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.
This ‘Predictive Efficiency’ programme switches between the powertrain modes in road distances of as little as 100ft or so. The driver is even advised when it’s a good idea to lift off the accelerator and allow the car to switch into coasting mode.
Elsewhere, adaptive air suspension and adaptive cruise control will be optional. The latter can allow a degree of autonomous driving, taking over braking, acceleration and steering on ‘well-paved roads’ at up to 40mph as long as the traffic is ‘slow-moving’.