by Belinda Anderson
As the general obsession with climate change and 'going green' continues to snowball, automakers are following the trend to move towards electrification. Some have jumped headlong into it with a full lineup of all-electric vehicles, but Audi has taken a step back to peruse the battlefield before sending in reinforcements. Taking its flagship sedan and hybridizing it, Audi presents the US market with its first hybrid elite luxury sedan, the Audi A8 PHEV. Still offering superior levels of comfort, luxury, and class, the A8 Hybrid brings a strong, slick powertrain to the fight developing 443 horsepower - but is that enough of a reason to opt for an electrified sedan, especially when gas mileage figures are rather weak, and rivals like the Lexus LS 500h, the BMW 7 Series Hybrid, and Mercedes S-Class Hybrid are hot on its heels? There may be one or two reasons to at least consider it.
Officially known as A8 60 TFSI e, the A8 Hybrid is Audi's first foray into hybridization for a luxury sedan in their fleet. The A8 Hybrid comes into 2020 all-new, carrying over most of the features and looks of the long-wheelbase elite sedan, which was redesigned in 2019, with the benefit of an electric motor paired to the standard combustion engine.
|L 60 TFSI e Plug-in hybrid||
3.0-liter Turbo V6 Plug-in Hybrid
Carrying over the muscular-yet-sophisticated look of the A8 sedan, the A8 Hybrid shares the bold, chrome-accented grille with its gas-only siblings. Some may call the overall design safe, even boring, and there's not much about the way it looks to convince you of any performance aspirations - but, this is as it should be, as the sedan is built for opulent cruising. A panoramic sunroof, power-folding mirrors, and full LED lights in the front and back are standard. A unique light signature has been borrowed from the Audi e-tron to identify the Hybrid from the lineup, and consists of five horizontal DRL strips on the outer part of the air inlets. The front bumper gets some chrome trim, and there are chrome door handle inlays too. The parting view offers dual exhaust outlets and a prominent diffuser. The whole, gorgeous setup is set on 19-inch five-spoke bi-color wheels which have been designed to enhance aerodynamics, while 20-inch items are optional.
The A8 Hybrid is set over the 123.2-inch long-wheelbase version of the standard sedan, with the U.S. only receiving these elongated models. Spanning a total length of 208.7 inches, the A8 Hybrid stands at 58.5 inches in height. With mirrors included, it is 83.9 inches wide, and 76.6 without. The imposing sedan tips the scales at 5,335 pounds, around 400 lbs heavier than the standard sedan with the eight-cylinder engine.
For the electrification of its flagship sedan, Audi has taken the 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbocharged V6 from their standard sedan, and added an electric motor with 134 horsepower, as well as a 14.1 kWh battery. The result is a total combined system output of 443 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque that's good for getting the hefty sedan up to 60 mph in a claimed 4.9 seconds, according to the manufacturer. This isn't any quicker than the 4.0-liter gas version that can do the sprint in only 4.5 seconds, but it is an improvement on the standard mild-hybrid A8 with the same engine but less electric assistance, that requires more than 5.5 seconds to get to the finish line.
Although the top speed is 130 mph, the A8 Hybrid can run up to 84 mph in pure electric mode. The whole set up sends power to all four wheels via Audi's quattro system and uses an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic to swap cogs. Starting out in EV mode, the gas engine is only engaged when the accelerator is depressed, and, when in Hybrid mode, also provides a Hold function that builds up battery charge and allocates it for later use in pure EV mode - Audi claims you can travel upwards of 28 miles on battery power alone, but the EPA doesn't quite agree, suggesting a more believable 17-mile range instead.
While this luxo-barge in no way pretends to be a sporty driver, there's always the assumption that something from Audi should be just one step ahead in terms of dynamic driving and engagement. It's a fine line here, however, with the A8 Hybrid definitely leaning towards composed, gentlemanly road manners. Air suspension is standard, and with the extra benefit of a long wheelbase, the setup absorbs road noise different road textures with startling efficiency. The cabin is so well insulated, it's near-silent inside. The driver is gifted with accurate steering, but as mentioned, there could be more feedback. Surprisingly, there is a little hint of excitement with the A8 Hybrid able to be thrown into corners quite proficiently; although this is certainly not its forte, it manages with exceptional grip and confidence. Drivers can also choose between comfort, efficiency, auto, and dynamic modes to change up the drive, suspension, and steering a little to give you more, or less, power, depending on your mood.
The EPA gives a combined rating of 23 mpg for the Audi A8 Hybrid, and a figure of 54 MPGe when driven purely in EV mode. The manufacturer claims the A8 plug-in hybrid can manage upwards of 28 miles on a fully charged battery, but the EPA tells another story, rating it at only 17 miles. The large sedan has a 17.2-gallon gas tank equipped, and, can traverse around 395 miles on a full tank with combined use of gas and electric power.
Charging the battery on a normal household outlet will take around 6.5 hours, although a level 2 charger could see the battery at capacity in under three.
Standard seating for five is available in the capacious A8 Hybrid, although a third person in the rear seat will have to be on the short side or not be bothered by the high, wide tunnel that will restrict their leg and foot space. There is also an Executive Rear Seat package available that deletes the rear center armrest to make way for two exquisite perches with footrests and a heated foot massage function. More about that later, but suffice to say that the idea of superlative luxury is ingrained in the interior design of the A8 as a whole. In addition to the copious amounts of head- and legroom for all on board, there's fine Valetta leather surfaces and various types of wood inlays to emphasize the plush look and feel of the cabin. Various Valcona leather upgrades are also available, and with standard heated seats that power adjust 18 ways as is, the interior certainly lives up to the manufacturer's aim to present a luxury lounge theme.
As with many hybrid cars, trunk space is often impinged on for the sake of the battery pack, and with the A8 Hybrid, this is the case, too. Behind the rear seats, there is 10.4 cubic feet of cargo room, down from the 12.5 cubes in the standard models. Due to all that luxury and rear-seat tech required to keep passengers in a state of bliss, the back seats also don't fold down, so you'll have to make do with what there is.
Small-item storage is catered for with a well-sized glovebox on the passenger side, and a storage cubby underneath the center armrest, but this is occupied by a wireless charging pad. There are a few small slots and trays dotted around the center stack, but not with enough space for anything other than coins, keys, or possibly a phone. Door pockets are deep, but not very wide - they are lined with fabric, however.
As is expected of a flagship vehicle, the A8 has no shortage of features and conveniences - in fact, the hybrid A8 gets the cream of the crop, adding to the features on the top-spec A8 sedan. Four-zone climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass, and ambient lighting are the basics - a panoramic sunroof, heated, 18-way power-adjustable front seats with lumbar controls, soft-close doors, and premium wood inlays are standard. Added for this model is the ability to pre-warm or cool the cabin, seats, and steering wheel before entering the vehicle. Audi's Virtual Cockpit is also stock fitted. Driver aids include the standard Audi pre sense basic and pre sense front system, together with a rearview camera, advanced keyless start, stop, and entry, a hands-free trunk release, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and lane departure warning.
Infotainment comes in the form of two MMI touchscreens in the center stack, with measurements of 10.1 and 8.6 inches, respectively, with the larger screen situated on top. This runs Audi's music interface setup, which includes two USBs located in the front of the cabin, HD Radio, SiriusXM, Bluetooth wireless tech, and full Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. Amazon Alexa functionality is also supported. MMI navigation is standard-fit, and audio is played back through a top-notch Bang & Olufsen sound system with 17 speakers and a 16-channel amplifier.
Thus far, there have been no recalls issued for the 2020 Audi A8, although the A8 sedan on which the Hybrid is based was recalled once in 2019 for an improperly manufactured passenger seat. This recall applied specifically to cars fitted with the optional Executive Rear Seat package. Audi offers a four-year/50,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, which is inclusive of four years of 24-hour Roadside Assistance.
Although neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has rated the Audi A8 or its hybrid model for crash test scores, there are numerous safety features equipped to the sedan to set your mind at ease. This includes nine airbags (with the expected dual front, front side, and side curtain supplemented by dual front knee and a front center airbag), stability and traction control, ABS and EBD. An additional airbag can be added to the rear center, too. A rearview camera is also stock fitted, and driver aids comprise the pre sense basic and pre sense front systems, as well as keyless entry, rain and light-sensing wipers and headlights, cruise control, front and rear parking assist, and lane departure warning. Night vision with large animal and pedestrian detection can be optioned on additionally, as can the Driver Assistance package, which installs adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, predictive efficiency assist, and intersection assist. This package also tops up the suite with traffic sign recognition and active lane assist.
As an all-new model for 2020, one has to look past the novelty of a large sedan with hybrid tech and really peruse the basics to make a call on whether the car is a good one or not. For starters, the Audi A8 sedan range is a well-revered luxury sedan, scoring a high 8.9 on our BuzzScore scale - the levels of luxury, comfort, and convenience are high, space is generous, and the drive is divine. But this is also what's expected of a car in this segment. So, what makes the A8 Hybrid stand out is this combination with electrification, which adds some serious punch to the engine, beating out the likes of BMW's 7 Series Hybrid for horsepower and torque. The A8 Hybrid doesn't get the best gas mileage in the segment, but comes out one mpg better in comparison to the 7 Series Hybrid, which already fares worse than its gas-only sibling. But, it manages to offer a lower MPGe rating of 54 to the 7 Series' 56. Overshadowing any negativity, however, is the overall brilliance of the package as a whole, with a quiet, comfortable cabin that can be customized to pamper your passengers, high-quality materials, and loads of safety tech. Here's what we think: if you're considering an A8, opt for the A8 Hybrid - it's less expensive than the ozone-killing 4.0-liter V8 in the range, but a rather big step up from the base model.
Only one option is available for the all-new A8 Hybrid, and it has an MSRP of $94,000, excluding a destination charge of $995, as well as taxes, licensing and registration. This big beauty undercuts the BMW 7 Series Hybrid by $1,550, but is around $10k pricier than the hybrid rival from Lexus, the LS 500h, although the Lexus isn't a plug-in.
While there aren't any trims to pick from, the important decision to purchase the Hybrid from amongst its A8 peers is the one that counts. Then, kitting it out appropriately means choosing whether or not to option on the Executive Package for the heated, 22-way power-adjustable front seats with memory and massage, a head-up display, surround-view monitor and added pre sense rear driver's aids - this will add $4,600 to your total. We'd also recommend the Driver Assistance package, which equips adaptive cruise control, intersection assist, and traffic sign recognition to the car for an extra $2,750. The Executive Rear Seat Package, with its eye-watering $7,750 price tag, drops the back row capacity from three down to two, but adds relaxation seats with heated foot massage, ventilation and heating, and a center rear airbag, amongst others.
As though our favorite pastime is comparing Germans to Germans, the Audi A8 Hybrid naturally comes up against the 7 Series Hybrid for top honors. Right off the bat, the A8 takes the lead for its more potent powertrain, with its hybridized engine-motor combination kicking out 443 hp and 516 lb-ft to the Bimmer's 389 hp and 443 lb-ft. Despite this, the 7 Series maintains the same 0-60 time as the A8 Hybrid, with both getting to the target in 4.9 seconds - a benefit of the BMW's reduced curb weight. Another highlight of this fact is the superior handling of the 7 Series, with its natural affinity for being thrown around corners and responding intuitively. Designers have done a fantastic job of creating a large luxury sedan that can be driven for pleasure too, which, for the A8, is not as apparent. Still, the A8 Hybrid has a few small details covered, such as full smartphone integration which the BMW requires additional subscriptions to, three more airbags than the six on the BMW, and a few more standard driver aids, to boot. We also prefer the looks of the Audi more, but this is a highly subjective point to make decisions off of. We'd suggest opting for the Audi if you're going to be cradled in the back seat, chilling. If you want to be behind the wheel, you'd best opt for the BMW.
Coming in at a much cheaper price ($83,230 for the AWD LS 500h to the Audi's $94,000), the Lexus LS 500h scores just a fraction lower on our BuzzScore, overall. It brings with it a really impressive look, with elegant lines and expressive accents, and matches the Audi's beautiful interior for comfort, quality, and layout. There's a lot less horsepower and torque available from the hybrid setup in the Lexus, however, with only 354 hp to play with - but this is still enough to claim a 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds, only marginally slower than the A8. Where the Lexus gains the upper hand is in the fact that it offers a rear-wheel drivetrain, and by extension, also much better fuel economy, with EPA ratings of 25/33/28 mpg to the Audi's 17/26/21 mpg. But the Lexus isn't a plug-in and lacks the electric range of the Audi. Cargo space in the Lexus is around five cubic feet more, too, and there's even one more airbag on the list. This is a difficult call, as all sensibilities point to choosing the Lexus - but with an all-new model from Audi to play with, we'll let our hearts decide.
Check out some informative Audi A8 Hybrid video reviews below.