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2015 Audi A8 Hybrid

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Deep in the press preview of next month’s public reveal of the 2015 Audi A8 facelift, a nugget of very newsworthy information is buried: the 2015 A8 will be offered as a four-cylinder, front-drive hybrid for the first time.

Ditching the quattro all-wheel-drive that is otherwise an A8 standard feature, the A8 Hybrid model is important for a number of reasons. First off, it is a full hybrid with a Li-ion battery pack in the trunk allowing brief EV-only driving.

Secondly, it uses a small and powerful gasoline engine as the primary drivetrain, eschewing the intellectual preference for diesel-electric hybrids from the European luxury brands. This gasoline setup means its performance and economy will be highly tailored to the American and Chinese markets, with arrival in U.S. dealers with the rest of the remodeled A8 gang next spring.

The major reason this car is important is of course its primary USP: fuel economy. With a quoted 37 mpg on the U.S. cycle, the A8 Hybrid will comfortably be able to add 10 mpg to the fuel economy of the second-most-efficient (U.S.) engine: the supercharged quattro V-6 A8 3.0 TFSI.

All the A8’s rich and formal styling, LED lighting and interior tech upgrades promise a new A8 experience, but with a relaxed drive more along the lines of the Lexus ES350h than any previous exec hybrid from Germany. Previous eco-themed limousine models from BMW and Mercedes for the American market, like the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 and Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid , were both total sales failures with almost no economy incentive for buyers.

Click past the jump for the full preview of the 2015 A8 Hybrid, with all the latest details from Audi about its power outputs, EV range and in-car WLAN hotspot technology.

Exterior

Audi A8 Hybrid

Last on that list of why the 2015 A8 Hybrid is important? Sadly, last place goes to style. This refresh is extremely superficial with only new bumper trims to house the adaptive cruise technology and a re-profiled rear end with bumper-embedded exhaust outlets.

Aside from the sharp new S8, the A8 is looking quite dull and overly serious up front. One of the downside of Audi ’s LED running lights and headlights is that their design sets the tone for the rest of the car. With the new A8’s Matrix LEDs from the press photos, the tone it sets is quite stern and even called ’evil looking’ by some TopSpeed comments on last week’s A8 W12 preview.

While not exactly friendly, the lights are unique and bring special adaptive lighting tech to selectively dim or brighten certain areas on the road in a way that xenon bulbs cannot. With only one bulb source, shaping and spotlighting are virtually impossible on the move. Audi ’s system of hundreds of individual LEDs, each with lenses and computer-managed brightness, allows a few extra to be turned on as needed, like if the system senses a pedestrian about to enter the road.

LED spotlights in the Matrix will floodlight that area of the road, as well as indicating danger and priming the brakes as part of the Driver Assistance Package.

The Matrix LED lights may have limited functionality on U.S. roads, pending approval of their use by the NHTSA, but all A8 models will feature scrolling turn signal LEDs front and back.

Interior

Audi A8 Hybrid

The way Audi ’s latest Driver Assistance active safety technology works is very cool. These advancements are something that was even totally beyond military technology until the early 2000s. Long, mid and short range radars asses threats while a laser array spins inside the black projector balls, creating a 3D digital map of the environment constantly. All this sounds normal enough, but these systems are not very helpful on their own.

When a threat is sensed, all the computing power springs into action to re-map and re-scan the whole area in milliseconds. When close enough to focus the dual cameras in the windshield, multiple images are snapped to confirm the radar and lasers’ initial warnings. In milliseconds while traveling at high speed, the car’s brain automatically discards false alerts or determines this is the real deal.

That is the point that the system goes from passively trying to warn you, to actively slamming on the brakes and or swerving if its internal awareness trackers sense you are not reacting. All these features are special on their own, but as with Cadillac ’s unpopular night vision option (was first offered NV in a car, but since pulled and not offered again after low, low take rates): these systems are only as good as their ability to take human error or distraction out of the equation.

Active safety will be a major part of the A8’s relaunch strategy, as will better tech integration and additional web services on the go.

Audi already offers world-first Google Earth and Google Maps satellite imagery for the navigation system, so future developments are focused on improved usability. For this reason, the MMI Touch control is likely to be joined by touch-screen technology for the display panel.

The A8 Hybrid’s battery pack is in the trunk, which is not great news for the A8. It already has one of the smallest trunks in the class, with only 2/3 the space available from the 2014 Chevrolet Impala , for comparison. (12.2 cubic-feet for non-hybrid A8 versus 18 cubic-feet for the Impala.)

Losing the rear-wheel drivetrain will allow more space for the batteries, and also limits the potential weight gain from the new Hybrid tech.

Drivetrain, Engine and Brakes

Audi A8 Hybrid

The big news about the A8 Hybrid is of course its full hybrid ability, meaning it can run on gasoline, electricity or a combination of both. This is not a plug-in hybrid, so just helps improve efficiency via regenerative braking and efficient transmission programming.

Audi promises a "modified Tiptronic" for the Hybrid, which is a bit unclear. The standard A8’s all share an eight-speed Tiptronic box to the quattro drivetrain, so the new transmission will be largely unrelated to the standard autobox.

With a likely electric pancake motor between the engine and transmission, most automakers have gone the CVT route for their eco models. Even Audi runs CVTs under the Xtronic brand in the front-drive A4 and A6 - also with this engine.

CVTs are universally loathed because of their droning acceleration profile and limited ability to deliver real torque on the road. They also cannot handle much in the way of serious power and are hopeless with a full carload of people. A busy and droning engine is not luxury car material, so Audi’s transmission decision will be important.

The 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder engine’s output climbs from 220 horsepower to a combined Hybrid and Gasoline output of 245 horsepower. With 354 pound-feet of torque, the A8 Hybrid is projected to sprint to 60 mph in an estimated 6.5 seconds, before reaching a projected top speed of 130 mph.

The A8 Hybrid will be able to run on EV mode, but only for less than 2 miles at speeds less than 60 mph.

2015 Audi A8 Hybrid - Mechanical Details:

Engine 2.0-liter Turbocharged 16-valve I-4 with Direct Injection and Chain-driven DOHC Plus Hybrid Power Unit
Transmission 8-Speed Tiptronic Automatic
Powertrain Layout Front-engine, Front-drive
Power (Hybrid and Gasoline Combined Output) 245
Torque (Hybrid and Gasoline Combined Output) 354
0-60 mph 6.5, est
Top Speed 130, est
EPA Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined) 33/37/34, est

Pricing

Audi A8 Hybrid

Pricing is not yet available from Audi, but the A8 Hybrid is likely to fall on the lower end of Audi’s A8 price range, which stretches from $73,000 to $140,000 on the 2014 A8 models.

Competition

Lexus GS450h

Lexus GS 450h

The GS450h is the closest competitor to the Audi in terms of interior space, mileage and price. Until the arrival of truly eco competition from Mercedes next year with a new S-Class Hybrid, the GS is far closer to the A8’s Hybrid’s relaxed performance versus the new plug-in Panamera S E-Hybrid , which will easily top $100,000 when arriving in America during spring 2014.

Conclusion

Audi A8 Hybrid

The German luxury brands are finally getting ‘real’ on fuel economy. Time to stop being polite, as one reality show coined. Aside from a small group of fringe buyers, Americans do not want diesel engines in luxury cars. Period.

As such, far fewer promises about magic Hydrogen or Diesel this year in Frankfurt , as the real-world urgency of looming fleet economy rules is finally meeting common sense and buyer priorities. After all, even the most high-profile EV projects (the canceled R8 E-tron ) cannot help actual buyers to get more miles per tank.

And it is finally less about bragging rights, as for the last ActiveHybrid 7 and S400 Hybrid . Aimed to diffuse any critiques in the golf club locker room, these hybrids were more about the Hybrid badge than they were about improving the BMW or Mercedes luxury cars that they badges adorned.

This refreshing turn-about is welcome in the executive sector. Audi’s new eco logic suggests the A8 Hybrid will be exactly the model buyers want: easy to drive, remarkably efficient, and keeping all the Audi interior and image of the firm’s cooler models.

Let’s just hope the A8 Hybrid does not run a CVT automatic, or this big limo will drive like a Toyota Prius towing an elephant.

LOVE IT
  • Good economy promised, along with front-drive and four-cylinder power for the first time
  • Loss of AWD traction will not be a major issue in biggest eco car markets like California
  • Cabin materials and tech look better than ever, but design looks busy with hundreds of unique parts for the dashboard alone
LEAVE IT
  • A plug-in hybrid would make more sense, but even regular A8 trunk is too small
  • Li-ion battery pack may take trunk total into the single digits, ruling out any airport runs
  • Front-drive will only work on A8 if this is a total golf club cruiser without a choppy ride

Press Release

Audi A8 Hybrid

Composure redefined – the Audi A8

  • Audi is honing the character of its flagship model
  • More powerful engines, new assistance systems and innovative Matrix LED headlight technology
  • Fuel consumption reductions across the board
Audi A8 Hybrid

The new A8 places Audi among the innovation leaders in the luxury segment. One great strength of the big sedan is its lightweight construction. The Audi A8 3.0 TFSI with the normal wheelbase has a curb weight of just 1,830 kilograms (4,034.46 lb) – best-in-class for models with all-wheel drive. The body is made almost entirely of aluminum; an Audi Space Frame (ASF) design, it weighs just 231 kilograms (509.27 lb).

Length (5.14 meters [16.86 ft]), wheelbase (2.99 meters [9.81 ft]), width (1.95 meters [6.40 ft]) and height (1.46 meters [4.79 ft]) remain unchanged, making the Audi A8 the sportiest sedan in the segment. The A8 L gains an additional 13 centimeters (5.12 in) in both length and wheelbase. Both body variants feature a new trunk layout for easier loading. Additional noise damping measures reduce the already low interior noise level even further.

The dynamic design of the big sedan has become even more expressive. The engine hood, the Singleframe grille and the front bumper are even more sculptured; the lower edge of the headlight units is straight. In the German market, LED headlights are standard in all models with a V8 engine. Audi also offers optional headlights featuring Matrix LED technology, which sets new benchmarks with respect to design and technology. With these headlights, the high-beam comprises 25 individual light-emitting diodes per unit that can be switched on and off or dimmed individually depending on the situation.

This enables the headlight system to react extremely precisely to other vehicles while always brightly illuminating the road. Additional features of the new headlights are the intelligent cornering light, new-look daytime running lights and dynamic turn signals. The lighting system in the A8 uses predictive route data from the navigation system to adjust the distribution of light in response to the current driving situation. In combination with the optional Navigation plus with MMI touch, the system recognizes route data contained in the navigation system, such as curves and road classifications.

The LED lamps at the rear of the new Audi A8 have also become flatter. In all models except the S8, the redesigned bumper houses two rhomboid tailpipes. New chrome strips and high-gloss black window frames round out the differentiating design details. There is a choice of twelve colors, including five new ones. Wheels are available in sizes up to 21 inches.

The engines: more power and efficiency

Audi A8 Hybrid

The Audi A8 hybrid combines a 2.0 TFSI and electric motor to produce a system output of 180 kW (245 hp) and system torque of 480 Nm (354.03 lb-ft). The engine’s power flows to the front wheels via a modified tiptronic. The lithium-ion battery in the rear enables purely electric driving at up to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) with a range of roughly three kilometers (1.86 miles). The A8 hybrid consumes on average just 6.3 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers (147 grams CO2 per kilometer [37.34 US mpg/236.57 g/mile]).

The sedan owes its sporty character in large part to the sophisticated chassis. The Audi drive select system, which varies the function of various technology modules, is standard. It also controls the adaptive air suspension with adaptive damping. Audi offers the air suspension with a sporty setup upon request. The power steering uses an efficient electromechanical drive. Dynamic steering, which varies boost as a function of the speed driven, is available as an option. Carbon fiber ceramic brake discs are available for V8 models and the A8 L W12 quattro.

Another option is for 9 J x 20 aluminum-technology wheels which are based on forged support wheels. A special process joins the support wheel to a ten-spoke design element of high-strength polymer.

Hand-built character: The interior of the Audi A8

Audi A8 Hybrid

The interior of the Audi flagship dazzles with its elegant lines and generous spaciousness. Options for the front seats include ventilation and massage. Electrically adjustable, individual rear seats are available as an option for the A8 and the A8 L. The A8 L is also available with a continuous, leather-covered center console. The first-class solution here is the relaxation seat with power footrest. A large number of additional features are also available, from four-zone automatic air conditioning and power-assisted closing to a cooler.

Audi A8 Hybrid

All components in the new A8 have been carefully chosen and processed with the utmost precision. Each of the lovingly executed details documents the hand-built character of the interior. A new range of choices for seat coverings, inlays and colors is available in many areas. New additions include the woods Fine grain poplar brown-silver and Fine grain ash brown-gold natural as well as the leather Unikat, which is particularly natural-looking, soft and breathable.

Audi A8 Hybrid

The Audi design selection offers a preselection of exclusive materials and colors for the interior, including sycamore gray/marble gray. The design selection black/vermont brown with Carbon twill copper inlays is available for the Audi S8. The Audi exclusive range offers additional individualization options for particularly discerning customers.

As is typical for Audi, the new A8 features exemplarily clear controls despite the abundance of functions. Taking center stage is the MMI control element on the tunnel’s center console. MMI navigation plus also includes a touchpad. The driver draws characters on the pad (MMI touch) to control numerous navigation and multimedia functions.



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