New Audi A8 Sedan protects against side impact

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To simulate a collision from the side, large yellow foam stones are pulled to the Audi A8 at 30 mph. The sedan feels the collision and lifts itself to better absorb the energy of the collision.

MONTEREY, California – The term "active suspension" has occasionally appeared on vehicles in the last 30 years, but it was always a bit of a misnomer.

It referred to systems that largely smooth out the ride over bumps in the road – thus more a "reactive" suspension than active.

But that is starting to change this year with the introduction of the new Audi A8 sedan in the United States. Thanks to a circle of active sensors, a built-in 48-volt electrical system and lightning-fast electromechanical actuators, the predictive active air suspension of the large German luxury sedan can do more cool tricks than a well-trained assistance dog.

For example, when equipped with the optional top-end suspension system, the A8 can detect a threatening lateral impact and raise the side of the vehicle by 3.1 inches, allowing the heavily reinforced ground sill to absorb a greater proportion of the impact energy.

Audi demonstrated this function to journalists this month at a former airport here, although the predictive active suspension will only be available next summer as an option on 2020 models.

The redesigned Audi A8, which is coming to American showrooms this quarter, will be better able to handle potholes and speed bumps.

Simulation on the side

Large yellow foam blocks that simulated the front of an oncoming vehicle were placed on a sled that was pulled towards the passenger side of a parked A8 by 30 mph.

In the event of a collision on the side – as determined by the sensors on the side – the A8 supports itself. The sedan arms its airbags and when the threat increases, it closes windows and the sunroof and finally, at the last minute, it uses the air suspension to lift the vehicle on the side of the approaching crash.

Audi says that the effectiveness of the system depends on the characteristics of the oncoming vehicle, but by increasing the height, more impact can be absorbed by the very strong steel in the sill and car body structure, instead of the weaker doors.

The added side-impact protection also treats holes in an unusual way.

Shock absorbers and / or supports keep the cab of a vehicle stable while the wheels and tires absorb the shock from hitting the edge of the hole. With the A8 onboard array of sensors, the sedan can see the tire go to a hole in the road and block the wheels slightly so as not to fall too far into the hole, thus reducing the stroke on the rear edge of the hole and the ride becomes smoother.

The same technology ensures that the A8 absorbs speed increases with almost no noticeable impact in the cab and ensures that the large sedan can not dive during hard stops and squat during hard accelerations.

Other applications

The built-in sensors of the A8 – including radars, laser detection and cameras – also enable the driver assistance system, including driving movements and Audi's file assistance, an adaptive cruise control system that automatically brakes and accelerates in traffic.

During a 40-mile test drive, the driver felt the need to intervene only once – when a lane approaching an intersection splits into two without extra markers.

Optional four-wheel steering, which will be available at the launch, also gives the A8 the turning circle of a small sports sedan such as the A4.

The A8 – starting at $ 84,795, including delivery – was first shown in Barcelona in the spring of 2017 and is for sale in Europe. American dealers have started ordering the new A8 and vehicles are expected in showrooms this quarter.