What is it?
A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of Audi’s commanding full-size SUV, the Audi Q7, and thus something to go up against similarly electrified luxury behemoths from Volvo, Porsche and BMW.
The Q7 e-tron uses a large six-cylinder turbodiesel engine mated to an electric motor that’s integrated into the transmission, the claim being that this powertrain will manage a combined fuel economy of 156.9mpg and emit only 48g/km of carbon dioxide.
That’s officially, at least. You’d have to ensure a substantial proportion of your mileage was undertaken in the car’s electric-only mode to achieve anything like those figures, so the powertrain’s worth is – as ever with PHEVs – going to depend on your driving habits.
Audi has been clever with the execution of this diesel-electric powertrain. The heat pump, for example, recycles that of the engine to warm the cabin without draining the battery. The car is also able to ‘coast’, the engine and motor being deactivated in the absence of any throttle input and offers haptic feedback through the pedal if it thinks you’re being a tad leaden-footed.
What's it like?
This is not the first time we’ve driven a Q7 e-tron in the UK. Indeed, we did so last summer on the occasion of its UK launch, following which customer deliveries were curiously delayed. And usefully so, if you went ahead and ordered Audi’s PHEV SUV – base price £66,510 – because, by way of apology, you’ll have been offered a discount that largely mitigates its £11,000 premium over the non-hybrid model. The official line is that capacity constraints for components specific to the right-hand-drive version were to blame for the yearlong hold-up.
Even without the financial sweetener, patient owners will probably take the view that late is better than never. This car’s torque-rich all-wheel-drive powertrain is so unobtrusively supple that it’s as though the entire thing – electric motor upstream of an eight-speed torque-converter gearbox, 3.0-litre V6 TDI up front – uses only a handful of moving parts. Along with the solemn chic of the interior, on crowded British roads the Q7 e-tron (equipped here with optional adaptive air suspension) delivers a cut-crystal tranquillity that will recalibrate your notion of refinement in the SUV segment.
The engine’s active mounts are partly to thank for this and use coil actuators to offset the tremors of internal combustion. The unit itself flexes an effortless 443lb ft from just 1250rpm. Along with the electric motor, the e-tron delivers a total 516lb ft. Apart from the brakes, which grab at low speeds because of the disjointed handover from regenerative braking to the real, hydraulic thing, this dual-source set-up is a graceful companion to the daily grind.