► New Audi Q7 plug-in hybrid
► Petrol V6 and e-motor underneath
► Coming to the UK in 2020
Audi’s electric dreams are big. Not only has it mapped out the next decade of full EVs to come, but it’s also just launched its first orbital bombardment of next-generation plug-in hybrids – all badged under the TFSIe name. So, the Q7 e-Tron is no more; meet the new Audi Q7 60 TFSIe quattro. Sounds way less cool, doesn’t it?
The Q7 launches at the same time as the A7 and A8 TFSIe cars, all expected to arrive on UK shores by 2020, hot on the heels of the recently-launched Q5 hybrid. Later, there’ll be an A6, then Q3 and next-generation A3 hatch PHEVs in the next year or so.
It’s all part of the brand’s massive electrification strategy, aiming to have 30 electrified cars on sale by 2025.
Explain the Q7’s hybrid powertrain to me
There’s a 3.0-litre V6 TFSI petrol under the bonnet (instead of a diesel like the pre-facelift Q7 e-Tron) mated to a 94kW electric motor, which, in turn is powered by a 17.3kWh battery pack located underneath the boot floor. An eight-speed auto handles the power and sends it to all four wheels.
Audi says the Q7’s total system power output is rated at 449bhp and 516lb ft, meaning it has around 80bhp more than the Q7 e-Tron it replaces but the same amount of torque. Nailed-down technical specifications at the time of driving the car were a little, er… sparse, but we’re convinced it’s quicker to 62mph than the old PHEV.
What Audi does promise, though, is around 25 miles of WLTP-rated fully electric driving.
Any interesting technology?
Well, there’s the usual tropes you find in a hybrid, like an electric mode button on the lower of the Q7’s two haptic touch displays that either forces the car to use e-power only or make it hold the current state of charge for later.
The navigation has a blue spider web-like layer that shows you how far you can go without the engine turning on at all and the usual rev counter on the Virtual Cockpit has been changed to a power meter that shows you when you’re using electric or combustion power.
Audi’s Drive Select modes have also been modified so ‘Efficiency’ uses as little fuel as it can, ‘Comfort’ balances the power delivery 50:50 and ‘Dynamic’ leaves the engine on and instructs the e-motor to give a helping hand. Sadly, the option to move the gear shifter in to manual mode has gone, making those paddles on the back of the wheel just a tad useless.
So far, so normal, but Audi has Audi-fied the experience a bit. Like the combustion engine models, the TFSIe versions have the brand’s ‘predictive efficiency assist’ function. Essentially, it’s where a little green icon of a foot lifting off a pedal is meant to tell you to let of the throttle to allow the car to coast or simply use less fuel; the technology has a haptic feedback point, and suggests you lift off if you’re nearing a junction or change in speed limit.
Like Merc’s plug-in hybrids, Audi has also introduced an adaptive brake regen function with the rather dispassionate name: ‘predictive operating strategy’. That adaptively modifies how much regenerative braking is applied when you lift off the throttle, again using information like forthcoming changes in speed limits, junctions, corners or even the car in front. It’s not quite as intrusive as Mercedes’ offering, for better or worse.
Get to the driving bit!
There’s zero drama here when you prod the starter button as, like most hybrids, the Q7 starts in electric mode. Around town, the legally obligatory noise emitter makes your large, plush SUV sound like the Victoria Line but, since the Q7 feels built like a technological fortress it’s so quiet inside. Tyre roar is the most noticeable noise, and maybe the odd thud from the suspension system.
Despite the extra weight, the Q7 rides well. There’s less airy gliding going on than usual from an air-sprung SUV but it’s far from fidgety over ruts and bumps. Audi is also learning the errors of its dead steering ways, too, but only to a certain degree; purposeful heft to your inputs is replaced by actual feel, but it’s better than nothing.
One of the biggest criticisms a hybrid faces is a lack of progression from the brake pedal – something Audi has spent considerable time trying to eliminate. It’s still not as consistent as an ICE car, but much more progressive than pretty much every other hybrid on the market.
Prodding the other pedal is the most exciting bit, though. Yes, this is an SUV that is designed to sip fuel, but the amount of power it provides when you floor it is eye-widening. This thing is fast, and accompanied by a gravelly yet tuneful V6 engine note. The balance between the petrol engine and e-motor makes for torque curve without lumps – just a persistent surge into speeds ranging beyond legal in the time it takes you to say ’60 TFSIe’.
Audi Q7 60 TFSIe: verdict
The hybrid to solve all of our problems? Nope. The electric-only range is only just acceptable and it’s roughly the same price as an SQ7 in the UK.
But the insert-fax-machine-name-here version of Audi’s big SUV is tremendously refined, comfortable, practical and, frankly, way faster than a hybrid ought to be.
A big fat SUV is never going to be the eco-friendliest base for a hybrid, but the Q7 makes up for that for just being a very impressive place to spend your time.
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