Just like the BMW 7-Series, the outgoing Audi A8 is only available in standard and long wheelbase guises, if we exclude last month’s six-door version which will remain a one-off. However, that could change with the all-new A8 (D5) due next year which could come in more upscale versions to rival the Mercedes-Maybach lineup. Audi’s technical boss, Stefan Knirsch, admitted in an interview with Auto Express that a further stretched variant of the A8 L could represent a viable business case given the success of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.
That’s not all. Audi is also thinking of a coupe-ified A8 to go head to head with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe. Let’s not forget the company with the three-pointed star logo also sells an S-Class Convertible, so if there will be an A8/A9 Coupe, maybe Audi will decide at some point to chop off its roof. Who knows, maybe the folks from Ingolstadt are also considering an ultra-luxurious, further-stretched sedan to battle the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class Pullman.
In related news, Kirsch announced the new A8 is going to come as standard with SAE Level 3 of automation. To put it in plain English, it means the driver will be able to remove his hands from the steering wheel for a longer amount of time compared to the current crop of semi-autonomous driving tech. As a reminder, we’ve known for quite some time the next A8 will initially be able to drive itself at speeds of up to 37 mph (60 kph), with more advanced capabilities set to arrive later on during the car’s life cycle.
As to when the all-new A8 will be introduced, it’s not known for sure at this point. We could see it in the first half of 2017, but only the standard and long wheelbase models. If other derivatives will get the stamp of approval, these are unlikely to come out sooner than 2018.