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A £60,000-plus luxury saloon might not be the obvious path to an environmentally friendly image, but that's what Audi is gunning for with its A8 Hybrid.
The model's 3.0- and 4.2-litre petrol and diesel engines have been joined by a 211hp 2.0 TFSI petrol, itself linked to an electric motor, creating a total of 245hp. The result is an A8 capable of driving on electric power only at speeds of up to 62mph with 44.8mpg and 147g/km. That renders the hybrid significantly cleaner than the lowest-emitting 3.0 TDI A8, which offers 169g/km, and it's also capable of 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds and 146mph.
The only elements to distinguish the hybrid from the existing car are a boot badge, 19-inch turbine-style alloy wheels and a new paint scheme known as Metallic Arctic Silver.
There's little difference in the way it drives too, save for silence when it's running on electricity, but the A8's refinement is such that this isn't as noticeable as it is with other hybrids. The transition between electricity and petrol power is smooth enough during normal driving but it becomes less seamless under hard acceleration.
Battery charge is indicated by a small gauge to the left of the main dials, while the rev counter is less conventional in its appearance, with green and orange areas to signify when the car is drawing from the battery, regenerating under deceleration or running on petrol power.
A new addition for the hybrid is an active noise-cancellation system, which has been seen on the current S8 but not the standard A8. It comprises four microphones within the head lining, which pick up unwanted sound such as excessive engine or road noise and cancel it out via the sound system. Audi claims this can cut noise levels by up to 75%, and though the hybrid is powered by what is theoretically a less refined four-cylinder engine, it seems just as quiet as the 3.0- and 4.2-litre engines in the standard car.
The hybrid holds no less appeal than the standard A8 - it's just as plush and beautifully made - and the CO2 figure adds some allure for affluent business car drivers. That said, the as-yet unconfirmed but likely steep P11D price and smaller boot (335 vs 510 litres) lessen the case for the hybrid over the existing A8.