Audi keeps an eye on the future

By Liz Dobson

As luxury sedan launches, NZ branch says range set to grow

The Audi S8 is the first with the clever new Matrix headlights. Picture / Liz Dobson
The Audi S8 is the first with the clever new Matrix headlights. Picture / Liz Dobson

As Audi New Zealand launches its luxury S8 sedan with revolutionary Matrix headlights, the company is also focusing on the bright future it has planned for the next 12 months.

It will be extending its range from 49 to 60 models by 2015, including its e-tron electric range -- with the electric A3 (pictured below) launched in Germany this week (see Wednesday's Driven for our report on the car).

Audi NZ general manager Dean Sheed told Driven at the exclusive local launch of the S8 flagship sedan that within the next few years he'd be able to offer his customers "petrol, diesel and e-tron" versions of all his models.

Already Sheed is celebrating with top figures for new car sales in New Zealand for June plus international recognition as the number one market in the world for high performance vehicle sales.

Audi NZ led the luxury car segment with 196 registrations for June, with Mercedes-Benz NZ on 183 and BMW NZ bumped off the top spot with 174 sales.

The company finished last year with 1950 vehicles registered and Sheed was hoping to see 2000 sales for 2014.

A large portion of Audi NZ's new vehicles is the high performance side. The company's latest sales figures also showed its S and RS vehicles made up 24 per cent of the purchasing mix -- Audi Group's highest figure from across the globe.

"We've always been aware of the attraction Kiwi drivers have to our S and RS performance vehicles, but to be acknowledged at the highest level for our sales share is validation of that," said Sheed.

New Zealand buyers will have more S models to choose from soon, with the S3 sedan, S1 sportback and S3 cabriolet to be launched before Christmas.

In September it will introduce the S1 with its 2-litre quattro engine producing 170kW of grunt.

Available only as manual, Sheed admitted that as an auto he would sell "two to three [times] as many" models.

In the next few months the A3 Cabriolet will be launched here and Sheed was impressed with the size of soft-top that he thought was only slightly smaller than the previous generation A4 Cabrio.

But this week the focus has been on the S8 for Sheed. Priced from $224,000, the large sedan is powered by a 4-litre TFSI Quattro engine with 382kW of power and 650 Nm of torque and combined fuel economy figure of 9.6l/100km.

The eight-speed auto is paired with sports suspension, giving options such a sports, comfort and economy setting.

Coupled with 21" tyres and permanent all-wheel-drive, the 5.14m-long large sedan handles superbly on the road -- which was reassuring during Driven's test drive from Tauranga via Taupo to Napier in torrential rain and poor visibility.

When the sun set, it was time to test the car's revolutionary Matrix headlights that Sheed had seen in action 18 months ago in Audi's engineering labs at the company's head office in Ingolstadt, Germany.

The LED high-beam unit is made up of 25 segments with the headlights working in tandem with a camera attached to the rear view mirror to monitor the road ahead.

With the lights set on automatic and high beam in play, the system automatically dims when approaching vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians, but the Matrix system allows full light to work around the object.

The LED Matrix system works in collaboration with the steering wheel, pushing light into bends and illuminating greater areas. The light system is activated from a speed of 30 km/h in rural areas and from 60 km/h in urban areas.

Heading towards Cape Kidnappers with limited road lights, not only was I impressed with the vast area the system covered, but the dimming Matrix effect when driving past a jogger.

After Driven's drive, the S8 joined Audi NZ's Quattro road show in Napier this weekend.

"This is the largest ever fleet of legendary Quattro all-wheel drive vehicles and we're sending it from north to south, stopping at each Audi dealership throughout the country," said Sheed.

The Quattro roadshow moves next to Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown in time for Audi New Zealand's annual Ice Experience, which is now so popular with clients it's being extended to two weeks.

- NZ Herald

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