New high-tech features in latest luxury cars

LOS ANGELES The newest large European luxury car on the market is Audi's revamped A8 sedan. It enters a crowded field of competitors with big four doors from Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and BMW, which recently revised its 7 Series. Buyers in this segment want luxury, and often the latest technology.

Audi likes to brag about its use of aluminum for the structure: strength without excess weight. They're also proud of the extensive use of LED lighting throughout the car, even the headlights, which is an industry first.

Driving through the dark is easier with the night vision option, offered by brands including BMW and Audi.

Navigation is getting improved with every generation of luxury car. The new A8 will even incorporate Google Earth into its screen.

There is a bit of dichotomy to all this technology: the more high tech figures they add to cars, the more chance there is for driver distraction. The auto industry is working on some clever interfaces so you can use the features and still focus on driving.

Until now, entering a destination address meant keying it in or trying to speak slowly. But Audi's come up with a touch pad that lets you enter the address in with your fingers, the letters you draw end up on the screen digitally.

Sure, all this technology means that you have to spend $80,000 or more on a car... or does it?

Technology is expensive when new, but eventually many things work their way down to lower priced cars.

For example, Mercedes-Benz started including air bags and anti-lock brakes on its large S-Class in the 1980s. Today, just about every new car you can buy has them.

Ten years ago, navigation systems were considered exotic. Now, low-priced cars like Hyundai and Nissan offer them for buyers with modest car budgets.

But for now, if you want the latest "gee whiz" features, they're available on the newest luxury cars at a luxury price tag.

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