Green Update–>Could Luxury Wars Benefit Hybrids?

Audi A8 Hybrid

Like other luxury carmakers, Audi is attempting to have it both ways—by building a hybrid while totally glitzing up its gas-powered A8. Of course, the hybrid will have all the same amenities… at a higher price.

There is more “stuff” in the new A8 than any sane person could ever want or use. For an extra $2,000, you get 22-way adjustable seats for driver and passenger, heated and air conditioned, with massagers in the seat backs. Control the settings on the navigation screen at the touch of a lever. You get powered sun shades in the back, a 19-speaker B&O sound system and, for another $3,000, a Technology package to sense approaching collisions, tighten seatbelts, raise headrests, and alert the nearest hospital. (No, not the latter.)

Now, who’s going to beat all that? Mercedes, with its S-Class? Nah. Audi wants to position itself as the greenest and hippest by labeling the S-Class as outdated, gluttonous, excessive, stuffy—even as it fills its cars with unnecessary junk. Watch its Super Bowl commercial after the break.

Audi wants to be seen as green for putting hybrids in almost all its cars. The A6 Hybrid is coming to the U.S. in 2015, with a front-drive 2-liter four powering the car, air-cooled batteries, and a range of 3 km on electric power only. That’s less than two miles, Jack, and you can bet this car won’t come cheap.

The Q5 Hybrid is due here this year, and the A8 Hybrid, again a four-cylinder, will be here in 2012 with, the company says, the “same performance as a large-capacity conventional six-cylinder engine.” Sure, fellas.

At the same time, claims The Motor Report,

A front-wheel-drive version of the A8 is expected to beat the Hybrid to market however, powered by a six-cylinder diesel engine, giving A8 buyers a more fuel-efficient option before the Hybrid becomes available.

Too many options! I suppose we should applaud Audi for spreading the hybrid technology to so many of its cars. And yet it seems to me these are basically just positioning moves in the luxury shakeout that’s sure to follow. Others in the car biz might call that avoiding downside risk (or CYA).

Do hybrids in luxury cars make sense to you?

—jgoods

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