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How much? £70,000
On sale in the UK: Early 2013
Engine: 1984cc turbocharged 16v 4-cyl, 208bhp @ 4300-6000rpm, 258lb ft @ 1500-4200rpm, plus 53bhp/155lb ft electric motor
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 7.7sec 0-62mph, 146mph, 44.8mpg, 147g/km CO2
How heavy / made of? 1870kg/aluminium
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4940/1898/1452mm
Need to know

CAR's rating

Rated 3 out of 53

Handling

Rated 3 out of 53

Performance

Rated 3 out of 53

Usability

Rated 3 out of 53

Feelgood factor

Rated 4 out of 54

Readers' rating

Rated 2.5 out of 52.5

Audi A8 Hybrid (2012) CAR review

By Steve Moody

First Drives

05 April 2012 06:00

Lie back, and think of China. Relaxing in the back of this new Audi A8 Hybrid, amid all the luxurious trappings of smoothed chrome, deep leather and pin sharp sound systems, I ruminated on the likely buyer of this car. Mainly to take my mind off the bloody racket.

So what's going on in the new Audi A8 Hybrid?

There's an elephant in the cabin: a common four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine in a car of this stately demeanour is just plain wrong. This Audi A8 Hybrid is powered by a 208bhp 2.0 TFSI (meaning it's got direct injection and a turbocharger) petrol engine that at various times works in conjunction, or not, with an electric motor offering a further 53bhp. That electric motor is tucked cleverly into the space in front of the gearbox where the torque converter would usually sit, and connected to the engine by a multi-phase clutch.

And to hide the downmarket patois of this proletarian powertrain, engineers have come up with Active Noise Control, which broadcasts a thing called 'antiphase' through the car’s speakers to cancel out frequencies coming from the engine. I think they used it in Star Trek to get rid of some Romulans once.

The A8 Hybrid can operate in electric only, a bit of both, or petrol only-modes with the electric motor able grab energy back from light braking (which cleverly doesn’t use the brakes to slow, but the motor instead) and proper braking. That means it can travel for two or three miles in zero emission mode.

So what does this mean for the A8's fuel consumption?

Like all A8s, it is relatively light, being constructed using aluminium, and this has 'official' emissions of 147g/km, way less than any other hybrid limousine. It will be priced towards to low end of the A8 range (sub-£70k we reckon), and there will be a long wheelbase version too, so it looks a fairly enticing proposition.

But here come the buts. And there are a few.

Despite the Star Trek noise thing, when accelerating that engine roars away. It’s pretty swift, but the electric motor pops in and out like the bird on a cuckoo clock, and in EV mode the petrol engine parps back into helpful life if you so much as run up the side of a speed bump. Audi has done a great job, relatively – it’s as refined as any hybrid – but users of this type of car are bastards when it comes to refinement. They just won’t put up with it, in this country at least.

And if a chauffeur firm considered buying a few for urban work, one look at the laughable boot would dismiss it out of hand. Because of the batteries therein, there’s more luggage space in an A1, and asking a jetlagged chief executive if he could have his bags in the back with him is likely to get you in a work experience scheme stacking shelves in Tesco.

There’s also a front-wheel drive 204bhp V6 diesel coming at the end of the year, that will (on paper) be slightly less efficient, but possibly cheaper, and probably more refined too.

Verdict

So, back to my original musing. China is the biggest A8 market in the world, they want small engines for tax purposes, care less about refinement and abhor diesel. The Hybrid will probably be the best selling A8 in the world. But it won’t sell here.

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carmobster

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carmobster says

RE: Audi A8 Hybrid (2012) CAR review

This a unlike VW/Audi, it's an absolute rush to production just to have it for sale. Normally Germans would do the sensible thing and engineer it first. This is what I call a blunder.They weight of the batteries have offset the mpg, CO2 and performance figures completely. I think they could even have achieved this figures without the hybrid system and just use stop/start, eco tyres, aerodynamics (like shutting radiator vents), etc.

 

Even in China it would be better to buy the Mercedes S 250cdi (149 grams of CO2 and a lot more mpg!) or even better the petrol V6 S 350 Bluetec which amazingly achieves 45 mpg! The same as the Audi!

And we are talking creamy 3,0 litres of V6 here!

16 April 2012 07:23

 

Batty

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Batty says

RE: Audi A8 Hybrid (2012) CAR review

Why does Audi present such a compromise in their saloon flagship where Toyota are capable of a far better solution in the prosaic Prius? Just how far behind are they?

10 April 2012 03:26

 

carMagfan

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carMagfan says

RE: Audi A8 Hybrid (2012) CAR review

 surely its an A4, looks like one! not a bad idea to put a small engine in a big light car but it a tax saver exercise. if someone is going to spend this sort of money then surely they'd could afford a V8 

09 April 2012 11:39

 

georgios1976

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georgios1976 says

RE: Audi A8 Hybrid (2012) CAR review

It's a 4-cylinder car, priced at £70k. I know that batteries may be expensive, but surely, how can you justify a £45k premium over a Golf with the same engine (and a smaller boot)? Nice idea from Audi, badly executed.

06 April 2012 01:02

 

AnthonySoprano

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AnthonySoprano says

RE: Audi A8 Hybrid (2012) CAR review

Not at all, Steve.

 

It's high time a journalist kicked back against the buyers of certain vehicles. Where better to start than hybrid owners - they have been asking for it for years.

 

Keep up the good work!

05 April 2012 17:39

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