Audi’s A8 has adopted a plug-in hybrid drivetrain for the first time, promising refinement so impressive it will make you weep for those who don’t have it.
Aiming to match the Lexus LS600h in the interior quietness stakes but with a greater electric-only driving range, the letter-festooned A8 L 60 TFSI E is a long-wheelbase A8 with 443bhp, 516lb ft and the ability to travel up to 28 miles on electric power only.
Ingolstadt has thrown the technological book at the 5.3-metre-long A8 L E, using energy recuperation systems rated up to 25kW, intelligent freewheeling and predictive navigation data to optimise the drivetrain for maximum efficiency, more of the time. Of course, that all depends on the driver’s ability to use the drivetrain the way Audi intends, but let’s not let technique get in the way of a good pub brag, eh?
The drivetrain is made up of a 335bhp, 369lb ft turbocharged V6, plus an electric motor with 134bhp and 258lb ft of torque. The system sailed through the latest Euro 6d emissions tests partly thanks to the EV range provided by a 14.1kWh battery pack rated at 385 volts.
Further helping the efficiency is four-zone ‘deluxe’ climate control that wherever possible works using waste heat from the battery pack’s cooling system. Use the plug-in capability properly (i.e. all the time) and you could see 113mpg, not to mention toasty extremities. Helpfully, you can drive on electric juice at up to 83mph, too, but there’s a sound emitter in the front right wheel arch to alert pedestrians to the car’s presence when it’s below 12mph, as per a recent EU nanny state directive. The sound fades out at higher speeds.
Performance is far from shabby if you decide to use it. The 0-62 launch happens in 4.9 seconds and top speed is, as per the custom, limited to 155mph. Peak torque – accessed via a boost mode – is on tap from just 1250rpm. It should also provide a pretty quick in-gear throttle response thanks to the strength of the hybrid assistance.
Drivers can choose to let the car decide how best to divide driving duties between the engine and motor, or they can ask it to hold the battery charge back – useful for when you get to your urban destination. The brakes can recover up to 80kW of power, too, so as long as you can find a 5.7-mile downhill stretch at a nice, steep gradient, you could fully recharge the battery. If the discs hadn’t melted yet, anyway. The motor itself does the braking up to 0.3g, after which it blends into the mechanical brakes.
It will default to EV mode on startup, which is a nice feature to encourage maximum use of the battery charge. Not optional is all-wheel drive, which is a standard feature on this model and always transmits power to all four corners for better traction. It arrives in the UK later this year with prices still to be confirmed.