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2013 Audi A8L: Nvidia Graphics, Wi-Fi, LED Lights, And Google Earth

Audi's Gauge Cluster LCD And Night Vision Assistant

Audi employs traditional analog gauges with an LCD sandwiched in between. I consider this to be my ideal cluster arrangement. The analog gauges look great and respond quickly to the A8L’s powertrain. Meanwhile, the LCD serves as a multi-function display for adjusting vehicle settings, conveying trip computer information, detailing music playback, and accessing phone features.

When it comes to customizing the A8L through that LCD, you'll find options controlling the door locks, the lighting, and some of the driver aids. Once upon a time, it took a trip to the dealership to alter a car's factory settings. But with the advancement of in-car computers and user interfaces, a lot of subsystems can be manipulated directly using check boxes.

The music settings are particularly detailed. Using the steering wheel-mounted dials, you can change the audio source, scroll through favorites, manually scroll through AM/FM and SiriusXM stations, and browse locally-stored music, just as you would from the infotainment display. Mercedes-Benz and BMW employ very similar systems, and we really like them all. While Hyundai, Kia, and Cadillac attempt to replicate the same experience, Audi's combination of steering wheel control and the LCD gauge cluster display is the best I've seen. My only complaint is that I'd like dedicated buttons for advancing to the next track (or skipping back to the previous one), rather than using the jog dial.

Phone features on the LCD gauge cluster are detailed as well. A lot of infotainment systems rely on voice commands or the main display for browsing through a phone book and making calls. But Audi's gauge cluster LCD gives you complete access to your phone's contact information, making it possible to place a call without ever glancing over at the infotainment system's screen.

Lastly, the gauge cluster LCD can convey navigation directions. This seems like a painfully obvious feature to include, but there are companies (we're talking about you this time, Infiniti) that do not link the navigation system to the gauge cluster display. So, we continue to applaud Audi for not cutting corners.

Night Vision Assistant

Audi uses the gauge cluster LCD for its night vision assistant system, which harnesses the power of an infrared camera to detect heat signatures in front of the car. The camera is hidden in Audi's emblem in front of the car, and not noticeable unless you're looking for it. Enabling the night vision assistant requires manual intervention, and there's a button to toggle it left of the steering wheel, next to the front and rear fog light switches.

With this feature turned on, the gauge cluster LCD displays a black and white video feed. When it picks up a person or animal, the system draws a yellow or red box around the object to show how far down the road it is. This was our first experience with this technology, and I found it to work well (I managed to pick up more than one cat during my nighttime testing).

In theory, night vision assistance should be helpful as you're glancing down to check your speed. But I can also imagine the feature being abused as a crutch to drive faster, too.

The night vision assistant remains a niche capability that works as advertised, but doesn't replace focused and safe driving at night. If you have an extra $2300 burning a hole in your pocket and live in a rural area with plenty of animals, it's at least worth considering.