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Audi confirms hybrids for Oz in 2013

Assault with a battery: Audi will launch a two-pronged attack on the ‘eco’ luxury sedan market with petrol-electric variants of its A6 and A8 luxury sedans from 2013.

Hybrid A6 and A8 sedans on way Down Under as Audi unveils 2020 electrification plan

Audi logo24 Oct 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

AUDI has confirmed that hybrid versions of its A6 and A8 luxury sedans will be introduced to the Australian market from 2013 as part of an e-mobility strategy that will see the brand offer at least one electrified variant in each segment by 2020.

As part of its ambition to become a world leader in e-mobility, this decade will see Audi use hybrid products as a “stepping stone” towards full electrification, using its e-Tron brand for plug-in hybrid, range-extender and EV products.

Although Audi is the first of the big three German luxury brands to confirm hybrids for Australia, it could well be beaten to market by arch-rival BMW, which will debut its petrol-electric 5 Series ActiveHybrid in late January, ahead of a likely mid-2012 launch in Australia.

BMW Group Australia head of corporate communications Piers Scott told GoAuto the company expects to bring the brand’s first right-hand drive hybrid to Australia.

He said it is highly likely to hit the local market before either Audi – assuming the petrol-electric 5 Series gets the green light for import – given the usual delay between global launch and arrival in Australia.

At the end of this year, Mercedes-Benz is also expected to debut the diesel-hybrid E300 BlueTEC it unveiled at the 2010 Geneva show.

However, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager for corporate communications David McCarthy said a solid business case would have to be made for it to be brought Down Under.

7 center imageLeft: Audi A6 hybrid images. Below: BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid, Lexus GS450h.

He said the brand would not simply import the E300 BlueTEC because its rivals had hybrid offerings, especially given the price premium associated with hybrid technology and the efficiency already provided by existing turbocharged petrol and diesel engines.

Like the petrol-electric BMW 7 Series, the Benz S400 hybrid will be produced only in left-hand drive for the current generation, so Audi’s A8 and the LS600h from luxury hybrid leader Lexus will be left alone to battle it out in Australia’s hybrid luxury limo segment.

Audi Australia product manager John Roberts said last week the R8 supercar will be the first production Audi to receive the e-Tron treatment (in limited numbers), appearing with all-electric power from next year.

Plug-in hybrid versions of other Audi models will go on sale in 2014.

For the time being, Audi considers extracting as much as it can from internal combustion engines as “critical” and developing its ‘Ultra’ weight-reduction technology plus ‘Connect’ vehicle-to-vehicle communications as vital complementary measures to the development of electrified drivetrains.

The hybrid A6 and A8 – the latter having been recently unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show – share a four-cylinder petrol engine-based drivetrain claimed to offer the power of a V6 with the fuel consumption of a four.

Petrol power provides 155kW and 350Nm while the electric motor – situated between the engine and eight-speed ZF automatic transmission in place of the torque converter – develops an additional 40kW and 210Nm to feed a combined 188kW and 480Nm to the front wheels.

Drawing current from a rear-mounted 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the system provides a 3km zero-emissions driving range at a constant 60km/h and can achieve a maximum electric-only speed of 100km/h.

The A6 hybrid will hit 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, deliver fuel consumption of 6.2 litres per 100km and emit 142 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while the larger A8 will manage the dash in 7.7s and consume 6.4L/100km.

Lexus – which in 2006 became the first manufacturer to sell a hybrid luxury car in Australia – claims 6.3L/100km for the new-generation GS450h that is expected to land here in the first half of next year.

Despite returning similar economy to the four-cylinder A6 hybrid, the 3.5-litre V6-based, rear-drive GS will reach 100km/h from rest in a commendable 5.9s thanks to combined power and torque outputs of 252kW and 345Nm.

BMW achieves a Lexus-matching acceleration figure with its 250kW/450Nm hybrid 5 Series, which employs a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six petrol engine borrowed from the 535i, piggy-backed – in a similar fashion to the Audis – by an electric motor between it and the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.

Fuel economy and emissions cannot match those of the Audi or Lexus, though, with quoted figures ranging between 6.4L/100km and 7.0L/100km, with CO2 outputs ranging from 149g/km to 163g/km – but on electricity alone the BMW can travel for a kilometre further at 60km/h than the Audis.

In a country like Australia where diesel power has gained traction in the marketplace – especially in the luxury market, where almost half of all sales are for diesel models – and hybrids attract no government incentives, the appeal of hybrids may be limited.

For example, BMW’s six-cylinder turbo-diesel 535d is two-tenths faster than the hybrid to 100km/h and emits at least 7g/km less CO2 while consuming at least a litre less fuel per hundred kilometres.

Audi’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 uses 6.6L/100km in the A8 and 6.0L/100km in the A6, with both achieving 0-100km/h in 6.1s – more than a second quicker than the hybrid and with similar fuel economy.

Meanwhile, the four-cylinder diesel version of the A6 can sprint to 100km/h in 8.2s, 1.1s slower than the hybrid, but returns an impressive 5.0L/100km fuel figure with emissions of just 132g/km.

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.