Fast Company

Audi's 2011 A8 Sedan Has a "Space Frame," Lots of LED

Audi A8

On the eve of the L.A. Auto Show, Audi took a left turn and chose to unveil its new A8 luxury sedan in Miami. The event, which occurred as part of Design Miami, also marked Audi's 100th anniversary.

The car's major innovations is that it has an aluminum body, dubbed the Audi Space Frame, that weighs 40% less than a comparable steel structure.  Audi has introduced earlier takes on the frame, but the A8's version is not only stronger and thinner than previous models, but also lighter, thanks to a new aluminum alloy used for its roof and side panels. This alloy reduces that car's weight by 14.3 pounds over comparable Audi models.

Audi A8

The A8 also has full LED headlights, which use light-emitting diodes for all light functions; they are a departure from the tubular light modules still commonly used today. (That's designer Tom Dixon showing off the frame and headlights above.)

Audi A8

The low beams comprise ten individual modules forming an arc situated below the wing-shaped chrome contour. Beneath them is another arc of 22 white and 22 yellow LEDs that provide the daytime running lights and turn signals. (With a color temperature of 5,500 Kelvin, they resemble daylight and are much less tiring to the eyes.) Located just above the wing are the high beams, whose light is generated by two four-chip LEDs and a free surface reflector system.

Audi A8

The tail lights feature 72 LEDs per unit and consume only 9 watts of power per unit.The tail lights appear to be a homogeneous strip, but actually are is a trapezoid with the upper segment a plastic tube and the lower a reflective, textured free-form surface.

Audi A8

Above, a peek at the A8's interior, which features a unique multimedia interface system that integrates the car's navigation, phone, and audio data and can be operated via a touchpad. The driver enters the destination by drawing the letters or numbers on the control panel with the index finger of her right hand, and the system acknowledges the input after each character with an acoustic feedback signal. (Aside from letters, the system can recognize Cyrillic, Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean characters.) If directions are needed, a graphics processor then generates high-quality, three-dimentional images to get to the destination; alternately, if it's the phone, it dials the number. Standard buttons also can be used in lieu of the touchpad. (Under that hood is a 4.2-liter TDI engine.)

Audi A8

Actress Lucy Lui emceed the fete, and was joined by Audi designer director Stefan Sielaff; designer Tom Dixon; and property developer Craig Robins, the co-founder of Design Miami.

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