The new Audi A8 60 TFSI e balances beautiful refinement thanks to its extensive electrification with strong performance and impressive efficiency for such a big machine. It’s still short on identity despite a slight style makeover, and at more than £90,000 in newly added S line trim tested here that could be an issue for some, but the powertrain plays to the A8’s strengths as a comfortable, tech laden and incredibly refined mode of transport.
Not all that long ago, if you wanted a big, luxury saloon like Audi’s A8 you’d buy a diesel. But in 2022 the market has moved so much – and over such a short period of time – that the newly updated A8 60 TFSI e plug-in hybrid we’re trying here will match diesel sales. That’s progress.
The new A8 boasts a subtle but effective round of updates, including some styling tweaks that feature new front and rear bumpers, a larger singleframe grille with different inserts, OLED tail-lights with different lighting signatures, and the addition of the brand’s popular S line trim to the line-up, among other things.
Sharper and more focused in this sportier spec, the new look is similar to the previous A8 overall, just a bit more modern.
Used car tests
Under the skin there have been some significant changes too, with all engines now featuring 48-volt mild-hybrid electrification, bar for this PHEV. The powertrain here consists of a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine combined with a 17.9kWh (14.4kWh usable) battery and an electric motor for a total of 456bhp and 700Nm of torque.
Even in a car weighing 2,310kg that’s enough for a 4.9-second 0-62mph time, but it’s the delivery of the readily available electric torque that makes the plug-in A8 feel a little more urgent than you might imagine.
Of course, this is all balanced with the unburstable air of refinement from the powertrain that you’d imagine, given such a big electrified element. In the past the A8 felt short on personality, but here the 60 TFSI e actually plays to the A8’s strengths, cruising around in engine-off near-silence for a claimed 36 miles. With temperatures hovering around 2C on a cold day outside Munich, we managed nearly 30 miles from the battery, which is a more than respectable performance.
While the adaptive regenerative braking system is good and does work intelligently, it’d be nice to have an even stronger B mode to engage permanently, sending more energy back to the battery. As it is, the switch between regenerative and friction braking is smooth enough, although the haptic feedback from the throttle pedal takes some getting used to.
Push past these vibrations, and the artificial detent in the throttle’s travel, and even when the engine kicks in it only emits a distant, muted rumble. The calm is never punctured by the powertrain, even at full throttle. And only occasionally is it ruptured by the ride as the S line model’s 20-inch wheels rebound over bumps slightly more abruptly than you might imagine, but this is only generally in corners at faster speeds.
Otherwise, on the super-smooth German tarmac of our test route the A8’s adaptive air suspension deals with imperfections well. There’s some roll due to the softer set-up and the chunky kerbweight, but it’s relatively well controlled.
The luxury experience continues inside, where even this standard wheelbase model offers plenty of legroom. A long wheelbase model is available, adding 130mm between the axles, even more legroom and £4,000 to the price. It’s also available with the Rear Comfort Pack, which adds a pair of 10.1-inch HD screens mounted on the front seatbacks.
It’s similar display tech to Audi’s MMI infotainment system, which features a 12.3-inch digital dash, a 10.1-inch main touchscreen and an 8.6-inch panel below for the climate controls, plus heating, cooling and massage functions for the seats (where fitted). It works with the slick simplicity we’ve come to expect from this system, offering superb resolution and responses.
As per Audi’s usual strength, material and build quality is as close to flawless as you’ll find this side of a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce, with the cabin clothed in soft leather and expensive-feeling metal finishers, even if some of the piano black plastic does create some unusual reflections and may show scratches in time. It’s still a little short of flourishes too, even if the execution is beautifully precise.
S line is the sweet spot in the range, as it features the sportier looks along with climate control, driver assistance tech in the form of autonomous braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise, a head-up display, traffic sign recognition, a reversing camera, HD matrix LED headlights with high beam assist, acoustic glass, comfort seats trimmed in leather, keyless entry, soft-close doors and a power tailgate.
Boot space is just enough at 390 litres but compromised over the ICE variants, which offer 505 litres, due to the location of the PHEV’s battery. At least the plug-in powertrain means efficiency potential of up to 156.9mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 40g/km. Looking at the A8 as a business vehicle, it means a Benefit-in-Kind company car tax rate of 11 per cent; every other A8 variant sits in the top 37 per cent BiK band.
In turn, this will deliver a big saving for company car drivers, because the 60 TFSI e S line in standard wheelbase form costs a not insignificant £91,690.
|Model:||Audi A8 60 TFSI e S line|
|Engine:||3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol + e-motor|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|