Can Audi plant its flag on Bentley’s turf with a palatial A8-based sedan?

2019 Audi A8 First Drive
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

The fourth-generation A8 proudly reigns over the Audi lineup as the company’s flagship model. It’s more lavish than ever before, and it oozes with cutting-edge tech features, but the German company believes there is room to make it even more luxurious in order to reach new buyers — and, in the process, rival some of the world’s most prestigious automakers.

Audi CEO Bram Schot told investors that the company has started working on a “particularly luxurious and prestigious derivative” of the A8. “We are thinking about revolutionizing the top-end class with a completely new concept for the A8,” he said without going into further details.

Mercedes-Benz, one of Audi’s archenemies, has already blazed the trail. It offers two Maybach-badged variants of the S-Class called S560 and S650. Both receive a brand-specific exterior design, an even more upmarket interior, more standard features, and a longer list of available optional equipment. Audi wants to follow this formula — which has worked spectacularly well for Mercedes, especially in China — to create an A8-based limousine, according to Automotive News.

There’s no word yet on what will power the super A8. In the United States, the standard model is available with a turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 engine tuned to deliver 335 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, thanks in part to mild-hybrid technology. The six spins the four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system. We expect the company will release a V8-powered S8 in the coming months. While this is pure speculation, we think a flagship model deserves a fittingly powerful engine, and the twin-turbocharged, 6.0-liter W12 engine in the corporate parts bin would fit the bill perfectly. Found in Bentley’s Bentayga, among other models, it delivers 600 hp in its most basic configuration.

Another important detail that remains guarded for the time being is when we’ll see the upmarket A8 in showrooms. Audi hasn’t released a time frame yet, but it could announce additional details before the end of 2019. When the model lands, it will compete directly against the aforementioned Mercedes-Maybach S-Class models, which cost $170,750 and $199,900, respectively. It’s reasonable to assume Audi will price its range-topping A8 in the same vicinity. By climbing to a new plateau in the automotive industry, the brand will plant a flag on territory historically occupied by sister company Bentley, but its top executives don’t seem worried. Competition betters the breed, after all.

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