It is many years since Audi had a presence in the luxury car sector. One has to go back to the pre-war Horsch 830 Pullman and 930V Convertible. History recalls that Schorsch Meier turned down the offer of one of the 8-cylinder Horschs on becoming an Auto-Union driver. It is doubtful if he would make the same decision over the new Audi V8.
The sophistication of its chassis and the comfort of the cockpit can cocoon the driver from the realities of the outside world. One can press on for miles in atrocious conditions, almost unaware of the speeds that this 146 mph car may be achieving. Of the 50 million DM spent developing the V8, 17 million DM was allocated to the new acoustic wind tunnel at Audi’s Neckarsulm plant. The quiet interior of the car, even at speed, would indicate that this was money well spent.
Attention has been paid to the safety aspect of the V8 with a strong passenger safety cell. The ingenious Procon Ten safety system is featured which, in the event of an accident, can result in the steering wheel being pulled away from the driver and the front seat belts reeled in.
At £40,334, the V8 is a true luxury car intended to compete with the BMW 7series, Mercedes-Benz S class and the Jaguar XJ6. There is more to the story. As VAG managing director, Richard Ide, states, ‘there is no car on the market today with the specification of the V8’.
The success of the vehicle may hinge on customers’ desire for its impressive active and passive safety. Like any other Audi in appearance, it lacks the Teutonic splendour of the Mercedes or the style of the Jaguar. Despite the exploits of the quattro, does Audi have the charisma for this sector?
Richard Ide reckons it does. ‘Audi appreciation has improved enormously over the past two years.’ A survey has shown that the V8 is already regarded as a ‘slightly higher status symbol’ than the 7-series. Audi is catering for the market of the future, a world in which it is becoming socially unacceptable to flaunt one’s material possessions. There is not even a badge to betray the car’s identity.
The Audi’s 250 bhp, quad-cam 32 valve 3.6-litre is, at 40.95cm, the shortest V8 unit in the market. Its high level of technology is illustrated by the fact that Audi has been granted three patents associated with the design. The trio comprises the induction system, the honeycomb sump and the noise reducing insulation material and associated wiring.
The V8 brings permanent four-wheel drive to the class using third generation quattro drivetrain. For the first time this has been mated to an automatic gearbox. Use is made of the ZF HP22 with an electro-hydraulic gearshift. Three different programmes are offered. In economy mode the gearbox changes up at low engine speed, the sport mode takes the rev counter round to maximum possible revs, while the manual position enables the driver to operate the box as a ‘clutchless’ manual.
Two automatic differential locks are incorporated in the drive train — one central, the other a Torsen differential housed in the rear axle. Neither differential effects the standard ABS system. All cars will be imported to specific customer order with owners being offered the opportunity to attend, free, the Audi quattro High Performance Driving Course. Richard Ide states that every V8 is being treated as a ‘very individual, very special sale.’ IRW