Exquisite luxury meets remarkable efficiency in Audi’s Q7 e-trone- tron
PREMIUM car brands know their customers well, but it’s possible they know potential customers even better. You may be on Audi’s radar and you don’t even know it. Let’s say your budget for new wheels extends comfortably into six figures, you need a family-sized SUV with the right badge but you’re environmentally aware and you have a hankering for new tech.
The new Q7 e-tron, due here in about a year, may just have your name all over it. It’s a dieselengined SUV with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack stashed under the boot floor that gives it an electric-only range of about 50km.
The pack’s capacity is rated at 17.3 kilowatt hours, which requires a charge time of about eight hours on a conventional domestic supply, or just 2½ hours if you have an Audiappointed electrician fit an industrial-grade outlet. The battery pack powers an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission. Select EV mode and it will operate silently without emitting CO2 for about 50km, at speeds of up 120km/h.
Apply a generous amount of throttle and the engine fires up, overriding the electric operation.
Best efficiency is achieved by handing control over to the car’s brain, mapped by its advanced satnav system. Switched to Hybrid mode, the satnav scans your route, notes the changes in speed zones that delineate motorway, city and suburbia, and chooses the optimum combination of diesel and electric propulsion.
Motorway cruising is where a low-revving, big-torque diesel excels, so its here that the e-tron will surf along lazily with the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 turning over quietly, battery recharging if necessary.
Pull off into a town, the satnav recognises the change and the e-tron switches to electric mode. Need to accelerate away quickly to plug a gap or escape hindrance? The diesel kicks back in to deliver a solid combined output of 700Nm, or more than 100Nm over the conventional Q7. Pushed like this, acceleration is solid indeed: the e-tron is capable of 0-100km/h in just 6.0 seconds. And even when driven like this, the diesel V6 is a benchmark of muted, distant workmanship.
Our test route, just outside of Madrid in Spain, took in a fairly typical blend of motorway, suburbia, city centre and, maybe less typically, a small mountain pass. Driven without any real regard for economy, particularly in the twisty, mountainous region, the car managed just under half the 98km journey on electric power, nearly all of that through built-up areas. For the rest, a blend of diesel-only and diesel/electric was used. Total consumption was less than 6.5 litres.
We were only able to sample the Q7 e-tron on optional air suspension, so we can’t comment on the conventional, steel-sprung model that will be the starting point here. Our test car had a smooth, unruffled ride. In Comfort mode, sharp edges are soaked up and patchwork bitumen is glossed over with nonchalance.
It’s when undulations are introduced at speed that the Comfort mode starts to feel a bit floaty and nautical. Switching to Dynamic instantly corrects this, bringing a far more tieddown feeling without forcing the ride to become brittle or harsh. Push on and the car’s extra weight and top-heavy bias can’t be hidden. It will heel over hard in tight corners, and clumsy or overenthusiastic driving will push it into fairly pronounced understeer.
All of which feels a bit outside the Q e-tron’s core remit. Far better to ease back, let the electronics take over and soak up the interior ambience.
Even in option-free guise, the Q7 exhibits an uncommon sense of style and occasion inside.
Our test car had a leatherfinished upper dash section, contrasting dark timber and polished aluminium trim, Alcantara headlining, mochacoloured perforated leather seats, and a rich, lush-sounding audio system.
The e-tron’s local arrival is still too far off for Audi Australia to be talking pricing, but our best estimate, based on European modelling, suggests it should lob at about $140,000, or about $36,000 over the conventional diesel-only model.
It sounds like a fair hike, but it will come fully loaded with hitech gear.
As for the pragmatic argument that it would take many years to recoup the e-tron’s elevated purchase price in diesel-pump savings, well, again that’s impossible to refute. But I suspect that it’s also an equation that will never be entered into a Q7 e-tron customer’s smartphone calculator. They will simply see this car as a vehicle of great technical sophistication, inherent luxury and beautiful finishes, that also just happens to be remarkably efficient.
AUDI Q7 3.0 TDI E-TRON
PRICE $140,000 (est) WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km CAPPED SERVICING Not available yet SERVICE INTERVAL 12 months/15,000km SAFETY 7 airbags, 5 stars (expected) ENGINE 3.0-litre plug-in hybrid turbo diesel V6, combined output 275kW/700Nm TRANSMISSION
DIMENSIONS WEIGHT SPARE