BMW 7-series and the Mercedes-Benz S-class. This revolutionary aluminium technology brings to an end the spiral of increasingly heavy executive saloons which has dogged the motor industry for decades.
As manufacturers fought to fit their models with ever more complex technology, weight penalties took their toll on fuel consumption and running costs - to the point where the luxury car was fast becoming obsolete.
But the new Audi offers real hope to luxury car makers already struggling against criticism from environmental groups. The A8 weighs around 300kg less than its rivals, despite an abundance of luxury extras and hi-tech dynamic and safety features. The UK models will be supplied in either V6 or V8 form, costing pounds 34,500 or pounds 46,700. Not cheap, but it's a make-or-break car for the German firm: if the A8 fails like its predecessor, then Audi may have to abandon the luxury sector.
But there are already signs that the huge development and production gamble may well succeed. Several influential magazines have named Audi's new flagship the Best Luxury Car in the World - and other manufacturers are already planning to increase the use of aluminium in forthcoming models.
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