Plug-in hybrid Q7 promises economy of 156.9mpg and BIK rates of 10%. It’ll take you a while to recoup the £10k premium over a standard Q7, though
What is it?
This is the latest addition to Audi’s e-tron range: a plug-in hybrid version of the big Q7 SUV. Like the significantly smaller A3 e-tron, there’s an internal combustion engine under the bonnet that’s coupled to an electric motor and battery pack.
Unlike the BMW X5 xDrive40e and Volvo XC90 T8, you won’t find a petrol-fired four-cylinder turbo engine under the bonnet of the Q7 e-tron, driven for the first time on UK roads. Instead, there’s an optimised version of the 3.0 TDI V6 that can be found in the regular Q7. In this application, it produces 254bhp.
Under the boot floor lives 202kg of battery pack and assorted electrical hardware, robbing the Q7 of its ability to seat seven. Load capacity is reduced by a sizeable 120 litres, but the 650 litres that are left should still be enough for the vast majority of families.
That battery may seem like a hefty thing, but it’s still only enough to provide a maximum electric range of 34 miles.
What’s it like?
With all this talk of economy, emissions and the small matter of a 2.5-tonne-plus kerb weight, you might expect the Q7 to feel sluggish compared with the regular 268bhp model. That is most definitely not the case.
With the diesel and electric motors combined, total system output is 369bhp and 516Ib ft of torque. That’s good enough for performance that would make many a hot hatch blush. Not only does it look quick on paper, but the instantaneous torque of the electric motor also means it feels effortless in the way it piles on speed.
Plug-in electric vehicles are on the rise, with the Audi Q7 e-tron joining the A3 Sportback e-tron and R8 e-tron – taking the German maker’s count up to three. There’s clearly momentum behind electric, thanks to its efficiency, environmental and fuel-saving implications.
But going green might put you in the red. The Q7 e-tron’s anticipated £65,000 starting price is a good £15k more than the combustion-only model – the one we took for a spin back in the summer of 2015 – which is a sizeable premium for this sizeable SUV. Is it worth it? We took the e-tron electric hybrid on the road to see what we made of it.
Audi Q7 e-tron first drive: It’s a 5-seater
First thing’s first, if you’ve thought about buying an SUV then the Q7 really ought to make your shortlist simply because it’s a good looking driving machine that avoids being too tank-like in its ways.
But – and it’s a critical one – if your eyes have veered over to the e-tron version, hand on environmental heart, then you’ll need to consider the space implication of the batteries. They’ve got to go somewhere, after all, and in the case of the Q7 e-tron that means it can only be a five seater, not a seven seater (which may sound at odds with its name, but that’s that way it is).
Audi Q7 e-tron first drive: Electric range
But the obvious trade-off between seating arrangements is that the Q7 e-tron can scoot along happily using only its electric motor – which with 94kW of output, translates to 128bhp – for up to a 35-mile range per charge. That might sound quite conservative, but let’s not forget this is a 2.5-tonne vehicle (it’s 450kgs more than the standard Q7), so perhaps that’s no surprise.
If you’ve got a commuting route with a charger at the other end (7.2kW charging means a refill in 2.5-hours; at-home means 8-hours per recharge), then you’ll quickly save on those pricey diesel top-ups over the course of time.
The Q7 e-tron combines the standard SUV’s big cabin and sumptuous finish with plug-in hybrid technology. Does it make a good package?
What is it?:
It’s the plug-in hybrid version of Audi’s new Q7 large SUV. It’s based on the standard-issue 3.0 TDI quattro model, using a V6 diesel engine under the nose (mounted longways, as is demanded by Audi’s bespoke MLB platform), from where it drives the front and rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The hybrid conversion includes a new version of the transmission, into which is sandwiched a fairly punchy electric motor that’s good for 258lb ft. The electric motor’s battery pack is mounted above the independent rear suspension.
The Q7 e-tron also gets a clever heat pump system, which uses waste heat from the electronic systems to help warm the interior. Using this, instead of electrical energy from the battery pack when running in hybrid and EV modes, significantly reduces the drain on the battery and, says Audi, extends the car’s electric range. Audi claims to be the first car maker to use a heat pump on a production plug-in hybrid.
It also says there’s an EV-only range of 34 miles from the battery pack, plus, thanks to a substantial 75-litre fuel tank, another 835 miles’ range from the combustion engine. This car also gets Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, a digital instrument cluster that is configurable to show different screens and graphic displays.
But the big advance on this car is the way Audi’s Navigation Plus system and the in-car internet hot spot are both connected to the hybrid drivetrain’s management system. When the driver enters a new destination, the nav system uses route and live traffic information – via the web – to automatically switch the drivetrain between internal combustion, hybrid and pure EV modes depending on the driving conditions.
The large SUV marketplace is quickly becoming awash with plugin hybrid options for savvy buyers that want to reduce their tax bill without sacrificing performance. The latest, Audi’s refined new Q7 e-tron, is brimming with clever technology, plus it takes a different path to most others in the segment by pairing a diesel engine with the electric componentry. Is it a game-changer?
Audi’s latest stepping stone on its path to full range electrification. It’s called the Q7 e-tron and it’s a diesel-electric plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) based on the company’s range-topping SUV. That’s right, diesel. Unlike all other hybrids in the segment (BMW X5, Lexus RX 450h and Porsche Cayenne), the Q7 stops at the black pump for fuel. It’s a 3.0-litre V6 engine producing 258hp and 600Nm. Boosting that is a 94kW electric motor, mounted within the casing of the eight-speed automatic gearbox, producing 350Nm of torque from zero rpm. It’s fed by a large 17.3kWh battery pack sitting above the rear axle, which can be recharged from an external source by various means and the total system outputs are 373hp and 700Nm. The electric-only range is quoted at just under 35 miles, while recharging takes as little as 2.5 hours from an industrial outlet. Official figures peg the Q7 e-tron at 166.2mpg and 46g/km, meaning zero annual road tax and large grants. When it arrives in the UK in 2016 the on-the-road price is expected to be about £65,000.
In future-proofing its big Q7 SUV, Audi has lost the 6th and 7th seats but, with an NEDC CO2 rating of 46g/km, has gained the Freedom the City of London for many years to come.
Losing the Congestion Charge involves charging a 17.3kWh liquid cooled lithium-ion battery that takes two and a half hours from a 400-volt industrial socket (or 8-12 hours from a domestic charging point).
But, driven sensibly, like the Volkswagen Passat GTE plug-in hybrid, it conserves and regenerates its energy very cleverly.
Depending on the circumstances, the Q7 e-tron can boost, coast and recuperate. The car drives off solely on electric power and normally most braking uses electric motor retardation that generates electricity. Set for hybrid mode, the MMI navigation system works with the hybrid management system using real time traffic data to become your “predictive efficiency assistant’ and compute an ideal driving strategy.
New plug-in hybrid Audi Q7 e-tron will cost a lot to buy, but not a lot to run
Verdict 4 stars
Like any plug-in hybrid, you’ll need regular access to a charge point to realise the efficiency claims of the Audi Q7 e-tron. That said, it’s unlikely to consume considerably more fuel than a standard 3.0-litre TDI even without charging the batteries. It still drives well and gets the same exquisitely finished cabin, meaning the only real sticking point is the price. For many, however, the lure of rock-bottom running costs in such a practical and well-engineered package will be too hard to ignore.
This is the plug-in hybrid Audi Q7 e-tron. Everyone’s at it: from pioneers Nissan to latecomers like Volvo, almost every manufacturer has an electric or hybrid model in its range.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Audi’s e-tron family is expanding. The popular A3 e-tron appeared only late last year, and there’s already an electric R8 supercar in the pipeline.
But the latest model to bear Audi’s plug-in moniker is the big and brash Q7 SUV. Using a 254bhp 3.0-litre TDI diesel engine mated to a 94kW electric motor, total power for the Q7 e-tron stands at 368bhp. It’s got a sizeable 700Nm of torque, too – which comes in handy when you’re lugging around 202kg of lithium-ion batteries.
From the outside, you’ll struggle to tell this apart from a standard Q7. Our car came with loud e-tron stickers down the side, but (sadly) these aren’t an option on customer cars. There are some subtle badges on the wings and bootlid, but aside from the additional filler cap it’s business as usual.