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Audi building hybrid A8 for 2012

Audi confirmed a hybrid version of its luxury flagship, the A8, for 2012. This new hybrid will get 44 mpg under the European test cycle.

Audi A8 hybrid
Audi A8 hybrid
Audi is building a hybrid version of its A8 flagship luxury sedan. Audi

The ultimate example of having your cake and eating it too is the A8 hybrid that Audi announced it will begin building in 2012. Audi's flagship luxury sedan boasts a Bang & Olufsen audio system and Google Earth integration into the navigation system. And with its hybrid system, it also earns 44 mpg under the European test cycle.

Audi A8 hybrid
The instrument cluster will be one of the few hints of the A8's hybrid system. Audi

The hybrid version of the A8 will use Audi's direct-injection turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder, which in this application produces 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Audi replaces the torque converter in the eight-speed automatic transmission with a 53-horsepower electric motor, which can drive the car by itself for almost 2 miles at 37 mph.

Total system output is 242 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, which gets the hybrid A8 to 62 mph in 7.7 seconds. An 81-pound lithium ion battery, with an output of 40 kilowatts, sits in the trunk. Expect this battery to intrude on trunk space.

The A8 hybrid has not been confirmed for the U.S., and the European test cycle tends to produce higher fuel-economy figures than the U.S. EPA city and highway testing procedures. If Audi brings the A8 hybrid to the U.S., its rated fuel economy may drop into the 30s.

As part of the Volkswagen Group, Audi can draw on hybrid technology previously used in the Volkswagen Touareg hybrid. For that vehicle, Volkswagen used a supercharged direct-injection 3-liter V-6, creating a hybrid drive system focused more on performance than fuel economy. It is possible that a U.S. A8 hybrid would use this more powerful system.