Audi A8L Hybrid 2.0 TFSI

Beautifully crafted cabin and superb comfort mark the Audi A8 out

It's not the most glamorous luxury saloon in the world, but the A8 is comfortable, quiet and has the best cabin here. Better still, its hybrid drivetrain delivers the best balance of performance and economy. However, the diesel-engined version is still a more cost-effective option.

Audi has a long history of innovation that includes everything from the World Rally Championship-conquering Quattro of the eighties, through to the use of lightweight aluminium structures for many of the cars in its current line-up.

So it’s no surprise to find that the brand has gone its own way when designing a hybrid version of its luxurious A8 limo. For instance, unlike its big-engined rivals, the Audi uses a small-capacity 2.0-litre petrol turbo from the VW Golf GTI. This is hooked up to a compact 40kW motor that’s in turn powered by a lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the boot floor.

Externally, there’s little to distinguish the petrol-electric A8 from its traditionally powered brothers. As a result, you get the same conservative lines that make Audi’s pricey flagship resemble little more than an upscaled A4. However, look closely and you’ll spot discreet Hybrid badges on the front wings, distinctive 19-inch Turbine alloys and dazzling all-LED headlamps.

Any disappointment over the bland exterior design will be forgotten the moment you climb aboard. With its slick design and top-notch fit and finish, the A8’s beautifully crafted cabin feels even more special than either of its rivals’.

As you’d expect, there’s also plenty of room. Occupants in the back of our long-wheelbase model get acres of space to lounge around in, while the driver benefits from loads of seat and wheel adjustment for a perfect driving position. And while the 335-litre boot is 175 litres smaller than the standard car’s, the Hybrid comes with a tailored luggage set that comprises four large suitcases and a shoe bag.

Other differences over a normal A8 include the eye-catching illuminated kick plates, a neat power gauge in place of the rev counter and a small EV button on the centre console. Press this and the Audi will run for around a mile at speeds of up to 62mph in near-silent electric-only mode. When the batteries are flat or a burst of acceleration is needed, the petrol engine springs to life. Fortunately, Audi has done an excellent job of insulating the humble four-cylinder, and it’s only at high revs that the muted growl becomes intrusive.

At the track, the A8 completed the 0-60mph sprint in 7.4 seconds – significantly slower than its rivals. Yet with a muscular combined torque output of 480Nm available from just 1,500rpm, it feels surprisingly quick on the road, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox provides seamless shifts. Better still, the car put on the strongest display at the pumps, returning a respectable 28.2mpg.

Precise steering and decent visibility make the Audi easy to place on the road, but a lack of grip means the nose washes wide in tight corners, while hard acceleration on bumpy surfaces results in some wayward torque steer. Still, most limousine buyers will be more interested in comfort – and in this respect the silent and supple A8 is only marginally less relaxing than the much more expensive Lexus.

In fact, at £65,550, the Audi undercuts the LS 600h by a whopping £33,945. And even if you add a lot of desirable extras, it still comes in cheaper. Factor in its beautiful cabin, effective hybrid drivetrain and low CO2 emissions, and the A8 is in with a decent shout of victory in this test.

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