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?
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.

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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.

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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%

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ekranoplan 18 November 2015

Another Outlandish Phib?

Come on Autocar, start printing the truth about all vehicle emissions. I happen to love racing a 1960s sportscar in CSCC and driving EVs but for real world ECO performance not much can beat 1990s technology: Audi A2 1.2 TDI and VW Lupo 3L. Long before the latest VW scandal, before Winterkorn killed off the ECO cars in favour of bigger Audis like the Q7, there were cars that were aerodynamic, light and fun to drive. Real world MPG was not based on fictional claims:

The A2 1.2, designed to comfortably take 4 adults, achieved 2.4l/km over 1114km in 2001 with amateur driver Frank Jendrek.

Instead today we have supersized MINIs (larger than Mk1 Range Rovers), so called "zero emission" vehicles which actually pollute whilst plugged in, and Test Cycles like the NEDC which ignore any emissions from electricity generation, supply, and losses in charging from AC to DC and of course an anti diesel culture despite the fact that the western world's most smog polluted and particulate polluted city has the least number of diesel vehicles (LA, USA).

All cars use energy. Just as petrol has to be refined from oil which is drilled and transported around the world on diesel ships, so electricity uses energy in it's creation.

All forms of power generation create emissions over their lifespans - eg: for nuclear it's in construction and Uranium mining and regeneration of fuel cells.

Take any pollutant: CO2 will do (but it could be N2 v NOx as in the VW scandal or NH3 (acid rain) from hybrid petrol cars). In the UK we can assume just under 500g CO2 /kWh including coal and renewables.

Back to the Q7 e-tron:

21 miles at 51 mpg (assuming DIS correct) at 150g/km CO2 makes just over 5kg CO2 for your journey from diesel burning.

39 miles on 12.2 kWh battery capacity. So really 14.03kWh from the wall socket (ACDC conversion losses around 15%), add in 8% for UK grid losses to around 500g/kWh and you get 120.42 g/km CO2 in EV mode. So you pumped out 7.5kg CO2 in EV and 5kg in diesel mode = Average 126g/km CO2.

And yet we taxpayers have to fork out £5k to rich people to buy a £60k car that is no better than an ordinary diesel car!

Once you add in the extra environmental costs of EVs and PHEVs LiON batteries these cars are twice as polluting as the old Audi A2.

Look up: Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles by Troy R. Hawkins, Bhawna Singh, Guillaume Majeau-Bettez and Anders Hammer Strømman

scrap 12 November 2015

Impressive tech management

Impressive tech management systems, but can't help but think diesel/hybrid is a cul de sac. Too heavy, too expensive, too much to go wrong. Petrol plug in is a more elegant solution.
Roadster 11 November 2015

"As you’d expect, the Q7’s

"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." In isolation the Q7 may have a good cabin but compared this to a Range Rover Sport's and the Audi is nowhere. The RRS's interior oozes style, luxury and sophistication while it's so much more desirable looking than the Q7's dull and sobre looking cabin. And where the Audi has acres of cheap plastic, the RRS's is full of higher grade materials and full of quality leather. There is nothing special feeling about the Q7 and it just feels like stepping in any other Audi.
The Apprentice 11 November 2015

Roadster wrote: "As you’d

Roadster wrote:

"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." In isolation the Q7 may have a good cabin but compared this to a Range Rover Sport's and the Audi is nowhere. The RRS's interior oozes style, luxury and sophistication while it's so much more desirable looking than the Q7's dull and sobre looking cabin. And where the Audi has acres of cheap plastic, the RRS's is full of higher grade materials and full of quality leather. There is nothing special feeling about the Q7 and it just feels like stepping in any other Audi.

So what's the CO2 and BIK on the RR? Buy neither, get the XC90 instead.