Those mechanicals should be Audi’s new MLB Evo platform, an evolution of the MLB platform found in the current A8 and several other Volkswagen Group models. The MLB Evo was first showcased in 2013 in Audi’s Sport quattro concept, and makes its production debut later this year in the 2016 Q7. There have been reports that Audi may adopt the sportier MSB platform being developed by Porsche for its next-generation 2017 Panamera, but the fact that this test mule is based on the current A8 suggests otherwise.
It’s hard to gather any new info from these spy shots, but according to our photographer the intakes at the front are modified and the suspension components seen from the rear are different to those on the current A8. Since the length and track of the vehicle remain unmodified, we can assume the new A8 will have the same footprint as the current model. It's still early days, however, so much can change before the car's arrival.
Some things we do know is that the new A8 will benefit from a lighter curb weight: one of the key areas of focus in developing the MLB Evo has been weight reduction. Another key area has been alternative powertrains. Inside, we can expect advanced infotainment features as well as new autonomous driving technology.
The basic engine lineup should be similar to the current A8’s offerings, meaning V-6 and V-8 units. A W-12 is also likely to be offered once more, and we should see a plug-in hybrid option and possibly even an all-electric option. Overseas markets should also receive a four-cylinder option.
Look for the new A8 to be revealed in late 2016 or early 2017. A sporty S8 and long-wheelbase A8 L should also be introduced around then.