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Audi A8 Hybrid review (2012 onwards)
Summary: hybrid tech comes to the A8 range, albeit in more diluted and economical four-cylinder petrol engine form
We like: interior quality, range-topping emissions and economy, flexible engine
We don't like: battery pack steals boot space, likely to be expensive
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From next year you will be able to buy the Audi A8 as a petrol-electric hybrid. Crucially, though, and in a rare move for this sector, Audi is forgoing V6 and V8 power in favour of a parsimonious four-cylinder two-litre turbo as found lower down the Audi range.
If the engine from the A4 sounds a tad down-market for you, you will be pleased to know that inserted into the A8 it absolutely wallops all other luxury hybrids - in particular I'm looking at you, Lexus LS600h, with your optimistic 30.4mpg from a 5.0-litre V8.
While it won't have UK buyers rushing out to Audi showrooms like the premise of a new diesel, it is aimed at markets like China where petrol power rules. Here, it will appeal to company car drivers as it promises the lowest bills of the A8 range.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine achieves 211hp and is supported by a 54hp electric motor and a battery pack in the boot.
Three driving modes are provided: EV gives priority to electric running and in this mode the A8 Hybrid can travel at speeds up to 62mph. D is for a balance between performance and economy, while S is for a sportier drive combining the electric motor and the engine for an overtaking boost. Two displays on the dash show what mode you are in and how economical you are driving.
In comparison to other luxury hybrids such as the Porsche Panamera, the A8 provides a smoother drive with none of the drivetrain-shunt feeling you normally get when you come off the throttle (a result of the regeneration motors kicking in and causing an engine-braking effect). The A8 still regenerates energy, but it just seems to do it better.
Given that this is a big luxury car this relatively small engine pulls the A8 along at a considerable pace, more six- than four-cylinder like. Only the hum of the motor will suggest otherwise.
Ride & handling
As part of its visualisation package, the A8 Hybrid comes with new 19-inch wheels, which don't seem to have a detrimental effect on ride quality. Bumps and lumps are filtered out long before they reach the cabin.
It's a similar story inside. With noise cancelling tech fitted, the A8 Hybrid is as quiet as a Victorian child, with barely a rustle of wind noise or roar of tyre entering the cabin.
It isn't a car that enjoys being driven hard on a road with lots of bends, though, with the steering weighting up too much in corners and a detachedness to its responses.
The cabin of the A8 Hybrid is an exquisite place to while away the hours. Whether you're up front or lounging in the back, the A8's cabin is solid, beautiful, comfortable and with a hand-crafted feel to the bits you touch.
The long-wheel-base version, with two rear seats, is the ultimate word in luxury travel, with full electric control for each seat and heating and cooling controls, not forgetting a personal infotainment system to keep you occupied on the move.
Sealing the deal for the A8 as a business tool is onboard internet and the best sat-nav we've yet to test: a Google-maps style interface offering a birds' eye view of your location.
The only major concern with the Hybrid is the battery pack, which takes up quite a lot of boot space.
Economy & safety
Average economy of 44mpg and emissions of 147g/km are great for a two-litre turbo petrol and the best of the A8 range. No longer is diesel the smart choice.
MSN Cars verdict
If the battery back didn't rob the A8 of so much boot space, it would be near perfect. The Hybrid is the cheapest A8 to run, though we suspect it won't be the cheapest to buy with prices expected to start at around £65k when it goes on sale early next year.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||2.0 turbo/electric motor|
|Engines, diesel||N/A as Hybrid|
|Power, hp||211 & 54 (elec motor)|
|Torque, lb ft||258 & 155|
|0-62 mph, secs||7.7|
|Top speed, mph||146|
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