Review and road test of the Audi A8 60 TFSI e quattro
GREEN WITH SHEEN
Audi's A8 60 TFSIe PHEV saloon allows a successful executive to go green in some style. Jonathan Crouch looks at the revised version
Ten Second Review of the Audi A8 60 TFSI e quattro
Audi offers PHEV technology in its largest saloon, the A8 - but at quite a price premium. Still, successful top executives may not care too much about that given that someone else will probably be paying for this, the A8 60 TFSI e quattro variant. The revised version of this model has a larger 17.9kWh battery and a smarter look. For urban chauffeuring of boadroom folk, it might be a tempting proposition.
If you're buying a boardroom level large luxury saloon, and it's quite possible that you may not much care about saving the planet. But eco-friendliness has to start somewhere - and this Audi A8 TFSI e plug-in model is as good a place as any.
You might be surprised to learn that plug-in technology is quite commonplace in the full-sized luxury saloon segment. Versions of the BMW 7 Series (the 745e) and the Mercedes S-Class (the S560e) have offered it for some time. Audi introduced this A8 TFSI e plug-in model only as recently as late 2019. Here, it's been usefully revised.
Being somewhat late to the party in the PHEV part of the big luxury saloon segment, Audi has had plenty of time to check out what rivals BMW or Mercedes are offering here - and try to deliver something better. In the case of this A8 60 TFSI e, that means a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine with 340PS mated to an electric motor with 100KW. That means a total combined output of 462PS (itwas 449PS before), sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed tiptronic automatic gearbox. Even given the weight of this car, you might expect that to translate into a pretty potent set of performance figures - and that's how it turns out. The 62 mph sprint from rest occupies just 4.9 seconds - which is quicker than plug-in Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series rivals. Top speed is limited to 155mph - but if it wasn't, you could probably crest 170mph.
At the wheel, you can choose between four modes. "EV" stands for fully electric driving, "Hybrid" for an efficient combination of both drive system types, and "Hold" for conserving the available electric energy, while the combustion engine charges the battery in "Charge" mode.
Of greater interest here though, is the all-electric driving range, which thanks to this revised model's larger 17.9kWh battery is now well over the 30 mile mark. But that's still way off the impressive 63 mile total you'd get from a rival (but pricier) Mercedes S560e. There's an 84mph all-electric top speed - but obviously if you regularly approach that, your battery charge won't last very long. This isn't much of a driver's car of course - it isn't intended to be. Instead, strengths include superb refinement and an exceptional quality of ride from the standard air suspension.
Design and Build
There are few visual giveaways of this PHEV A8's plug-in status, unless you happen to notice the 'TFSI e' badging and/or the addition of a charging flap. This fourth generation A8 signalled the beginning of a new design era for the entire brand and this revised model aims to continue that visual evolution. To that end, there's a larger Singleframe front grille, a restyled front bumper, smarter side skirts and a sleeker rear valance at the back. The LED headlamps are also restyled - and can be upgraded to Audi's latest Digital Matrix LED status where each light unit contains 1.3 million micro mirrors. The smarter rear lights meanwhile, have a built-in proximity sensor which activates them if a following vehicle gets too close. As before, two bodystyles are available, the 5.17-metre 'standard' version and the A8 L, which has a 13cm-longer wheelbase.
Inside, occupants can also now relax in even more sublime surroundings, with every detail radiating superlative bespoke quality - from the perforation in the seat upholstery to the electrically opening and closing shutters on the air vents. Up-front, the instrument panel is largely free of buttons and switches. As before, there's a 12.3-inch Digital Cockpit instrument screen, plus two centre monitors, a 10.1-inch one for the media functions and a lower 8.6-inch unit just for the climate controls. All three screens now run on updated software.
As ever, the most sought-after seat in this Audi flagship model could quite possibly be the rear left - the optional relaxation seat in the A8 L that comes with four different adjustment options and a footrest. In this seat, the passenger can warm and massage the soles of their feet on a unit with multiple settings incorporated into the back of the front-passenger seat.
There's a big boot space penalty with the PHEV variant - the normal 505-litre trunk size falls to just 390-litres.
Market and Model
There's only one A8 TFSIe plug-in model, the 60 TFSIe quattro, and it only comes in one trim level - 'Sport'. You'll need to think in terms of needing a budget of approaching £90,000 for one of these - it's a couple of thousand more for the long wheelbase version. That represents quite a large premium over, say, a 'Sport'-trimmed 50 TDI quattro diesel-engined A8, so you've really got to want the PHEV drivetrain here.
With this revised model, there's an improved "Hey Audi" voice control system and media connectivity is now served by a faster MIB 3 software system. Plus online and Car-2-X services from Audi connect augment the navigation system. Unlike in an S-Class, you can add rear seat screens - two 10.1-inch HD monitors attached to the front seat backs.
Standard drive tech includes the 'Tour' assist package, which includes adaptive cruise assist - this adjusting longitudinal and lateral guidance throughout the vehicle's speed range. The optional 'City' assist package includes intersection assist, cross-traffic assist, side assist, exit warning, and the Audi pre sense 360?? safety system, which induces a side crash enhancement in combination with the active suspension.
As before, there's also an optional 'Park' package, which includes remote park assist. This can autonomously steer the A8 into and out of a parking space or a garage, while the manoeuvre is monitored by the driver standing outside the car, controlling things via his or her smartphone and the myAudi app. It broadcasts a live feed of the parking manoeuvre taken from the car's 360-degree cameras onto the owner's handheld device for easy monitoring.
Cost of Ownership
As with any PHEV, to get the most out of this A8 TFSIe, you'll need to keep the car charged up and make the absolute most of the potential all-electric driving range, now rated at well over 30 miles thanks to the increase in battery size. If you don't do that, you'll essentially end up with a heavier version of the conventional 55 TFSI petrol A8 variant - and take it from us, one of those isn't going to be cheap to run.
This SUV's lithium-ion battery now stores 17.9kWh of energy (up from 14.1kWh before); the current battery is 14.4kWh net. The maximum charging capacity - with alternating current - is 7.4 kW. Customers can use the compact e-tron charging system for that in their garage at home or the mode 3 cable when they are on the road. In Europe, the Audi e-tron Charging Service grants access to approximately 250,000 charging points. The compact charging system comprises cables for household and industrial outlets, plus a control unit. The system features an LED status display and safety functions such as temperature and residual current monitoring. Audi also offers an optional charging clip, a lockable wall-mounted holder for the charging system. Even at a 220V household outlet, an empty battery can be fully and conveniently recharged overnight in roughly six hours. Using a 7kW garage wallbox, you should be able to reduce that to around two and a half hours.
Whether as an A8 buyer you'd really want this plug-in version depends on the type of driving you (or your chauffeur) is likely to do. If you'll be covering huge motorway mileage, then it'd be better to go for the 50 TDI diesel version. But if a lot of your driving is done in cities, then this 60 TFSI e variant makes a massive amount of sense. It's smoother than the diesel, extremely economical and it'd be far cheaper to tax.
Yes there are a few drawbacks - less boot space and quite a high price hike come with the PHEV package. But if you can live with those, then for a boardroom-level executive conscious of his or her eco footprint, this plug-in Audi might be a tempting proposition.
Audi A8 60 TFSI e quattro review by Jonathan Crouch