Audi Q7 hybrid review
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||26-27 miles||86-88mpg||72-74g/km|
Technically we’ve seen a plug-in hybrid Q7 before, in the shape of the Q7 e-tron that mixed an electric motor with a diesel engine. Now Audi has introduced a completely new petrol-electric system, with a new nomenclature, too.
The Q7 55 TFSI e offers 375bhp by combining a V6 turbocharged engine with an electric motor, with prices starting near the £65,000 mark and available across Sport and S line trim levels.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard, while the 17.3kWh battery is larger than the 14.1kWh unit found in all other Audi PHEVs, to make up for the SUV’s extra bulk. A minimum electric range of 25 miles is promised, while a full charge from a 7kW home wallbox should take no more than two-and-a-half hours.
Fuel-economy and CO2 emission figures aren't as impressive as some other plug-in hybrids manage (partly a reflection of the Q7's vast size and weight), while performance numbers are 0-62mph in just under six seconds and a top speed of 149mph. However, our test drive suggests the Q7 hybrid is as fast as the numbers suggest, and that the petrol-electric system is more than capable of dealing with the two-tonne-plus kerbweight.
The instant low-down torque from the electric motor makes the Q7 extremely quick from a standing start, and it’ll go from zero to motorway cruising speed with no help from the engine if you’re gentle enough on the accelerator pedal. Mash the throttle and the V6 engine kicks into life to assist acceleration, but it does so in a way that’s smooth and refined.
Unlike many plug-in hybrids, which suffer from excessive revs in situations like this, the Q7 hybrid’s eight-speed automatic copes admirably. Once you’re up to speed, the engine is extremely quiet, while wind and road noise are kept to a minimum, too. This bodes well for passenger comfort on longer journeys.
There are various driving modes, including a pure-electric setting that forces the Q7 to use all of the remaining charge in the battery before waking the engine; useful for short trips when you know you can plug in again later. The flipside is an engine-only mode, which will preserve battery power until you decide to use it.
There’s also a Hybrid mode, which automatically combines petrol and electric power. And if you go far enough to warrant using the sat nav, the Q7 has a trick up its sleeve: Audi’s latest ‘predictive efficiency’ software can use navigation data and live traffic information to calculate the most efficient way to use the available petrol and electricity, getting you to your destination as cheaply as possible.
In the real world, it’s clear that there’s work to be done: the system will often send a tap through the accelerator pedal to remind you to lift off and let the regenerative braking system recover energy. But while the car can see lower speed limits approaching, the regenerative braking doesn’t kick in to top up the battery.
In any case, we reckon the Q7 hybrid will still be an efficient machine to tackle the vast majority of commutes. Our test run took us through a mix of 30mph streets and 60mph roads, and in Hybrid mode the charge in the battery barely dropped.
Inside, the instrument panel will change colour to indicate which driving mode you’re in, but the rest of the interior is identical to the non-hybrid Q7 range. The materials used inside the extremely spacious cabin are of a high quality and look built to last, however we’re not sure if the infotainment system – which uses ‘haptic’ feedback – is really an improvement on simpler touchscreen technology.
Meanwhile, the ride quality doesn’t appear to have suffered from the addition of the battery pack, with the suspension carefully balancing passenger comfort with minimal body lean in corners. Don’t be fooled by the 449bhp V6 though: this isn’t a sports car, and there’s precious little feel through the steering wheel.
On the safety side, the latest Q7 was awarded the maximum five stars by the independent crash-testing experts at Euro NCAP, with a 92% adult occupant protection rating, 86% for child occupant protection, 71% for pedestrian and cyclist protection and 72% for its safety assistance systems.
All things considered, the Q7 hybrid makes a lot more sense than the old diesel-electric Q7 e-tron ever did, even if it's not quite the financial no-brainer that many smaller PHEVs are for company-car users.