Cruisy Q

Ex­quis­ite lux­ury meets re­mark­able ef­fi­ciency in Audi’s Q7 e-trone- tron

The Advertiser - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - ASH­LEY WESTER­MAN

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

THIRST

DI­MEN­SIONS WEIGHT SPARE

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