GTPlanet Quick Drives: Audi A8 L PHEV

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GTPlanet Quick Drives: Audi A8 L TFSI e

What is it?
It's 17 and a half feet of luxury, and the largest car that Audi makes. The Audi A8L is essentially an A8 with another five inches of length, crucially entirely within the wheelbase to generate a more limo-like vehicle. In fact some people will swear blind the "L" means "Limo", but it probably just means "lange" (long in German).

While the A8L has been around for just about the entire, 30-year life of the A8, this particular car is the 2022 refresh of the 2017, fourth-generation "D5" car.

What makes it go?
As you might spot from the name above, this car combines the petrol "TFSI" (turbo fuel-stratified injection) engine with an electric motor. Although it's badged as a "60 TFSI", it doesn't have the 453hp, four-litre biturbo V8 from the mild-hybrid "60 TFSI" under the nose; it's actually a 335hp, three-litre biturbo V6. Audi's "simplified" badging at work...

The electric motor makes up the difference in power, with a 134hp peak making for a combined system output of 456hp. It sits directly within the clutch housing, so whether you're in pure EV mode (up to 37 miles), full hybrid mode, or the 14kWh battery is flat and you're using the engine only, the A8L remains all-wheel drive.

It's good for a sub-five second sprint to 60mph - not bad for 2.4 tonnes - and a limited 155mph top speed. It also returns 148.7mpg on the WLTP test, the lion's share of which will have enjoyed a fully charged battery, resulting in a preposterous 2,126-mile range from the 14.3-gallon tank. While that might happen if you do short trips and plug it in daily, in the real world you're likely to see 850 miles or so - though that's hardly to be sniffed at.


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What's it like to drive?
First and foremost, the A8L is a big, heavy car. It's just over 2.4 tonnes in weight and comes in at 5.4 metres long; it's more-or-less designed so that the person in the front of it is paid to drive it and the people in the back are paying for the mix of swiftness and comfort. The A8L will primarily be used as a wedding car or VIP transport (to and from the local private airport terminal).

While that means tempering expectations, the A8L did put in a star turn as lightly underworld driver Frank Martin's car of choice in The Transporter and he's got a point. It's a surprisingly dynamic machine, especially when put into the "dynamic" driving mode. Even though the wheelbase is within a couple of inches of an entire Volkswagen up! the A8L seems to shrink a little on twisty roads - although its width can be alarming when a DPD van comes the other way.

That's probably helped by both a rear-biased AWD system but also the trick rear-axle steering. There's still a sense of initial understeer, but the big Audi tucks in soon enough. We did find that it was a little foxed by corners on crests, in that classic under-damped rebound manner of larger European cars, although it never really seemed unsettled.

For the most part the ride was good, which is a surprise considering the tech that's gone into making it great. British roads do tend to find cars out pretty quickly in this department, but when you consider this will spend most of its life on motorways - where the surface is less terrible - or at an amble up to the church doors, it's enough. Particularly when you add in the fact that the slow, endpoints of a journey will be on electric power.

And on the inside?
Roomy, with a capital "roo". All five inches of the additional length over the regular A8 goes into making the back half of the cabin as big and as nice as it can possibly be - put simply, there's five inches more rear legroom, and the A8 wasn't exactly cramped to begin with.

Although our test car is a bit on the dark side - and rather "serious business" in presentation as a result - you can option the car with beige, brown, or "cognac" seats and door cards (depending on trim level) at no additional cost, but whatever you select the materials quality is high and the fit and finish pretty much beyond reproach.

As is the rear-seat comfort; reclining rear seats, four-zone climate control, electric window blinds, and even a massage - if you pick the "relaxation" seat option - along with new 10-inch displays for the two rear seat passengers. There is a third seat, but just pretend there isn't and fold down that center armrest with the multimedia and climate controls.

It's standard top-end Audi fare in the front, with the most recent iteration of its infotainment system that includes that clever digital cockpit. In fact if you wanted to pick holes with the A8 it's that this £100,000 car has the same general look as an A3, albeit with some slightly more maddening touches; such buttons as the car actually has to operate various comfort systems are enigmatic at best.

The PHEV also comes with a compromise in the boot. There's just 390 litres of room back there - and saloon cars are innately less practical anyway thanks to the shorter aperture - thanks to the battery packs, compared to just over 500 litres in non-hybrid models.


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How much does it cost?
The A8L TFSI starts at £91,075 in the same Sport trim we have here, but with the options added to the car it comes in at £118,575. Audi doesn't currently offer an equivalent model in the US market, though the pre-refresh car was available from $95,900.

What are the main rivals?
There seems to be a rule in the motor industry that if there's an Audi, there's a Mercedes and a BMW of it too. In general terms, the A8 battles with the Mercedes S Class and the BMW 7 Series, with the S580e and the 750e as the most direct rivals for the PHEV A8L.

There's surprisingly few other direct rivals though: the Lexus LS isn't a PHEV, the Bentley Flying Spur is significantly more expensive, and most of the PHEVs in the same price bracket are... you guessed it... SUVs.

What's the verdict?
While we've not yet driven its direct rivals, most reviews put the A8L between the two stools: the Mercedes is the comfortable one, the BMW the one that's the best to drive, and the Audi is the compromise.

However it feels anything but. The interior is, although not particularly exciting in this black-on-black-on-black example, spacious and excellent, with some clever (and expensive) touches on the individual rear seats. It's got plenty of performance and is surprisingly chuckable, if a little grumpier on bad surfaces and in compact car parks at low speeds. Add on the serene EV mode and relatively smooth transition between power sources and you've got a "reasonably priced" (in comparative terms) luxury saloon.

It's also a lot prettier than the G70 7 Series, and you can say "Rule 1: The deal is the deal" before you set off. Yes, I did.


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3,306
United States
Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA
I can't articulate it too well, but this generation of the A8 has a stately presence that is lacked by the 7-Series and even S-Class to a certain degree. Though, the facelift is a bit of a downgrade, even though it's not anywhere near new 7-Series tier.