If you're considering buying an Audi A8 and you live in Ireland then let us save you the trouble of reading to the bottom of this page: go buy one of the fantastic TDI diesel models. This new petrol-electric hybrid is technically impressive, and makes some sense on paper, but it's not a car that suits this part of the world at this point in time.
In the Metal:
There's very little to differentiate the Hybrid model from any other A8. The Arctic Silver paint finish is unique to this model, as are standard 18-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels. A few 'Hybrid' badges are dotted around inside and out too. It's available in regular and long wheelbase guises as well. The shape doesn't excite us, though we do love the signature LED headlights.
As ever, the A8's cabin is a work of art. There are a few dubious trim options, but each to their own on that front. We do like the illuminated hybrid door sill lettering and the real sense of decadent luxury that pervades all A8 interiors that are well specified. The only other clues to the hybrid powertrain are a new power meter in place of the rev counter and the option to display energy flow throughout the system.
A downside of the rear-mounted hybrid battery pack is a significant reduction in boot space, from 510- to 335 litres, though Audi will happily sell you a custom designed five-piece luggage set to fit. The boot lid itself opens and closes automatically, with an option of foot gesture control for when your hands are full.
Put simply, we were very disappointed by how this car drives. The bare figures bode well in terms of the mix of performance and economy, but the execution quickly made us realise how lucky we are to have access to such great diesel engines in this part of the world. At low speed the hybrid system seems to clunk and dither as it decides whether the car should be driven by the engine, the electric motor or both. It hampers the A8's usual serene progress and is less than relaxing. Admittedly, if you press the EV button, low-speed cruising is joyfully quiet.
And while that electric motor helps boost performance to a decent level, try to access it in full and you're met with the distinctly un-A8-like roar of a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. Thankfully it's muted the rest of the time. Indeed, the A8 Hybrid works best at a high-speed cruise, where it's comfortable, stable and quiet. Sadly, that's exactly when the hybrid system is of little use.
Everything else about how the A8 drives remains, with the proviso that this model sends its power to the front wheels only. However, the powertrain takes from what was a great car. We can't recommend it.
What you get for your Money:
On one hand, emissions of 147g/km and fuel consumption of 6.3 litres/100km (44.8mpg) are impressive for a vehicle the size of the Audi A8, and we don't believe that any other luxury car in the sector gets away with the same €330 per year tax bill. However, when you spend around €100,000 on such a vehicle we suspect that the annual tax rate isn't utmost in your mind.
Needless to say the A8 Hybrid is well equipped. Highlights from the long list of standard equipment include ambient lighting, Active Noise Cancellation, those distinctive LED headlights and a fabulous BOSE surround sound system with 13 speakers and a 230-Watt, 12-channel digital amplifier. As will all A8s, you could almost double the list price with tempting options such as special leather and massaging seats.
More and more car makers are manipulating sound, in some cases to enhance the perceived engine note inside the car, but in the A8 Hybrid there's Active Noise Cancellation. Four microphones are hidden in the headlining sending signals to a central processor. It has the ability to emit 'anti-phase' sound to cancel out unwanted noise in the cabin. All very clever, but we'd love to test it switched on and off to really appreciate its effect.
We have no issue with the Audi A8. It's one of the top luxury cars in its class with an amazing interior and incredible technology. All that is true of the new A8 Hybrid too, but the petrol-electric hybrid system just isn't good enough to compete with Audi's great TDI diesel engines. Stick with them unless you're reading this from America, the Middle East, Japan or China.