January 07, 2021 By Carl S. Cunanan

Predicting the Future? Audi’s Predictive Adaptive Suspension on the new A8

Technik Creates Comfort in the Audi A8L

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We all got a lot of things wrong in 2020. One of the things I personally got wrong, I improperly assessed the usability and value of what they call a Predictive Active Suspension System. I had previously used this type of a system, though not in a production level car, on the high speed highways of Europe. I found it somewhat useful in terms of setting up for high speed corners, in terms of stiffening the suspension a bit. It would use an understanding of the road ahead, and the curves and the speeds, combining GPS data with what the car itself would feel. And it would set up appropriately. So when I was asked to try a more highly developed active suspension system that would predict the road ahead, I was a bit taken back. Because we would be doing this not on the high speed highways of Europe, but on the somewhat rough roads of a quarantined Metro Manila.

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Audi A8 limousine luxury back seat

Cutting edge technology can actually benefit those that choose to sit in the back seat as well

I went into the experience with preconceptions. But I came out of it with a surprising reminder that you never really know how much you think you know. I never believed that the predictive active suspension system as used in the current Audi A8 is actually far more useful for comfort, than it ever would be for speed and handling. Which makes complete sense because most people will be driving, or being driven in this car at speeds well below 100 kilometers an hour. The system in the Audi A8 takes advantage of all the cameras that surround the car more than it does the GPS mapping system in the setups I had used previously. It scans the road ahead and all around at different levels, constantly. And it adjusts.

Audi A8 Limousine suspension diagram

The Audi Predictive Active Suspension System

In that way, you might not actually call it predictive, in the sense that it is actually seeing and reacting to something that exists. But what happens is very interesting. We started finding that the uneven surfaces of our roads were a bit more muted than we were used to. Even with other large luxury cars. The bad cracks and uneven surfaces of unfortunate everyday driving in Manila were kept a level or two away from you. We even went over the same surfaces and humps and inclinations at different speeds, just to see how the system would react. And it was very interesting to see that it would react differently at different speeds. Because it was attempting to keep the passengers isolated. And that would mean different actions, depending on that speed, even if you were going through the same terrain repeatedly. It was also very interesting to see how the car would keep the body almost horizontally flat when going up and down small rises and drops on, let’s say, a driveway.

Audi A8 Limousine luxury technology diagram

The suspension acts to anticipate not just problems but also opportunities to create smoothness

I am not the best person to assess comfort. I am far more interested in handling and how the car pitches and moves and feels and stays controllable. However, I had some very sensitive posterior equipment with me in the form of other passengers. And they provided very interesting feedback. Especially when comparing this car to other similarly sized vehicles that had letters like S, and numbers like 7 in front of them.

I guess that’s where Audi is right now. I personally think of Audi in terms of insane handling and power of Road and Race cars of the quattros in the Audi Sport vehicles, screaming through forests and snowbanks and deserts. But in the company’s chase towards technology. It does seem to remember that that technology needs to serve a function for more people other than just gearheads and racecar drivers.

Audi A8 Limousine Luxury engine tfsi

Power needs intelligence

In this case, the increasingly complicated suspension systems that will help them be more comfortable can also help them survive. If the A8 senses an incoming vehicle from the side, it will adjust the suspension in order to put more metal and crash protection between the passenger and the incoming mass. Just like a person raising their shoulder or arm to block a threat. That one was a real surprise.

The modern world has far more new buyers in countries with far less developed roads than ever, so all this is a very good thing. Because it is basically technologically based, it can trickle down very quickly. From the flagship vehicles like the A8 into other cars that make up the bulk of the mainstream world.

Audi A8 Limousine Luxury digital dashboard cockpit

The Audi concept of the modern cockpit draws new younger buyers that feel it is more in tune with their world

That is why we see more and more younger buyers looking not to the traditional sporty or luxury brands that we as car guys are used to. Instead, they feel more comfortable in cars with fully connected cockpits or technologically advanced features that will update themselves. They don’t feel the need to tinker the way we used to. But they do feel the need to adjust software, and how it works to their own personal needs.

Audi A8 Limousine Luxury rear light

Perhaps now more than ever, the whole idea of leadership through technological development is going to be the key to the next generation.

 

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