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Bavarian automotive engineering is never uncompetitive, so when Audi and BMW both announced plans to add laser headlight technology to their production models, the race to outshine each other was on (pun intended).
Audi has now proclaimed itself victor, by manufacturing the first production car to come standard with laser high beams: the limited edition Audi R8 LMX. Only 99 of these cars will be made and each will retail for around a dizzying US$290 000.
Although the headlight technology is undoubtedly a thing of beauty, the R8 LMX is more than just a pair of pretty eyes. The automaker’s 5.2-litre V10 engine is mid-mounted and tweaked to push out a healthy 570 horsepower. Emission figures of 299g CO2/km and fuel economy of around 12.9 litres/100km isn’t bad for a large engine either.
Drive comes courtesy of Audi’s iconic permanent all-wheel drive Quattro system managed by a 7-speed S Tronic gearbox.
Additionally, the R8 LMX will storm to 100km/h from standstill in 3.4 seconds, and top out at 320km/h. To stop in a timely manner, Audi has fitted wide-diameter carbon ceramic discs behind the 19″ wheels.
But the laser headlights are the true technological marvels.
Audi claims that the high beam technology will improve driver safety and lessen eye strain, thanks to a longer beam range and more natural colour temperature. Essentially, the headlight system employs four laser diodes that shine blue light into a phosphor screen.
When the beams hit the screen, the blue light changes to white. The resultant light produced is more akin to natural light than that produced by traditional LED technology. The system switches on automatically above 60km/h, and swerves to avoid oncoming road users’ eyes, thanks to a smart camera-based sensor.
BMW has developed a similar system fitted to their i8 hybrid sports car, with an announcement made back in February. However, the standard i8 will only feature laser lights as an optional extra, according to Slashgear. LED headlights will come as standard.
Audi will begin selling their exclusive R8 LMX in the European summer, and the cars will be slathered in Ara Blue crystal-effect paint, pictured above.