Audi delivers PHEV technology to its largest saloon, the A8 - but at quite a price premium. Still, successful boardroom-level executives may not care too much about that given that someone else will probably be paying. And that this car can go over 28 miles on all-electric power and (theoretically) deliver over 100mpg. For urban driving, it's a tempting proposition.
If you're buying a boardroom level large luxury saloon, and it's quite possible that you may not much care about saving the planet. But eco-friendliness has to start somewhere - and this Audi A8 TFSIe plug-in model is as good a place as any. You might be surprised to learn that plug-in technology is quite commonplace in the full-sized luxury saloon segment. Versions of the BMW 7 Series (the 745e) and the Mercedes S-Class (the S560e) have offered it for some time. Audi introduced this A8 TFSIe plug-in model only as recently as late 2019.
Being somewhat late to the party in the PHEV part of the big luxury saloon segment, Audi has had plenty of time to check out what rivals BMW or Mercedes are offering here - and try to deliver something better. In the case of this A8 60 TFSIe, that means a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine with 340PS mated to an electric motor with 100KW. That means a total combined output of 449PS, sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed tiptronic automatic gearbox. Even given the weight of this car, you might expect that to translate into a pretty potent set of performance figures - and that's how it turns out. The 62 mph sprint from rest occupies just 4.9 seconds - which is quicker than either a Mercedes S560e or a BMW 745e. Top speed is limited to 155mph - but if it wasn't, you could probably crest 170mph. Of greater interest here though, is the all-electric driving range, quoted at 28.6 miles - that's better than the Mercedes but about the same as the BMW. There's an 84mph all-electric top speed - but obviously if you regularly approach that, your battery charge won't last very long. This isn't much of a driver's car of course - it isn't intended to be. Instead, strengths include superb refinement and an exceptional quality of ride from the standard air suspension.
There are few visual giveaways of this PHEV A8's plug-in status, unless you happen to notice the 'TFSIe' badging and/or the addition of a charging flap. This fourth generation A8 signalled the beginning of a new design era for the entire Audi brand. The front end with its wide, upright Singleframe grille and the fluid, muscular body both aim to convey power, elegance, sophistication and modernity. As with other A8 variants, two body styles are available here, the 5.17-metre 'standard' version and the A8 L, which has a 13cm-longer wheelbase. There's a big boot space penalty with the PHEV variant - the normal 505-litre trunk size falls to just 390-litres. In the cabin, occupants relax in sublime surroundings, with every detail radiating superlative bespoke quality - from the perforation in the seat upholstery to the electrically opening and closing shutters on the air vents. The most sought-after seat in long wheelbase model could quite possibly be the rear left - the optional relaxation seat in the A8 L that comes with four different adjustment options and a footrest. In this seat, the passenger can warm and massage the soles of their feet on a unit with multiple settings incorporated into the back of the front-passenger seat. Up-front, the instrument panel is largely free of buttons and switches. At its centre is a 10.1-inch touchscreen display which, when off, blends almost invisibly into the high-gloss black surround thanks to its black-panel look.
There's only one A8 TFSIe plug-in model, the 60 TFSIe quattro, and it only comes in one trim level - 'Sport'. You'll need the best part of £85,000 for one of these (or well over £87,000 for the long wheelbase version). That represents a £13,000 premium over, say, a 'Sport'-trimmed 50 TDI Quattro diesel-engined A8, so you've really got to want the PHEV drivetrain here. At least you get expect plenty of kit for the money. Standard trim includes 19-inch '5-arm Turbine'-style cast alloy wheels, LED front and rear lights and power closing doors that click into place if not shut properly. There's also climate comfort seats in valcona leather, a head-up display and the brand's 'Parking system plus' set-up with a rear view camera. In addition, there's Audi's 'MMI Navigation plus and MMI touch' infotainment system - and of course the Audi virtual cockpit instrument binnacle screen. Many customers will want to pay the extra for the optional 'Comfort and Sound Pack' which, for £2,000 more, gives you a Bang and Olufsen premium sound system with 3D sound, 17 loudspeakers and a 730-watt output. The Pack also includes a 360?? camera, a multi-coloured extended LED interior lighting pack and a 'Park assist with parking aid plus' system that will steer you into spaces.
As with any PHEV, to get the most out of this A8 TFSIe, you'll need to keep the car charged up and make the absolute most of the potential all-electric driving range, rated at 28.6 miles. If you don't do that, you'll essentially end up with a heavier version of the conventional 55 TFSI petrol A8 variant - and take it from us, one of those isn't going to be cheap to run. This SUV's lithium-ion battery is made up of 104 prismatic cells and stores 14.1kWh of energy with a voltage of 381 volts. And the car is supplied as standard with a compact charging system plus a Mode 3 cable with Type 2 plug for use at public charging stations. The compact charging system comprises cables for household and industrial outlets, plus a control unit. The system features an LED status display and safety functions such as temperature and residual current monitoring. Audi also offers an optional charging clip, a lockable wall-mounted holder for the charging system. The integrated charger charges the lithium-ion battery with a maximum power of 7.4kW. Even at a 220V household outlet, an empty battery can be fully and conveniently recharged overnight in roughly six hours. Using a 7kW garage wallbox, you should be able to reduce that to around two and a half hours.
Whether as an A8 buyer you'd really want this plug-in version depends on the type of driving you (or your chauffeur) is likely to do. If you'll be covering huge motorway mileage, then it'd be better to go for the 50 TDI diesel version. But if a lot of your driving is done in cities, then this 60 TFSIe variant makes a massive amount of sense. It's smoother than the diesel, extremely economical and it'd be far cheaper to tax. Yes there are a few drawbacks - less boot space and quite a high price hike come with the PHEV package. But if you can live with those, then for a boardroom-level executive conscious of his or her eco footprint, this plug-in Audi might be a tempting proposition.