For luxury limousines, the word ‘performance’ pertains not only to the cold, indisputable numbers that define acceleration and braking but also to the nature of the delivery. And the latter is of greater consequence.
With its turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 and electric motor working at their maximum, the A8 60 TFSIe will surge to 62mph in less than five seconds despite its 2330kg heft, but if the experience is that of an unruly scramble, the car’s very reason for being is holed below the waterline.
Fortunately, the way this new powertrain deploys its substantial reserves of power and torque is never anything less than elegant and controlled. With healthy assistance from the electric motor, throttle response is fast and thereafter propulsive force builds predictably and, if you so choose, rapidly. And yet given that the engine and motor develop their combined and mighty peak of 516lb ft at only 1370rpm, much of the time there’s little reason to allow the engine to stray past 2000rpm, below which it is almost undetectable from within the confines of the vault-like, double-glazed cabin.
If you do let it rip, you’ll find it surprisingly sonorous, and sweeter than its diesel sibling, if not quite as satisfying on the ears as the straight six found in the 745Le.
However, most of these cars will be driven in chauffeur-like fashion, and it is at sedate speeds that you’ll find Audi has got the business of feeding electric power into the driveline proper – and then withdrawing it – down to a fine art. There are no hiccups, no delays and very few audible cues to give away the complexity of the operation. Shifts from the eight-speed auto are also supremely well executed, with no apparent break in the flow.
Meanwhile, fuel economy is going to depend on how exactly you deploy the car’s 28 miles of electric range, but in eighth gear, with the battery depleted, our test car returned 35mpg on the motorway.