With both this 60 TFSIe plug-in hybrid and the 563bhp V8-engined S8 arriving three years into the sales cycle, Audi has certainly saved its most interesting A8 derivatives until if not last then at least later. And with 443bhp and 516lb ft, neither does the most frugal car in the range lag too far behind the S8 in terms of performance.
It pairs a 134bhp electric motor, mounted within the housing of the eight-speed torque-converter gearbox, and Audi’s existing 335bhp turbocharged petrol 3.0-litre V6. Torque is split variably but permanently between the axles.
It’s the electric portion of the driveline – supplied by a 14.1kWh lithium ion battery pack sitting beneath the boot floor – with which the driver is first acquainted. Start the 60 TFSIe and it wakes silently, pulls away under electric power and will remain that way until its maximum zero-emission speed of 84mph if you’re gentle enough with the accelerator pedal.
Call for greater propulsive force than the motor alone can provide and the engine joins the fray, although with the battery fully charged and primed to deliver its 28.6 miles of official electric range, it should prove no hardship to drive the A8 60 TFSIe like an all-electric car.
There are, of course, drawbacks to cramming two power sources into one car. At 2330kg, this long-wheelbase plug-in hybrid A8 weighs 335kg more than its V6-only rangemate and it is also considerably heavier than both the Mercedes S560e L and the BMW 745Le xDrive, which are its chief rivals.
The air-suspended Audi is also the longest car of this trio, which makes it all the more surprising that its wheelbase and boot capacity are the smallest.