From £48,6757
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?

Our Verdict

The second generation Audi Q7
Audi Q7 is priced from £47,755

New flagship SUV is lighter, smaller and smarter. But is it any better?

  • First Drive

    2016 Audi Q7 e-tron review

    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
  • First Drive

    2016 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 218 review

    Lower-end Q7 is as luxurious and well-mannered as any, although still not quite the model to plump for
10 November 2015

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’.

 

What's it like?

In one area, the Q7 e-tron offers a genuine breakthrough in automotive technology. Elsewhere it’s impressive but also a little disappointing.

The real breakthrough is the ‘Predictive Efficiency’ set-up. After our 100km, 90-minute test drive, Audi engineers showed us computer maps which revealed which mode the hybrid system had been using on the route. 

This information showed the e-tron’s drivetrain switching between pure diesel power, hybrid, EV and ‘battery hold’ mode, which preserves battery power early in the journey because the sat-nav system ‘knows’ the route will eventually take the car along urban roads where the drivetrain will switch to pure EV mode.

There’s lots of talk about autonomy in cars, which most people interpret as the car driving itself. The Q7 e-tron introduces a system of autonomy where, for maximum efficiency, the car decides which powertrain mode to use.

The two areas where the Q7 e-tron really stands out are its engine and its cabin refinement. Even under full-bore acceleration, the V6 diesel never raises its voice above a distant, cultured hum. 

Audi is claiming another world-first here. The engine sits on new mounts equipped with ‘electromagnetic oscillation coil actuators’, which counter the engine vibrations that would otherwise be fed into the car’s structure. 

Cabin refinement is first rate, especially in terms of killing off wind noise. You also notice that voices from the rear seats come across to the front seat passengers completely clearly, which is rare even in bespoke executive cars. Full-bore performance can also be briskly satisfying, which is not surprising when there’s a 516lb ft torque peak with both engines engaged. 

However, the Q7 e-tron has both an all wheel drive transmission and a biggish battery pack on board, meaning it weighs in at two and a half tonnes without passengers. As out test drive showed, having three substantial adults in the cabin means the e-tron isn’t always as roaringly rapid as the raw figures might suggest.

Rather less satisfactory were some aspects of the e-tron’s handling. It runs straight and fast on motorways and picks its way through narrow village streets with great ease. But on some of the fast, sweeping bends we encountered outside Madrid, it was less happy.

Set the car up for a long corner and the Q7 runs into it and allows noticeable body roll to build up. But once the driver unwinds the lock as the car exits the bend, the e-tron struggles to settle itself into the new trajectory. 

As the direction of body roll reverses, the chassis takes a second or two to right itself, which it eventually does in a rather untidy, top-heavy manner. My instinct was that this must be at least partly caused by having a 225kg battery pack balanced so high up over the rear axle.

As you’d expect, the Q7’s interior is a masterclass in fit, finish and premium design. But the front of the cabin is snug rather than generously spacious and the digital instrument pack is tilted slightly downwards, away from the driver. It is also packed out with too many small displays and mini graphic clusters. Although the boot is claimed to offer a 650-litre volume (and there’s a good amount of floor area) it is quite shallow once the luggage cover is deployed. 

Finally, the switch between braking gently using the electric motor in the transmission and full-on stopping power via the hydraulic system was hard to gauge, and bringing the wheel brakes in required more pedal force than was instinctive.

The test route covered 60 miles, with a mix of motorway, fast A-roads, a winding hill route and small villages. With a fully charged battery and the Predictive Assistance in charge, we covered 21 miles of it using the diesel engine at 51mpg and 39 miles on the battery, using 12.2 kWh of battery energy.

Should I buy one?

Judging by the popularity of Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV crossover, there’s clearly a willing market for green-tinged SUVs. And in defence of the e-tron, it is greener than most, especially when equipped with the ground-breaking Predictive Assistance system. 

What seems to be a real-world 34 miles of EV range would allow much of many people’s day-to-day driving to be completed on the battery alone. Longer journeys would probably seem that much shorter thanks to the cabin and engine refinement, and who could argue with a big SUV that switches to battery power when passing through towns and villages? 

It’s not a car for driving enthusiasts, but in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal, the Q7 e-tron looks like the upmarket family car of the future. Its hefty price might well be a significant drag on sales, but Predictive Assistance looks like the future of day-to-day driving.

Audi Q7 e-tron

Location Madrid; On sale December 2015; Price £65,000 (est); Engine V6, 2967cc, diesel, plus electric motor; Power 369bhp (total); Torque 516lb ft (total); Kerb weight 2445kg; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; 0-62mph 6.0sec; Top speed 135mph; Economy 166.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 50g/km, 8%

Join the debate

Comments
17

10 November 2015
"What seems to be a real-world 34 miles of EV range would allow much of many people’s day-to-day driving to be completed on the battery alone." Which is OK* although it seems to be the standard'ish figure car companies aspire to, it's about time 50 miles was standard in hybrids especially smaller ones.
*compared to XC90 which is 24 using Volvo's figures (50% less)

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 November 2015
xxxx wrote:

"What seems to be a real-world 34 miles of EV range would allow much of many people’s day-to-day driving to be completed on the battery alone." Which is OK* although it seems to be the standard'ish figure car companies aspire to, it's about time 50 miles was standard in hybrids especially smaller ones.
*compared to XC90 which is 24 using Volvo's figures (50% less)

It's not an aspiration, it's based on real data from programs like BMW's electric MINI from a few years ago which found that 90% of the drivers never needed more than 30 miles a day. It's something like the average journey in the UK is 40 miles, and that includes train journeys and flights. Doing a plug in with more than that is possible, but overly expensive/heavy so why bother when all that needs to happen is the engine kicks in.

10 November 2015
xxxx wrote:

"What seems to be a real-world 34 miles of EV range would allow much of many people’s day-to-day driving to be completed on the battery alone." Which is OK* although it seems to be the standard'ish figure car companies aspire to, it's about time 50 miles was standard in hybrids especially smaller ones.
*compared to XC90 which is 24 using Volvo's figures (50% less)

It's all (well, mainly) down to China which gives supercredits for corporate fuel consumption if you get 50km or more of EV driving over the measured cycle. Going further costs an awful lot more (once battery string length and cell size is taken in to account to deliver the necessary power & voltage) and eats even more of the passenger compartment away.

10 November 2015
Don't get me wrong I'm all for it. Although I think you find another reason for the short'ish distance is it's pretty close to the minium distance to make it valid for the £5000 govermetn grant i.e. Category 3: CO2 emissions of 50-75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 20 miles. But I'd still like to see a minium range of around 40 miles IN THE REAL WORLD.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 November 2015
Already behind the curve, this should have been mated to an petrol engine, diesel will be irrelevant very soon, and will be hated by everyone, and do we really believe Audi's figures given the current scandal they are involved in. it also has less power than the XC90 and its also about 400kg heavier, and it appears to only have 5 seats not 7, IMO the XC90 has a far nicer interior that looks a lot more modern, apart from the "virtual cockpit"and this "predicted efficiency", it offers nothing new, the satnav screen even raises out of the dash on the Q7, just like it did on the 10 year old mk1 XC90, and other previous Volvos for about 15 years...

10 November 2015
Citytiger wrote:

Already behind the curve, this should have been mated to an petrol engine, diesel will be irrelevant very soon...

Perhaps they wanted a better mpg figure than the XC90, even from a V6. 'diesel irrelevant VERY SOON' I think you're jumping the gun

Citytiger wrote:

....it appears to only have 5 seats not 7,...

Really??

Citytiger wrote:

..... it offers nothing new, the satnav screen even raises out of the dash on the Q7, just like it did on the 10 year old mk1 XC90, and other previous Volvos for about 15 years...

But then Volvo thought they'd save money and mounted it alot lower away from your eyeline.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 November 2015
xxxx wrote:
Citytiger wrote:

..... it offers nothing new, the satnav screen even raises out of the dash on the Q7, just like it did on the 10 year old mk1 XC90, and other previous Volvos for about 15 years...

But then Volvo thought they'd save money and mounted it alot lower away from your eyeline.

There is also a map displayed between the dials on the XC90, and if you care to look the centre console screen is only slightly below the level of the dials, and of course there is the HUD option..

11 November 2015
Citytiger wrote:
xxxx wrote:
Citytiger wrote:

..... it offers nothing new, the satnav screen even raises out of the dash on the Q7, just like it did on the 10 year old mk1 XC90, and other previous Volvos for about 15 years...

But then Volvo thought they'd save money and mounted it alot lower away from your eyeline.

There is also a map displayed between the dials on the XC90, and if you care to look the centre console screen is only slightly below the level of the dials, and of course there is the HUD option..

I did care to look at the lower display and like I said the centre console display isn't in such a good place as the pop-up one on the Q7, although I'm sure it's a cheaper less safe option.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

11 November 2015
xxxx wrote:
Citytiger wrote:
xxxx wrote:
Citytiger wrote:

..... it offers nothing new, the satnav screen even raises out of the dash on the Q7, just like it did on the 10 year old mk1 XC90, and other previous Volvos for about 15 years...

But then Volvo thought they'd save money and mounted it alot lower away from your eyeline.

There is also a map displayed between the dials on the XC90, and if you care to look the centre console screen is only slightly below the level of the dials, and of course there is the HUD option..

I did care to look at the lower display and like I said the centre console display isn't in such a good place as the pop-up one on the Q7, although I'm sure it's a cheaper less safe option.

HUD option, that's another £1,000.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 November 2015
What's with the pop up central screen? Surely the virtual instrument display will be enough? Maybe that and a HUD?

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Seat Leon ST Cupra 2.0 TSI 4Drive 300PS DSG
    First Drive
    28 April 2017
    Seat's fastest Leon ST is fun to drive quickly and has enough space for all the family, but VW's own Golf R Estate is even better to drive
  • Porsche 911 GT3 manual 2017 review
    First Drive
    28 April 2017
    The new 911 GT3 is an excellent machine; does the addition of a manual gearbox make it even better?
  • Skoda Karoq
    First Drive
    28 April 2017
    The Yeti has morphed into the Karoq for its second generation, and this early drive reveals a solid, practical small SUV that could challenge the class best
  • Opel Ampera-e
    First Drive
    27 April 2017
    Opel's second-generation Ampera is smaller than the first, and now purely electric. It's also very capable with a remarkable range
  • Lotus Elise Sprint
    First Drive
    27 April 2017
    The latest incarnation of the Elise may be out of its depth on track, but on the public road it is probably the purest version since the original