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Audi tunes into digital radio

Audi like that: Interference-free, high-quality sound and the ability to receive broadcasted information are among the benefits of in-car digital radio, which is now standard on top-spec, V8-powered A8 limousines.

Digital radio technology now available in Audi A6, A7 and A8

26 Sep 2011

DIGITAL radio has made a further baby-step towards permeating the Australian car market, becoming standard kit on high-end Audi A8 limousines and featuring on the options list across the brand’s A6, A7 and entry-level A8 models.

Audi’s flagship A8 models with 4.2-litre petrol or diesel V8 engines now come standard with a DAB+ digital radio tuner that also incorporates a digital television receiver, while buyers of the entry-level A8 3.0-litre TDI must specify it as an option along with a Bose sound system upgrade for $7500.

On the A6 sedan the digital radio and TV combination costs $3130, with A7 Sportback buyers charged $3180 for the privilege.

Audi Australia corporate communications executive Sean Poppitt told GoAuto the technology will eventually be rolled out across the brand’s entire range and hinted that the Q7 SUV and A5 Sportback were likely candidates to receive it next.

He added that the technology will “trickle down” as it becomes more common and affordable but at the moment it is not cost effective to offer it on relatively inexpensive models like the A1.

As GoAuto has reported, in May this year BMW became the first manufacturer to offer DAB+ digital radios in Australian-delivered cars, adding it as a circa-$900 extra to the options list of its 5, 6 and 7 series ranges.

 center imageFrom top: Audi A6 and A7, BMW 5 Series and 7 Series.

BMW Group Australia Product Communications Manager Lucy McLellan told GoAuto the technology’s popularity will be assessed before deciding to introduce it further down the model range, such as the next-generation F30 3 Series that will launch next March.

She was unable to comment on whether the soon-to-be-launched new F10 1 Series will incorporate the technology and said there were no plans to introduce it to the Mini sub-brand at this stage.

Mercedes-Benz has indicated it will offer digital radio on some models in the second half of this year, although these have yet to materialise. Lexus has said it is waiting for coverage to expand beyond metropolitan areas.

DAB+ digital radio technology currently provides access to more than 60 free-to-air digital radio stations across Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney with reduced interference, high audio quality and can display album artwork, track and artist information, plus weather information, traffic reports and even petrol prices on the car’s multi-function display.

Digital radio coverage is claimed to reach 60 per cent of Australia’s population but is currently limited to the aforementioned metropolitan areas. Trials are also operating in Canberra and Darwin, with transmissions to Hobart, Townsville and regional areas in the pipeline.

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) is a major campaigner for the Australian adoption of DAB+ technology and has been operating workshops in Melbourne and Sydney to encourage vehicle manufacturers, importers and aftermarket audio suppliers to incorporate it in their products.

CRA chief executive Joan Warner said the radio industry’s objective is for every car sold in Australia to be fitted with a digital radio.

Until more manufacturers offer the technology in their vehicles, the only way for the majority of motorists to pick up a digital radio signal is through the fitment of an aftermarket replacement audio head unit or a windscreen-mounted receiver accessory.

Digital listening is on the rise in Australia, with official data revealing there are 940,000 listeners (up 34.3 per cent compared with March 2011 figures) since across the five state capitals that can receive the service and that more than half a million DAB+ receivers have been sold here so far (up 25.2 per cent since March 2011).

As GoAuto has reported, CRA is offering incentives to manufacturers who agree to factory-fit digital radio receivers in their cars in the form of ‘bonus airtime’ when they buy advertising on participating commercial radio stations.

Part of the reason Australia is slow to adopt digital radio for vehicles is that other car-manufacturing nations use different, incompatible digital radio standards and because Australia came relatively late to the digital radio party, the more advanced DAB+ system was adopted here from the outset.

A new pan-European digital radio standard – which will be compatible with DAB+ –is being considered and other countries are also beginning to adopt DAB+ (or compatible systems), which should lead to an increase in the number of vehicles produced with in-built DAB+ compatible digital radio receivers.

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