These plug-ins deliver both Power and economy
After a somewhat slow beginning, the electrification of the automobile is now heating up quickly, and Audi plans to introduce 30 electrified models by 2025.
Twenty of these new models will be all-electric. There are also two new plug-in hybrid powertrains that will be offered in the A7, A8, Q5 and Q7 models.
Driving the new A8 and A7 plug-in hybrids showed they were very smooth in the transition between electric and gas/electric modes, and both were willing to run on electric power at elevated speeds.
Both versions use a 14.1-kWh lithium-ion battery with a claimed electric-only driving range of over 40 kilometres — in the case of the A7 and A8 plug-ins tested, the drive started with 44 km of electric range showing. The battery sits under the cargo floor, so it does not eat into the usable luggage space.
The lone nit, in both cars, was the predictive operating strategy and predictive efficiency assist. These systems use the navigation to look at the road and topography ahead to plan the best regen strategy to improve the overall driving efficiency. The issue is it pushes back on the gas pedal in an effort to get the driver to lift. The haptic pulse was annoying.
The first of the new plug-in powertrains will be used in the Q5 and A7. The tester was badged the A7 55 TFSI e quattro — the significance of the “55” is important. It arrives with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an electric motor incorporated into the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, and Audi’s quattro system with “ultra” technology. It decouples the rear drive when it’s not needed, to help fuel economy.
The gas engine produces 248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque and the electric motor chips in with another 141 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. With both power sources working, the net system output is 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, starting at 1,250 rpm.
This explains the A7’s 55 designation — the current 3.0-L turbocharged V6 gas engine wearing the same “55” badge produces 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
While the plug-in gets the same driving modes as the regular gas-powered units, there are three others — EV, Hybrid and Battery Hold. The first uses electricity alone, the second switches between power sources to get the best economy, and the third allows the power in the battery to be saved for use at a later time.
In any of the regular drive modes except Sport, the A7 felt a little light because the focus was on fuel economy. When Sport was selected, the focus switched, and nailing the gas from a standstill saw the plug-in reach 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds, which is just 0.3 seconds slower than the regular A7 with its blown V6.
The real win is in the fuel economy. Where the regular gas-powered A7 is rated at 9.6 L/100 km, the A7 plug-in returned an outstanding drive average of 4.1 L/100 km. That, by way of reference, is better than the Toyota Prius with all-wheel drive, which is rated at 4.7 L/100 km.
The second plug-in hybrid powertrain will be used in the Q7 and the A8 L TFSI e quattro we tested. It arrives with the 335-hp 3.0-L turbocharged V6 and the same 141-hp electric motor. This system differs in that it uses an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s permanent quattro all-wheel drive with a self-locking centre differential.
The gas and electric sides combine to produce a net system output of 443 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque from 1,250 rpm. The plug-in’s “60” designation references the power that will be found in the upcoming A8 L and its 453-hp 4.0-L twin-turbo V8.
Step on it and all 2,200 kilograms of the A8 hybrid’s leather-lined luxury scoots off the line and on to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds. This lays waste to the 3.0-L turbocharged V6 and its 6.1-second time. The real story, however, is the mid-range. It picks up the lengthy side sills and gallops from 80 to 120 km/h in 3.3 seconds.
The better news is that on the drive — which was not conducted with an eye to fuel conservation — it managed to return an average fuel economy of 4.8 L/100 km. The current A8 L with its turbocharged 3.0-L V6 has a posted average economy of 10.8 L/100 km.
Both of the new powertrains deliver on divergent demands equally well: performance is plentiful, yet fuel economy is superb. It makes one wonder why any buyer would pick a straight gas-powered model over either of the new plug-in hybrids.
Canada will see the Q5 55 TFSI e quattro, A7 55 TFSI e quattro and A8 60 TFSI e quattro in early 2020. Full specifications and pricing will be announced later.
The Audi A8 Hybrid reaches 100 km/h in just 4.9 seconds.
The Audi A7 Sportback Hybrid delivered better fuel economy than the Toyota Prius with all-wheel drive.