In early December, Audi said that it would add an Audi A6 Hybrid sedan to its existing hybrid plans—which include the Audi Q5 Hybrid crossover and a hybridized Audi A8 sedan in the works. While making or breaking an appearance at a major auto show is no proof of future plans, the Audi A6 full-size sedan hybrid showed signs of life this week when it was unveiled alongside the new mainstream A6 at the 2011 Detroit auto show.
Seeing hybrid technology spread further into the luxury market is certainly welcome, especially with Audi’s sharp styling—the redesigned A6 today won the prestigious EyesOn Design award at the Detroit auto show. But to have any impact Audi needs to actually bring it to market with respectable production numbers. Otherwise, like other luxury hybrid models from German automakers, it’s an almost imperceptible nod toward to gas-electric technology.
The Audi Q5 Hybrid luxury crossover, long reported to be the brand’s first hybrid, was to have its U.S. debut at the recent 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, but never showed up. (By the way, the Q5 Hybrid is now scheduled for unveiling at the Geneva motor show in March.)
Timing is up in the air. We’ve seen reports of the A6 Hybrid coming in early 2011, but that’s not going to happen. According to an Audi press release, the gas and diesel versions won’t reach U.S. showrooms until fall 2010—and considering the A6 Hybrid’s place behind the gas-electric Q5 in the timetable, we might not see the 2012 A6 Hybrid until calendar year 2012.
A Big Jump in Efficiency
Audi says the A6 Hybrid will deliver estimated combined fuel economy of 38 miles to the gallon, on the European cycle—which might translate to low 30s in the United States. The 2011 gas-powered A6 with a 3.2-liter V6 engine, delivering 265 horsepower, has a combined fuel efficiency rating of 25 mpg.
Audi uses a slogan that many hybrid-producing carmakers are tossing around: The Audi A6 hybrid provides the power of a V6, combined with the fuel efficiency of a four-cylinder engine. The Audi A6’s 2.0-liter engine and electric motor combine via an 8-speed automatic transmission to produce 245 horsepower. The A6 Hybrid accelerates to 60 in 7.3 seconds, with a top speed of 148 mph.
The company loves to say that its Audi and Porsche hybrids are capable of traveling at 62 mph purely on electricity—a fairly useless metric in real-world total efficiency.
The A6 hybrid also features unique instrumentation to indicate whether the system is charging or discharging its lithium ion battery. And like the mainstream A6 models, Audi will incorporate the latest-generation infotainment gear, with Bang & Olufsen sound and Google Maps–based displays, as a centerpiece of the A6’s striking interior.
Hybrids Trickle, Diesels Flow
Volkswagen (and its luxury brands, Audi and Porsche) historically have dissed hybrids, championed diesel, and either reneged on gas-electric promises—or barely trickled out models like the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid’s 344 units in 2010.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg is reporting that Audi plans to double its U.S. diesel offerings to attract American luxury buyers. Audi sales chief Peter Schwarzenbauer said diesel will eventually make up a third of the A6 and A8’s U.S. sales.