A8 panzerwagen shrugs off grenades

Time of article published Feb 15, 2011

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When the A8 was designed, Audi engineers already had a high-security version in mind, so all the extra features are built in, not added on, and it's difficult to tell an A8 Security from the “civilian” model.

The giveaway, if you must know, is the LED headlights, standard on the security version.

It's based, of course, on the long-wheelbase A8L and will be offered at launch (in the third quarter of 2011) with Audi's amazing 6.3-litre W12 engine. Another engine - probably a big diesel - will be available in 2012.

The security modifications are done by hand in a small, well-guarded workshop with specially secured doors, where the cellphones are strictly prohibited. It takes specially trained technicians about 450 hours to modify the standard A8 aluminium bodyshell, after which it goes back to the factory for final assembly.

The passenger cell is protected by about 720kg of hot-formed armoured steel, aramide fabric, ceramics, special aluminium alloys and multilayer glass.

The German government ballistics testing facility in Munich has certified that the A8 L Security will withstand close-range hits from full metal-jacket Nato rifle ammunition and the aluminium side sills have built-in solid steel sections to provide increased protection against explosive weapons - a growth area in the assassination industry in recent years.

The windows are all made of special glass - 300kg of it! - with a polycarbonate coating in the inside to prevent spalling. Electromechanical window allow the side windows to be lowered nearly all the way.

Each of the four doors weighs about 90kg and has a closing assist feature and a door-stop function to hold it open in any desired position.

The armoured floor, made of a special aluminium alloy, serves the same purpose and will even keep the occupants safe (if slightly deafened) from a military hand grenade rolled under the car.

An armoured “communication box” in the boot, with an aluminium frame and ceramic doors, contains the safety components and an additional battery; an armoured fuel tank is an extra-cost option.

A standard two-way communication system allows passengers in the A8 L Security to communicate with the outside world when the windows are closed, using a speaker behind the grille and microphones inside and out.

Extra cost options include an emergency exit system; pressing a tamperproof switch and pulling the inside door handle will blow the hinges off the body; the door can then be knocked out with a slight push.

The (also optional) fire extinguisher system is activated via heat sensors or by pushing a button, sending extinguishing chemicals from two canisters in the boot along two tubes under the floor to nozzles in the wheel arches, under the floor, on to the fuel tank and into the engine compartment.

The emergency fresh-air system operates from two oxygen cartridges in the safety cell; at the press of a button, fresh breathing is supplied to the interior from vents in the roof lining for long enough to get the car out of a danger zone, generating positive pressure inside the cabin to keep toxic gases out.

Paranoid plutocrats can also opt for security start, which allows the driver to start the engine remotely via a radio signal, a smoke extractor for the passenger compartment, an LED signalling system for convoy travel, flashing lights, a siren, preparation for professional mobile radio systems, a flag holder, a permanently installed telephone, an accident data recorder, an additional rear-view camera and a heated windshield plus partially heated side windows.

The A8 L Security is not only protected, it's also superbly comfortable, with four-zone auto aircon (including an ioniser to freshen the air) electric rear blinds, a Bose surround sound system and a TV tuner. Full lehter trim is standard and the two individual rear seats have power adjustment.

Also available are a (right side only) rear seat with a power-adjustable footrest, heating and massage, a full-length centre console with large storage compartments, a rear seat entertainment system with two 260mm displays, a folding table, a fridge and a parking heater.

A high-speed internet connection is available via an integrated UMTS module and a partnership with Google endows the car with innovative, intelligent functions. Passengers can connect their mobile devices to a wi-fi hotspot; separate telephone handsets are available as an option.

The direct-injection, 6.3-litre, W12 engine has four rows of three cylinders each, merged into two banks and is rated at 368kW and 625Nm. Audi quotes 0-100 in 7.3sec and an electronically limit top speed of 210km/h, at a cost of 13.5 litres/100 km.

It drives via an eight-speed tiptronic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive to 19” forged rims with a semi-polished, two-tone finish and special 255/720 tyres protected by a tyre-pressure monitoring system and synthetic rim-bands so the car can be driven at up top 80km/h even with completely flat tyres.

The chassis, brakes, adaptive air suspension and electronic driver aids have been beefed up and recalibrated to deal with the extra weight and dynamic steering is an option.

The Audi A8 L Security will be available to special order from the third quarter of 2011. Price isn't important; the taxpayer will be footing the bill anyway.

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