These plug-ins de­liver both Power and econ­omy

Edmonton Sun - Autonet - - FRONT PAGE - Graeme Fletcher

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.

Pho­tos:Grae­meFletcher/Driv­ing

The Audi A7 Sport­back Hy­brid de­liv­ered bet­ter fuel econ­omy than the Toy­ota Prius with all-wheel drive.

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