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Audi not ready to join hybrid race with A8

Not now: Audi’s A8 Hybrid was on the agenda for Australia, but the success of the diesel variant appears to have killed that.

A8 Hybrid flagship plans canned by Audi Australia as diesel does the business

27 Nov 2012

AUDI Australia has gone cold on the hybrid version of its flagship A8 sedan, revealing that a business case for a local introduction does not appear to add up.

Last year, the German luxury car importer indicated it was seriously considering the vehicle after it was unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.

However, the company’s general manager of corporate communications Anna Burgdorf has told GoAuto that the four-cylinder-based petrol-electric model is now unlikely to make it to Australia.

Mercedes-Benz is also still weighing up whether to introduce a hybrid version of its S-Class limo, the V6 petrol-based S400 Hybrid, saying it is not yet sure if a sufficiently large market exists for the vehicle to make it worthwhile.

BMW Australia is pressing ahead with the launch of its petrol-electric 7 Series, the ActiveHybrid 7, which is being launched to Australian media this week ahead of its showroom rollout in the New Year.

BMW expects to sell only small numbers of the $220,000 vehicle, which carries a $17,500 price premium over the entry-level diesel 730d and yet uses more fuel on the combined test cycle (6.8 litres per 100km for the hybrid compared with 5.6L/100km for the diesel).

7 center imageLeft: Audi A8 hybrid.

It is also more than $10,000 dearer than the 3.0-litre six-cylinder 740i from which it borrows its 235kW twin-turbo petrol engine.

Audi’s A8 Hybrid uses a 2.0-litre TFSI turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine mated with a 40kW electric motor that replaces the torque converter in the eight-speed transmission.

BMW uses a similar system in its new 7 Series hybrid, but employs a more powerful 235kW turbocharged inline six from the 740i as the main form of propulsion.

The combined petrol-electric powertrain of the BMW delivers 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque, while the Audi A8 Hybrid turns out a more sedate 188kW and 480Nm in European guise.

Audi’s smaller engine has rewards at the petrol pump, sipping just 6.4L/100km.

However, that does not look to be sufficient to get the A8 Hybrid across the line with the Australian product planners, with Ms Burgdorf saying Audi’s diesel offerings already deliver the goods.

“At this stage, it looks unlikely that we will bring A8 Hybrid here,” she said.

“There doesn’t appear to be a business case for the car. It drives and performs well but we have a very popular 3.0 TDI version which at least equals the fuel consumption.

“It’s certainly an interesting concept for us in terms of what is possible for the market and the vehicle, however we are yet to be convinced that genuine fuel savings can be achieved.”

The Audi 3.0 TDI, with its 184kW/550Nm diesel V6, can achieve a combined fuel economy reading of 6.6L/100km – just 0.2L/100km more than the A8 Hybrid, while also sprinting from zero to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds – better than the hybrid’s 7.7 seconds.

The rear-mounted 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack in the hybrid can supply sufficient electricity for the big A8 to drive for 3km ‘emissions free’ at 60km/h without the petrol engine kicking in, and can achieve a maximum electric-only speed of 100km/h.

Mercedes-Benz Australia, which today confirmed to GoAuto that it is planning to include a hybrid model in its facelifted E-Class from the second quarter of next year, is less sure about its hybrid S-Class.

Senior manager of corporate communications David McCarthy said such a model would be on offer to the Australian Benz import operation with the new-generation S-Class due to be unveiled early next year, but the company was still weighing up its potential for Australia.

Lexus is in the process of introducing a new version of its hybrid LS600 F Sport sedan, which will be priced from $217,900.

The most expensive hybrid luxury car on the market is Porsche’s Panamera S Hybrid at $300,500.

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