Audi A8 Hybrid
What can you do if you want to drive a luxury saloon car but want medium saloon running costs? Well Audi may have come up with an answer, in the form of a hybrid version of its A8 saloon.

Designed to offer the 'best of both worlds', we headed to Germany to take a closer look at the first petrol-electric Audi model to hit the UK.

So, how does it work? Well, the A8 Hybrid has a 208bhp version of the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine (the first time a four-cylinder engine has been fitted in Audi's flagship saloon), which is mated to a 54PS electric motor, cleverly mounted in the gearbox where you'd normally expect to find the torque converter.

This equals a combined output of 242bhp with 480Nm of torque for this hybrid version of the A8.

Audi A8 Hybrid
A parallel hybrid, this Audi has a re-worked version of the eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission to suit the new drivetrain. The transmission now has three different drive modes: EV which makes the most use of the electric motor, for both power units in tandem there's the D or Drive mode and even though it seems a bit non-PC, considering the green intentions of this car, there's even a Sport mode.

Designed to attract business users, if the 147g/km CO2 emissions and almost 45mpg fuel consumption figures don't attract attention, the fact this car won't suffer the 3% diesel surcharge that also affects other diesel luxury saloons will.

Like the standard A8, the Hybrid will be available in standard and eventually long-wheelbase Versions. Changes over the standard car on the outside are quite subtle, but the A8 Hybrid does have unique 19-inch ten spoke alloy wheels that are designed to look like turbines.There's also unique Hybrid badging, standard LED headlights and exclusive Arctic Silver paint finish.

Changes for the interior are equally subtle. A Powermeter is now fitted where the the rev counter used to be showing the state of the electric drivetrain. Well-equipped, three-zone air conditioning, sat-nav, a DAB radio and a Bose sound system are all fitted as standard.

Audi A8 Hybrid
So what's it like to drive? Well, like a full-electric car, the A8 Hybrid pulls off in impressive total silence. We also liked the way the petrol engine cuts in almost seamlessly as speed rapidly builds up.

We were quite impressed by the performance considering it is just a 2.0-litre. The Tiptronic transmission seems generally well matched to the engine and electric power plant. But, despite the best efforts of an ingenious Audi noise cancellation system, too much of the four-cylinder soundtrack makes itself known in the cabin.

Top speed is 146mph, with 62mph acceleration in 7.7 seconds. This is despite the extra weight of the 36.7 kilograms battery pack.

Handling-wise, the big Audi feels safe and secure in corners, with plenty of grip. Sadly, the ride feels over-firm and unsettled. There is also quite a bit of road noise from the 19-inch alloy wheels.

Audi A8 Hybrid
Apart from the engine refinement and inconsistent ride are there any other compromises with the A8 Hybrid? If you are expecting the A8's usually roomy boot you will be disappointed, as the battery takes up quite a bit of the room.

If you can, should you buy an A8 Hybrid? Sadly there's no official UK pricing yet and the car isn't due to go on sale until next year, but if can live with its compromises, then it could be a cost-effective alternative to luxury saloon rivals.