With so many new full-electric car launches this year, it is all too easy to forget about hybrids. But with charging tech in the UK still woefully inadequate, the case for the hybrids is still very strong. In June, even in the full flows of the lockdown, plug-in hybrid sales were up 117 per cent year on year in the UK.
These days it’s odd when a manufacturer doesn’t launch a hybrid version of a new car, and that’s a very good thing. But this means the competition for the best hybrid is fierce, to put it mildly. However, we have a new contender – the Audi A8 TFSI e.
Audi bills its A8 TFSI e hybrid as “part fuel, part electric, complete luxury” – and, rarely for such car-world jargon, there is much truth in this. For the super-lux version of the A8 L TFSI e – the L means long wheelbase, or limousine – and is clearly aimed at those looking for a cutting edge luxury limo in which they can be wafted around.
Being hybrid, with an electric-only range of 28.6 miles, the A8’s 126bhp electric motor marries with a 335bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine. This means 0-62mph takes just 4.9 seconds, despite its size, up to an electronically-limited 155mph.
Impressively, it will allow you to increase speed up to 84mph on battery power alone – which will recharge in approximately six and a half hours from a 3-pin plug, or two and a half hours using a 7kW home wallbox. Recuperation tech while driving helps the A8 regain 25kW from coasting and 80kW from the brakes. This is enough for 90 per cent of your everyday braking while driving, so actually depressing the brake pedal can be novel experience.
And here we get to what makes this hybrid special. It’s not just that it is pleasingly efficient, seeing you get 108.6mpg, but the driving experience is top-drawer. Not only will you rarely brake, the car will school you on driving more smoothly, via a system where the accelerator pedal gives your foot a slight bump when approaching a lower speed limit, encouraging you to lift and in turn recharge the battery.
And if you want to avoid waking up the petrol engine altogether, there’s an artificial stop in its the accelerator pedal’s travel that tells you when you’ve hit the switchover point, making it easy to stay in pure EV mode. Locking into satnav data, you’ll find the A8 slowing automatically for upcoming bends and roundabouts, too.
There are the usual driving assistance tools as well, including journey planning to get the most form the battery, but perhaps the best impression is left by how the A8 TFSI e switches between its power options. It is, without fail, seamless. The best we’ve encountered in a hybrid, in fact.
Inside, the A8 is so quiet it is, on occasion, hard to discern how fast you are going. Not that passengers in the rear will notice as they watch films on individual seat-mounted tablets and recline to suitably semi-recumbent positions. The driver tech is equally impressive, with the two large screens that make up Audi’s multi-media interface system being slick and responsive.
There are downsides, though. The A8 60 TFSI e is a massive car – and it feels it. It’s not fun to drive down narrow city streets or wind through a concrete supermarket multi-storey, let alone squeeze into a standard parking bay – which it won’t, as the back end will stick out a good couple of feet. And your doors won’t last long either as they are clattered from shoppers’ doors on either side.
Due to this size and weight, driving in a ‘spirited’ manner will not be as pleasant as in other cars, but the A8 never feels like it will lose control either thanks the four-wheel drive system. But this is not what the A8 60 TFSI e hybrid is for. It is for cruising, and for doing so in some considerable style, too. This is a luxury hybrid you will want to drive sedately, and you‘ll love every minute of it.
Price: from £84,195 | Audi
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