MIAMI -- Audi has added new technologies and fuel-efficient engines to its new A8 to help its flagship sedan fight against the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 Series.
The 2011 A8 sedan goes on sale in the United States in about a year. Europe gets the car next spring. The fourth generation aluminum-space frame car was shown here on Monday night at its international launch.
Rupert Stadler, CEO of Audi AG, says the lithium battery technology is being developed by Sanyo Electric Co. Sanyo and parent company Volkswagen AG signed a deal in May 2008.
Competitors Mercedes-Benz and BMW are using mild-hybrid technology for their flagship cars. The Mercedes-Benz S400 hybrid went on sale earlier this year and is 20 percent of the brand's worldwide S class sales, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said last month in a conference call. BMW's 7 series hybrid goes on sale next spring.
The new A8 will initially be sold in the U.S. market only with a 4.2-liter V-8 engine with 372 horsepower.
Audi says the new A8's fuel consumption has dropped by 13 to 22 percent compared with the current car, thanks to technologies such as an energy recuperation system and innovative thermal management.
The carmaker probably will not introduce a diesel hybrid A8, Stadler said.
The A8's most fuel-efficient model equipped with a Europe-only 204hp, 3.0-liter diesel engine will have CO2 emissions of 159 grams per kilometer (255.89 g/mile) and use 6 liters of fuel per 100km (39.2 U.S. mpg). In Europe, A8 customers will also have the choice of a 350hp, 4.2-liter diesel.
All engine versions have a new 8-speed tiptronic transmission and quattro permanent all-wheel drive.
The fourth-generation A8 will have new driver assistance systems, full LED headlights and technologies such as night vision assist and Audi's pre-sense safety system.
The latest A8 is longer and wider than the current model at 5137 mm (16.85 feet) in length and 1949 mm (6.39 feet) in width. It also is longer and wider than the S class and 7 series but not as high.
Audi said it will market the A8 as "driver's car" with sportiness and driving dynamics in focus. A long-wheel drive version also will be launched that will balance "prestige, sportiness and comfort."
The A8 is built in Neckarsulm, Germany, along with the R8, A6 and A5 Cabriolet.
A8 global sales are well behind those of the 7 series and S class.
BMW built 43,036 units of the 7 series in the first 10 months while Mercedes produced 33,015 S-class models and Audi built 6,574 A8 sedans, according to J.D. Power Automotive Forecasting.