The first hybrid-powered version of Audi's flagship A8 was part of the brand's many launches on the first day of the Geneva motorshow, but is one of the more impressive vehicles on the German manufacturer's stand.
It is set to go on sale at the end of 2011 and has made its debut at Geneva in as close to production form as is possible without it being able to drive off the stand.
The large saloon is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine, and an electric motor that combine to create a total power output of 242bhp – only 5bhp less than the current entry-level diesel's 247bhp. Audi reckons the result is the equivalent of one of their V6 engines, in terms of power and performance.
The petrol engine accounts for the bulk of this power – 208bhp to be precise – but it also acts as a generator for the battery. The battery is capable of powering the A8 for up to two kilometres, but where it outshines the likes of the Toyota Prius is in its performance – the electric motor is good for speeds up to 40mph. This means it should be capable of all forms of around-town driving on electric power alone.
Going on raw stats alone, the A8 hybrid should have the luxury sector all to itself. It manages to accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds, and should keep going to 146mph.
Yet despite this impressive performance, as one would expect, it is still the car's economy and emissions figures that really impress. The final stats are not confirmed, but Audi reckons the A8 hybrid will be capable of 45.6mpg, which should equate to emissions figures of just 144g/km of CO2. The headline emissions figure for the luxury sector are currently 174g/km, and those are for the new 3.0TDI Audi A8 that is due to go on sale this year.
Looking away from the bare facts, the Audi is sure to impress on the road too. No changes have been made to the highly impressive new model that is set to move the game on from the BMW and Mercedes rivals. It will not lose anything in the way of interior toys, as the new car has made most of its efficiency advancements through shedding weight – it uses vast amounts of aluminium in the frame and on the bodywork, which makes vital savings on the scales.
This also means the exterior remains unchanged, so no-one will know you are in the low-CO2 version of the range. The downsides, as far as we can see, are that there will not be a long-wheelbase option – as it adds a significant amount of weight – and the long wait until the car comes on sale.
The A8 hybrid will definitely be hitting our roads, but not until the end of next year thanks to a combination of development time and Audi's desire to stagger the release of its flagship model.