties and suspension comfort commensurate with the luxury class. The adaptive air suspension system has the right characteristic for every driving situation, reduces body movements with its continuously adjusted damping and thus optimises roadholding and comfort.

The data from four sensors on the axles and three acceleration sensors on the body is evaluated in the adaptive air suspension’s central control unit. This computer prompts the adjustment of the individual shock absorbers in a matter of milliseconds, based on the driving situation identified, thereby always assuring optimum driving dynamics and ride comfort.

The driver can choose between four predefined settings, for a suspension characteristic ranging from overtly sporty to ultra-comfortable.

In the automatic mode, the body is at the standard height when the car is stationary and travelling at open-road speeds, with 120 millimetres of ground clearance. If the new A8 is driven at more than 120 km/h for over 30 seconds, the body is lowered by 25 millimetres. Conversely, the body is raised if the vehicle is driven at less than 70 km/h for more than two minutes or as soon as it drops below a speed of 35 km/h.

The dynamic mode lowers the vehicle by 20 millimetres to a ground clearance of 100 millimetres even before it sets off; its centre of gravity is lower and the air suspension operates with firmer springs and a harder damping characteristic. The suspension tuning is particularly agile as a result.

The comfort mode enables the car to glide extra-smoothly over all kinds of surface bumps because the system increases damping forces less frequently at lower speeds. The automatic lowering at motorway speeds is suppressed in order to obtain maximum compression travel.

The lift mode can be activated in the speed range below 80 km/h as required. It keeps the ground clearance raised by 25 millimetres and offers the balanced damping characteristics of the automatic mode. It is therefore particularly suitable for driving on uneven terrain.

Supremely spacious

In addition to dynamic performance, ample space and comfort single out the A8 L 6.0 quattro as the ideal luxury saloon for long-distance travel. The rear passengers reap the full benefit of the 3074-millimetre wheelbase. The rear compartment can be equipped with the option of a continuous, leather-trimmed centre console: a sumptuous design feature that provides ample scope for both rear passengers in the generously dimensioned rear compartment to travel in individual style.

Owners of the Audi A8 L 6.0 quattro will find it hard to choose where to take a seat when climbing into their car: behind the wheel they can enjoy driving the sportiest of luxury saloons, with its advanced aluminium chassis with air suspension and adaptive damper control, quattro permanent four-wheel drive and powerful 12-cylinder engine.

Those who leave the steering wheel to their chauffeurs and take a seat in the rear will be greeted by a level of spaciousness and seating comfort that sets new standards. As an option – at no extra charge – passengers can travel on electrically adjusted, ultra-ergonomic individual Comfort seats. These are also available with massage function and seat climate control, according to personal preferences. Passengers can look forward to a very enjoyable journey, because the Audi A8 L 6.0 quattro is at present probably the most dynamic way to be driven rather than to drive.

Multimedia on wheels: Rear Seat Entertainment RSE

Travelling in the rear of the Audi A8 L 6.0 quattro promises to be an even more relaxing affair in future. Developed by quattro GmbH, the Rear Seat Entertainment RSE package combines two 6.5″ LCD monitors in the head restraints of the driver’s and front passenger’s seats, and a 6-disc DVD changer in the luggage compartment. This deluxe saloon car can thus be transformed into a mobile multimedia centre supplying information and entertainment, and even allowing the rear occupants to watch a film while on the move.

The system sockets are at the centre of the rear compartment, and the vehicle navigation can be operated via a separate remote control. A separate AV input for each monitor enables the use of a variety of external picture sources such as a video camera or games console, and a TV receiver is likewise integrated. There are two headset outputs and separate controls on the RSE monitors themselves, to allow them to be operated independently of each other.

A remote control makes communication with the MMI a very straightforward affair: it is used to adjust the volume, select the TV, CD or radio and operate the telephone and navigation system.

A mobile phone/fax unit in the rear compartment is also available; it is either integrated into the centre tunnel or into the long centre console, depending on the car’s specification. Folding tables which can be retracted flush into the backrests of the front seats complete the mobile office for the 12-cylinder A8.

The MMI operating concept

With the integrated user interface MMI, Audi offers an infotainment platform and user concept for the A8 that keeps operation simple thanks to its systematic logic. MMI in the first instance comprises the control panel (MMI terminal) in the centre console with a control button that can be turned and pressed, and four control keys grouped around it.

On either side of the terminal – apart from the Return key for exiting the menu level – there are a total of eight function keys with which the user can call up the most important main menus directly. The second central component of the MMI, a 7-inch colour monitor which can be retracted into the instrument panel, is positioned above the centre console in the instrument panel and therefore at an optimum angle of view for the driver.

The basic geometry of the monitor display corresponds in detail to the layout of the control keys and button in the MMI terminal. There is thus an intuitive link between visual perception and hand movements.

Standard equipment

There’s no doubt that the exceptional quality of the Audi A8 L 6.0 quattro’s standard equipment, as well as its sheer diversity, redefines the standard in the luxury class.

Because it offers combinations of technologies that are unequalled by anything else on the market: an ASF-type aluminium body, aluminium chassis, adaptive air suspension and quattro permanent four-wheel drive unequivocally position the new Audi flagship model as a highly comfortable and sporty luxury saloon.

The A8’s steering has speed-dependent and steer-angle-dependent servotronic. The steering effort required thus varies according to road speed and steering-wheel angle.

The 6-speed tiptronic, the new leather multifunction steering wheel with 4?spoke design and the four-zone deluxe automatic air conditioning with moisture sensor, indirect ventilation and sun sensor provide maximum comfort and convenience. The automatically operated boot lid, doors with power-assisted closing and the cruise control system likewise enhance these qualities.

But that is not all. Pioneering technologies such as the MMI Multi Media Interface, electromechanical parking brake with starting assist function and LED technology in the rear lights and side turn indicators are the best possible proof of Audi’s proverbial “Vorsprung durch Technik”.

The new light and rain sensor automatically switches on the headlights and windscreen wipers in dim or wet conditions.

Electrically operated sunblinds for the side windows and rear window provide effective screening against glare and prevent the car’s interior from becoming too hot.

The adaptive light with the groundbreaking new feature of LED daytime driving lights lends the A8 L 6.0 quattro an unmistakable appearance and maintains optimum visibility at all times. Thanks to the efficiency of the LED units, this is achieved with virtually no adverse effect on fuel consumption. The cornering lights, which significantly broaden the driver’s field of vision, is an integral aspect of adaptive light. Depending on road speed, steering angle and turn indicator signal, the system activates an auxiliary headlight that enlarges the illuminated area sideways – a clear safety gain.

Active safety is enhanced by the latest version of the Electronic Stabilisation Program ESP with hydraulic brake assist. The high-performance brake system with 18-inch disc brakes assures safe and effective deceleration.

The BOSE surround sound system, again a standard-fit item, delivers a special quality of listening pleasure and an audio experience that sets new standards even in the luxury automotive class. The BOSE system in addition includes electronic compensation of the vehicle’s specific acoustic backdrop. And an equalizer matched to the car’s equipment and trim specification takes into account changes to interior acoustics caused, for instance, by the choice of cloth or leather upholstery.

Important optional extras

In recognition of the affinity of many A8 drivers for sporting characteristics throughout the vehicle, Audi offers the option of adaptive air suspension – sport. This sports suspension permits a level of driving dynamics that represents a new dimension in the segment of luxury-class saloon.

The 18 and 19-inch wheels are attractive to look at and optimise road behaviour. The new A8 is the first Audi to be available with wheels with run-flat tyres (PAX system); even when entirely deflated, these tyres remain securely on the rim and afford a hitherto unprecedented level of operating reliability in an emergency. A highly polished 20-inch wheel of 9-spoke design available from quattro GmbH is a new addition to the range.

The radar-controlled adaptive cruise control represents a major advance on conventional cruise control systems. The intelligent convenience system constantly monitors the distance between the car and the preceding vehicle, and adapts the car’s own speed accordingly by manipulating the accelerator and brakes. This makes the driver’s task decisively easier.

3-spoke leather-covered multifunction sports steering wheels and a wooden sports steering wheel in a 3-spoke design with gearshift function are available in addition to the standard 4-spoke multifunction steering wheel with leather rim and gearshift function.

The standard Comfort seats and optional Sport seats with additional electrical adjustment facilities are ideal for supreme long-distance comfort and perfect lateral support: the upper backrest and thigh support are individually adjustable. The Comfort seat can also be supplied with seat climate control and massage function.

The rear compartment can be equipped with the option of a continuous, leather-trimmed centre console: a sumptuous design feature that provides ample scope for both rear passengers to travel in individual style in the generously dimensioned rear compartment.

With its several predefined lighting profiles, the interior lighting package with ambient lighting illuminates the interior to suit various situations. In addition, the ambient lighting provides a new level of harmony with the interior design as a whole.

Advanced key permits the driver to open the new A8 without having to take hold of the key. A signal transmitter in the key releases the central locking when the vehicle is approached and allows the engine to be started at the push of the starter button as soon as the key is inside the car.

The one-touch memory personalisation system allows up to four drivers to specify individual presets for a wide range of functions and settings, and to have them activated spontaneously once they themselves have been automatically identified. The system identifies each driver by his or her fingerprint, which is scanned by a sensor pad on the advanced key system’s starter button.

The market

The target group for twelve-cylinder cars is understandably one characterised by out-and-out exclusivity. 6,000 new luxury cars with twelve-cylinder engines, predominantly German-built, are sold each year worldwide.

The new Audi A8 L 6.0 quattro now takes up its position among the leading members of this exclusive club. Its performance, displacement and the combination with quattro four-wheel drive single it out as a unique product in a unique market. Current production plans envisage an increase in volume to four times that of the previous model. Most of this contingent will be destined for the German market.

The prospective buyers of the new A8 L 6.0 quattro are people who have a strong affinity with fascinating technology and therefore with the unequalled performance of this car. They are people who feel at home in the luxury vehicle category; many of them may already have previously driven an A8.

These highly discerning customers are predominantly male and aged around 50. They are generally self-employed and educated to a high level. These people, who are enthusiastic about advanced technology and appreciate aesthetic excellence, cover considerable distances in their car and therefore value the particular blend of luxury, representative elegance and the incomparable power of the twelve-cylinder A8.

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