Since its introduction in 1994, Audi’s flagship A8 has remained at the pinnacle of engineering excellence – not just for the Ingolstadt marque, but across the automotive sector. Now, with its fourth generation, Audi has again provided the benchmark for “Vorsprung durch Technik” – with a new design language, an innovative touchscreen operating concept and a systematically electrified drive.

‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’ This German phrase is usually translated into English as ‘progress through technology’. A literal translation would be ‘advancement through technology’. There’s no single English word which is an exact English equivalent of ‘vorsprung’; but ‘to leap ahead’ comes close.

Audi will gradually be taking piloted driving functions such as parking pilot, garage pilot and traffic jam pilot into production for the Middle East market once the legislation has been validated.

With news of this, our Zeina Mokaddam (below) grasped the opportunity to slide behind the new A8’s wheel and experience this latest generation for herself.

The fourth-generation Audi A8 has the Mercedes S-Class in its sights and, with this target in mind, it’s beautifully made and sumptuously finished.

Technology abounds within and, while much of it is hidden away, even then you wonder where this is going to take us anyway but remember what we see on the A8 today will surely find its way on to the A3 and A4 of tomorrow.

The fourth-generation Audi A8 ushers in yet another new era for the big saloon, as one of the world’s first production cars to be developed with autonomous driving in mind. It also presents a new design language for the brand, along with a new touchscreen operating system and an even greater focus on tech.

The new A8 is more powerful, more economical and bigger than the previous model, and the level of standard specification is generous, including LED front and rear lights, adaptive air suspension, Virtual Cockpit, high-definition colour head-up display, Internet-based Audi Connect services, MMI Navigation Plus, wireless smartphone charging, dual-zone climate control and an LED interior lighting pack.

Upgrade to the long-wheelbase version and the spec is even more luxurious, especially for passengers in the back. Heated rear seats, four-zone climate control, two additional USB ports, electric sunblinds for the rear windows, comfort rear headrests and the ability to control various functions via a removable tablet deliver a limo-like experience.

The new car is actually 95kg heavier than before, but performance remains strong, with the petrol version accelerating to 100kph in 5.6 seconds. Opt for the longwheelbase version and the sprint time increases to 5.7 seconds. The top speed hits its ceiling long after you began breaking the law – at 250kph.

The interior of the A8 resembles a lavish, spacious lounge. Compared to the predecessor model, it has grown in length by 32 millimeters in both body versions. The interior has been deliberately reduced in form, and its architecture oriented strictly horizontally. In darkness, contour and ambient lighting elegantly outlines the striking design lines. New for the rear compartment are precisely controllable Matrix LED reading lights. The range of equipment and materials is extensive, with every detail radiating superlative bespoke quality – from the perforation in the seat upholstery to the electrically opening and closing decorative shutters on the air vents and the satiny leather of the comfort head restraints.

The A8 can also engage in intelligent conversation. The driver can activate an array of functions in the automobile using a new, natural form of voice control. Information on destinations and media is either available on board or is delivered from the cloud at LTE speed. The driver can freely formulate spoken commands – the voice recognition system understands such sentences in English such as “Please take me to the Four Seasons at Burj Alshaya”. Which is more than most taxi drivers can do so, if even for this reason alone, you should probably buy the excellent new Audi A8.