2011 Audi A8: Go-Go Gadget SedanS

The 2011 Audi A8, unveiled last night in Miami, is loaded with gadgets — everything from handwriting recognition, terrain-predicting transmission controls and automatic turn signals. It's like Inspector Gadget's car — if he were a chauffeur-driven investment banker.

Although we brought you live shots of the new A8 last night, here's a slew of press photos and some more detail on some of the tech goodies this uber-sedan's got inside.

View gallery »

Woven into the fabric of the new A8 is a ostensibly ridiculous array of technology. Things the average driver might use a dozen times over the ownership, but nonetheless are included just for the sake of Germanic-one-upsmanship. Take, for instance, the navigation system:

Through the fast connection the navigation system downloads three-dimensional satellite images from Google Earth and displays them in a bird's eye view on the monitor; the computer fills in the streets. Another expansion level provides full connection to the internet via UMTS, making the sedan a WLAN hotspot on wheels for a laptop in the vehicle. Furthermore, the WLAN can be used to transfer music from a mobile player to the vehicle's audio system. The customer can utilize all services with a cell phone; no separate contracts or fees are necessary

Although we're left asking whether this is even necessary, we know full well it is if you're a toupee-wearing luxo-barge buyer.

View gallery »

The steering wheel is equipped with a vibration-canceling motor. The seats heat, cool, massage, and probably offer a happy ending. There are 19 speakers scattered around the Bang & Olufson sound system for a grand total of 1400 Watts of power. Considering the system will be perennially tuned to the "Nightly Business Report" and the oldies station, it seems a bit excessive. The interior is awash in customizable accent lighting, not only in the dash and doors, but also the headliner at the upper controls. The multimedia interface now features handwriting recognition, or more appropriately finger-writing recognition:

The industry-first MMI Touch recognizes handwriting for entering Navigation destinations, and is backlit to allow it to change to a pointer for map functions, a number pad for radio functions and can be used to scroll lists in the MMI. This system recognizes Cyrillic (Russia), Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean characters

We'll be surprised if this feature is used more than a hundred times in the life of the car, people just don't go that many unknown places on a daily basis. Not only that, but we look forward to the first handwriting related accident (we know, it's probably disabled when the car's in motion, but it's still easy to poke fun).

View gallery »

Then there's of course the night vision system that's augmented with thermal vision systems, because, you know, headlights are for peons.

Shown in the driver information display, the pedestrian detection software highlights people and animals and determines if a critical situation is imminent. While Audi was not the first to market with this feature, the A8 brings the optimal solution with intelligent pedestrian detection and dynamic range adjustment based on vehicle speed.

View gallery »

This is just a scratch on the surface of the A8's long list of gee-whiz gadgetry but such crazy additions to the car's capabilities will certainly draw buyers attentions. Well, the powertrains will turn some heads too, we'll have more on those shortly.