Audi Q7 E-Tron Quattro TDI Quick Spin
An Early Preview Of A Big, Plug-In SUV That's Quietly Efficient
EngineTurbodiesel 3.0L V6 + 94-kW electric motor
Power373 HP / 516 LB-FT
0-60 Time6.0 Seconds
Top Speed139 MPH
MPG59 MPGe (observed)
Despite not knowing if we'll ever see this E-Tron TDI on our side of the Atlantic, we recently spent an enjoyable morning tooling around the hills outside Madrid, Spain. As we said, this beast is seriously quiet, and impressively so.
- The Q7 is a big vehicle, but with powertrain that combines electric motors and diesel thrust, there's a ton of low-end torque. The official 0-62 time is 6.0 seconds, which is basically the same as the 6.1 seconds of the non-PHEV Q7. The Q7 E-Tron is about 500 pounds heavier than the already-4,700-pound Q7, but because of its trick powertrain, never felt sluggish in the hills of Spain.
- This Q7 E-Tron is a parallel hybrid, with the 3.0-liter TDI diesel engine and the 94-kW disc motor both able to drive the wheels. Overall, they provide 373 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Despite the parallel system, the not-quite-powerful-enough electric motor doesn't provide the complete electric drive experience that EV fans might be looking for. For example, the Q7 E-Tron has a top speed of 139.8 mph, but that's only in hybrid mode. In EV mode, its top speed is just 78 mph.
- Audi's Virtual Cockpit display, first seen in the TT, remains an ideal way to give you a wealth of information in an easy-to-see format. It's just as slick in the Q7, where you can toggle the size of the gauges and then pick what you want the screen to focus on, whether that's speed limits, infotainment information, powertrain usage, speed, or navigation.
- Without trying to bring up the ongoing diesel scandal here and questions about official figures, Audi's press release from March 2015 that detailed the specifics of this PHEV says that the Q7 E-Tron, "consumes no more than 1.7 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers (138.4 US mpg) in the NEDC cycle." Those may be the original test cycle figures, but during our drive, we saw a 5.3 liters/100 km (44 mpg) average when the diesel engine was running. Granted, the engine only burned fuel during 35 percent of the drive. In battery mode, we observed 12.6 kWh per 100 km. In general terms, the overall fuel efficiency equivalent is somewhere in between all those numbers, and based on what we and other journalists experienced, it was about 59 mpge.
- The fact that we managed to use up almost all of the Q7 E-Tron's 17.3-kWh, liquid-cooled battery pack over those 40 or so electric miles (the vehicle officially has a Euro-spec electric range of 34.8 miles) is due to what Audi calls the Predictive Efficiency Assistant (PEA). The PEA operates in two modes, depending on whether you're programmed a destination into the nav system or not. If you have, the PEA calculates highway vs. in-town driving, altitude changes, and other factors to try and get you to your destination while using the full range of the battry. The idea, as you can probably guess, is that electric miles are the most efficient miles, and you'll likely be able to recharge at your destination. If you don't program in a destination, the PEA looks three kilometers ahead on the road and, again with data about elevation and speed limit changes, tries to get you to drive with a lighter foot.
- While the PEA might sometimes use the diesel engine to recharge the battery or hold its energy while you're driving on the highway so it can maximize efficiency in the city, the main way that the driver will notice it is by little green foot icons on the dash and the heads-up display. When these appear, they are trying to tell you to take your foot off the throttle. Basically, the system has determined, you've got enough speed to coast for a while, whether that's to the upcoming stop sign or because you're going above the speed limit. Some drivers won't appreciate this reminder, but if you've been meaning to be a better hypermiler, this is exactly the kind of real-time advice that can help you out. Sadly, there's no predictive route knowledge at this time. Even if you leave for work at 8:00 AM every day, you need to enter the destination into the nav every time to get full use of the PEA.
- The Q7 E-Tron TDI uses active engine mounts, which Audi says are a world first for a diesel engine, and contribute to the seriously quiet ride. These mounts use "selective counter pulses" that get rid of vibrations, which you would otherwise feel and hear in the cabin. Now, you will hear the diesel engine when it kicks in, but it's not a disruptive sound. It's just there, sort of in the background, reminding you that this isn't a fully electric vehicle. The noise is a lot more noticeable outside the Q7 than inside it.
Of course, all of this good stuff isn't going to come cheap. While no price for the US has been announced, obviously, the diesel-powered Q7 E-Tron will start at 80,500 euros in Germany when it goes on sale there next spring. That's just over $86,000 at current exchange rates. Still, we might not even get this Q7 in the form we tested. But the fact that it's available elsewhere, and that Audi is exploring the option of bringing it to the US, is a good sign.
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