Previewing a future production model that will go on sale in certain world markets at the end of 2011, the Audi A8 Hybrid Concept uses a gas/electric powertrain combo to deliver performance of a large-displacement V6 with the economy of a four-cylinder engine. In keeping with its premium-luxury pedigree, this more eco-friendly incarnation of Audi's flagship sedan also retains all of its passenger-pampering elements.

The Audi A8 Hybrid's drivetrain combines the automaker's 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injected inline four that makes 211 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque with an electric motor/generator that develops 45 horses and 156 lb.-ft. of twist. The motor is energized by an advanced Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack that Audi claims is smaller and lighter yet more powerful than existing versions. It's secured in a climate-controlled safety housing at the rear of the vehicle that still leaves the A8 Hybrid with 14.1 cu ft of usable trunk space.

The engine and motor are linked using a computer controlled hydraulic clutch. Collectively, they churn out 245 ponies and 354 lb.-ft. of torque, all of which is channeled to the front wheels via an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Audi says the A8 Hybrid Concept needs just 7.6 seconds to hit 60 mph, has a top speed of 146 mph and averages 37.94 mpg on the EU test cycle. It also can travel at up to 40 mph for a distance "exceeding two kilometers" on pure electric power. In addition to typical regenerative braking, the control system in the A8 Hybrid is fitted with the same kind of mileage-maxing "sailing" circuitry found in the Porsche Panamera Hybrid that effectively decouples the engine from the rest of the powertrain when the driver lifts off on the accelerator pedal.

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Audi also did some tweaking to various other on-board systems for use in the A8 Hybrid Concept. All of these enhancements will be part of the automaker's first production hybrid model, the Q5 Hybrid that will be introduced in late 2010 and is slated to arrive in the U.S. towards the end of 2011. Key changes on both vehicles include using full electric power for the steering assist and brake booster systems as well as the compressor unit in the climate control system.

While technology is the primary story here, the "near-production" Audi A8 Hybrid Concept hardly lacks for tasteful cosmetic touches. It's exterior Prism Silver paint is augmented with a Spectra Flair accent color that creates a rainbow effect in body creases and seams while its 21-inch two-tone alloy wheels feature a three-dimensional surface design. Inside, LEDs are used to illuminate the "Hybrid" insignia in the A8 Hybrid's door sills and a dedicated "Powermeter" in the dash keeps the drive appraised of the current state of the energy flows.

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