What is it?
Back in 2007, SUVs in our major cities were being stickered with fake parking fines, courtesy of eco-campaigners trying to highlight how much damage they were doing to the environment. Then the SUV boom began and the campaign quietly fizzled out.
Maybe they simply couldn’t print enough stickers once the vast majority of the population were driving SUVs. Or maybe it’s because of cars like this new plug-in hybrid Audi Q7, which arrives with the sense that the Audi has to be slightly more eco-friendly as we all become ever more aware of needing to do our bit.
The theory is all there, courtesy of a 3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol engine and an AC synchronous electric motor, which is integrated in the eight-speed automatic gearbox’s housing. Zero- emissions range is quoted as 27.3- 29.8 miles, and we managed 23 miles from a full charge on a hot day with the air conditioning blowing hard.
Overall output runs to 375bhp and 443lb ft. Despite being down on the Audi Q7 60 TFSIe (449bhp and 516lb ft), the 55 TFSIe is hardly a slouch, with a 0-62mph time of 5.8sec – punchy considering the 2450kg kerb weight.
A large part of that heft is down to the 17.4kWh lithium ion battery pack mounted under the boot floor; indeed, the diesel V6-powered Q7 weighs nearly 300kg less.
To be fair, though, the BMW X5 xDrive45e and Mercedes-Benz GLE 350de are both similarly weighty. Where those rival PHEVs do steal a march on the Q7 55 TFSIe, though, is in their much lower company car tax ratings: 7% and 6% against 17%.
Elsewhere, this PHEV is very much standard Q7. The boot is smaller than usual, due to the battery (650 versus 865 litres), but the fit and finish are as clichéd and wonderful as ever.