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2013 A8 Sedan debuts new supercharged V-6

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2013 A8 Sedan debuts new supercharged V-6

The A8 3.0T engine saves 50 pounds and has V8-like performance.

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POSTED August 8, 2012 6:25 p.m.

The 2013 Audi A8 flagship sedan will debut new engine families, showcasing a 333-horsepower, supercharged, 3.0-liter six-cylinder and the company's first use of auto start-stop in North America.

A new V6 replaces what was the entry-level, 372-hp, 4.2-liter V8. And the 4.2 will be replaced with a lighter, stronger and more efficient 4.0-liter V-8 in the fall.

The V6 and V8 join the V12, and later in the year, there will be diesel and hybrid models, pretty much tracking the big-sedan lineup offered by BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The A8 3.0T is a little lighter (50 pounds), and fuel economy is the same as the V8 it replaces — 18 mpg city, 28 highway and 21 combined. 0 to 60 mph acceleration will be comparable, Audi says, at around 5.1 seconds.

The auto start-stop system, which switches off the engine at stops to save fuel and emissions, doesn't get any credit or incremental mileage gain in the EPA testing, but Audi claims a possible improvement when auto start-stop is used. It can be switched off, such as when creeping along in stop-and-go traffic.

While power is up, pricing is down. Sold in standard and long wheelbase models, the 3.0T starts at $73,095 and $79,395 for the LWB, including the $895 freight charge from Neckarsulm, Germany. Those are price cuts of $5,850 and $5,500 from the 2012 models.

By comparison, the V8-powered 2013 Mercedes-Benz S550 starts at $95,905, and the V6-powered S400 hybrid starts at $93,255. The 2013 BMW 740iL, with turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, starts at $79,090.

My long-wheelbase tester was $85,045, which included the $3,000 Driver Assistance Package of adaptive cruise control and features stop and go capability, lane departure assist, side assist (blind-spot warning) and Pre Sense Plus.

The V6 power is just 39 hp short of the V8, with torque just 3 foot-pounds fewer. Performance can be aggressive depending on urgency, but around-town driving is focused for fuel economy. Shifting to Sport mode brings a marked jump in throttle response. This car also has electronic controls to set just about every driving parameter, from steering and acceleration to suspension and from comfort to dynamic, sometimes mixing settings, such as a dynamic setting for suspension and comfort for steering.

The much-evolved stop-and-go adaptive cruise and Pre Sense Plus systems are about one generation away from creating a driverless car. The whole system works as if the car is going to protect itself from body damage. The adaptive cruise can be set at one to three car lengths from the vehicle ahead and can adjust speed all the way down to a stop and then reaccelerate.

The Audi Pre Sense Plus (also part of the Driver Assistance package) uses cameras and radar technology to help detect imminent collisions and then take protective action. The system will tighten safety belts, alert the driver and close windows and sunroof. If there is no evasive action from the driver, the system will apply the brakes gradually or up to full force if needed. And the stopping force will be absolute from monstrous, 15-inch front disc brakes and 14-inch rear discs.

It takes some faith to build trust in the stop-and-go of the adaptive cruise system, but it is smart to package with the Pre Sense Plus. In my freeway travels, I was confident the A8 would track the car ahead and stop safely. I wasn't as certain that those behind had the same ability. Driver awareness and caution are still required.

The Audi A8 is a large, aerodynamically sleek transcontinental cruiser for those who appreciate obsessive engineering, precisely aligned seams and tight, even spaces between panels. And its owners agree. The A8 nailed the highest score of any model in the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study released in late July. The study examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations from 74,000 participants.

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