2021 Audi A8 Plug-in Hybrid the ultimate City car. If your job is making money in the Square Mile, this is how you get there.
AUDI A8 PLUG-IN HYBRID First Drives
The first thing you notice when you drive an electric car such as the Nissan Leaf is the silence, followed by the instant and seamless acceleration. You get levels of serene luxury in a hatchback you’d normally only experience after winning The Apprentice and getting a lift home in Lord Sugar’s Rolls-Royce.
An electric drivetrain in a limo makes perfect sense after barely a mile
But it’s still a hatchback. Combine that peaceful propulsion with a super-refined shell, however – like the Audi A8’s – and you have the ultimate luxury wafter. An electric drivetrain in a limo makes total and perfect sense after barely a mile of driving. This is a vehicle that’ll spend its life conveying elite business people around a congested city (because that’s where elite business people work), and here its 134bhp and the ability to travel nearly 30 tranquil miles without a breath of CO2 is more than adequate.
For additional flexibility and the ability to tackle longer journeys there’s also a petrol V6 taken from the next most powerful A8, the 55 TFSI, making for total outputs of 443bhp and 516lb ft of torque. Getting from one city to another in a hurry is not even remotely taxing. It’s a hushed unit even when pushed hard, but listen carefully and it sounds great – like Morgan Freeman doing the voiceover for a state funeral. The 12.1kWh lithium-ion battery that enables all this is located under the boot floor, giving you the full-EV experience or a welcome boost to the petrol motor’s performance, such as eliminating the slight hesitancy when pulling away that haunts big Audis. It weights 140kg, though, which is the same as two extra passengers, and takes up about as much room, too – the luggage capacity dropping from 505 to 390 litres.
You can charge it using the socket on the left-hand side of the car, or through regeneration during coasting and braking. Audi reckons 90 per cent of everyday braking will be disc- and pad-free. So, although you’re pressing the brake pedal to slow down, much of the deceleration is actually achieved by that multi-tasking electric motor. And the move from electric braking to hydraulic braking is seamless.
The electric motor is the main source of propulsion up to 84mph, unless you push the accelerator pedal past the artificial stop in the middle of its stroke, signifying the switchover point between EV and petrol assistance. This makes it super-easy to stay in its sweetest mode.
It’s like driving a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. The outside world passes by but the A8 does such a good job of isolating you from it that at times it’s like being in a simulator. Air suspension irons the road flat while thick windows block out any evidence of wind existing at all.
With a destination programmed into the satnav, the A8 rations out the battery for you too. Short journeys get the most electrical assistance, long ones the least. When the juice runs out the A8 works like a conventional hybrid, giving you additional shove around town instead of running as a pure EV.
Standard A8 conclusions still apply – the Mercedes-Benz S-Class W222 is more opulent in the rear and the BMW 7-series G11/12 more fun to drive, but the subtly styled Ingolstadt car is the sharpest looking and most technologically impressive.
So calm you’ll believe wind has been abolished
Silent, powerful and emissions-free in town, this plug-in version of the Audi A8 is the best in the range
It’s no G11/G12 BMW 7-series dynamically, but the A8 PHEV is an excellent eco-limo
THE FIRST HOUR
Plug-in limos are the only PHEVs that come with a long enough charging cable
This is an absolute delight. I think I can hear my own heartbeat
How relaxed behind the wheel can you get before it’s considered dangerous?
I actually prefer this car to my own house
PLUS Sleek and genuinely quite green
MINUS Could pamper passengers more
PRICE £88,195 (2021 Audi A8 L 60 TFSI e Sport)
POWERTRAIN 2995cc 24v turbocharged V6 plus e-motor, PHEV, eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Max power 443bhp @ 5000rpm,
Max torque 516lb ft @ 1250rpm,
Max speed 155mph
EFFICIENCY 109mpg, 60g/km CO2