► New Audi Q7 plug-in hybrid
► Petrol V6 and e-motor underneath
► 55 and 60 TFSIe tested
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 55 and 60 TFSIe quattro. Sounds way less cool, doesn’t it?
The Q7 as a hybrid lands in the UK at roughly the same time as the A6, A7 and A8 TFSIe cars. Audi’s facelifted Q5 will benefit from a PHEV variant, and Ingolstadt has just confirmed that the new A3 will also gain a TFSIe version, too. 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 are two PHEV power variants of the Q7 hybrid, badged 55 and 60 TFSIe.
They both use a 3.0-litre V6 TFSI engine (instead of a diesel, like the pre-facelift Q7 e-Tron) and a 94kW electric motor powered by a 17.3kWh battery located under the boot floor. That battery pack placement deletes the option of having a hybrid seven-seater. An eight-speed auto handles the power and sends it to all four wheels.
Audi says total system power output is rated at 376bhp/442lb ft for the 55, and 449bhp/516lb ft for the 60, with a 0-62mph sprint of 5.9 or 5.7 seconds respectively. When the battery is fully charged, you can eke out up to 27 miles of e-range.
Claimed mpg figures chime in at up to 88.3 for the 55 TFSIe or 78.4mpg for the 60 TFSIe. Our test of the lesser-powered model saw around 40mpg on a run that was mostly motorway miles – still decent going for a heavy, V6 petrol-powered SUV – so expect better than that with much more urban 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.
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 a slightly odd system to use on the road when it’s active; the brake pedal physically moves for you if it senses any of the criteria already explained, essentially applying the brakes for some battery regeneration without you having to do it. If the way is clear and you’re not nearing the speed limit, the car will coast as best as it can.
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. We’ve tested a non-air-sprung 55 TFSIe riding on 20-inch wheels in the UK and an air-sprung 60 TFSIe in Germany. Our findings dictate that air springs, in this case, are not a necessary option. Even with 20-inch wheels, there’s not many road surfaces the Q7 is upset by and feels far less floaty than those versions riding on air. 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 either version 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 ’Audi Q7 TFSIe’.
Audi Q7 TFSIe hybrid: verdict
The hybrid to solve all of our problems? Nope. The electric-only range is only just acceptable, and the Q7 also loses one of its USPs – a seven-seat configuration – by translating itself into a PHEV.
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. Stick with the ‘55’ hybrid, not least to glean a slight advantage in fuel economy but also keep the cost down by at least a few grand. You’re only going to waft quietly in this thing anyway.
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