The relatively light 270kg engine, combined with the equally weight-conscious Audi Space Frame aluminium body shell, also contributes to a low overall kerb weight of 1,940kg, giving a class-leading power-to-weight ratio of 144PS per tonne. The fact that the A8 is unique in its class in offering four-wheel-drive makes this figure all the more impressive.
Delivered via six-speed tiptronic automatic transmission, this remarkable output will be reflected in the performance of the new A8 4.0 TDI quattro, which will be capable of dispatching the 0-62mph sprint in just 6.7 seconds, and where permitted reaching a maximum speed electronically limited to 155mph. Fuel economy figures will be more becoming of a traditional diesel saloon, with up to 29.4mpg achievable on the combined cycle, giving a potential range of over 580 miles on a single tank of diesel.
As impressive as the sheer pace available will be the uncompromising refinement that accompanies it throughout the rev range, thanks in part to newly developed injection technology for the common rail system, which results in far smoother combustion.
The surprising performance of the new A8 4.0 TDI quattro will be partly attributable to the most sophisticated body shell in the sector - the aluminium Audi Space Frame (ASF), on to which aluminium panels are mounted, giving a 60 per cent reduction in weight compared to an equivalent steel shell. Aluminium running gear will also ensure that it feels light and agile on the move, helped by quattro permanent four-wheel-drive and air suspension with variable damper settings capable of adapting to suit the prevailing road conditions.
Like its petrol-powered counterparts, the A8 4.0 TDI quattro will be available with virtually every conceivable luxury, including an array of innovative options such as DVD satellite navigation, fingerprint recognition technology, adaptive cornering lighting and adaptive cruise control.
Pricing for the new Audi A8 4.0 TDI quattro has yet to be finalised and will be announced nearer to launch in autumn 2003.
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