25.1.2018Audi Q7 e-tron review
Manufacturers are caught between a rock and a hard place (though don't feel too sorry for them) in the sense that buyers increasingly want SUVs, yet regulations say they must keep reducing emissions. It is for this reason that we have seen the rise of the plug-in SUV, and they are becoming increasingly relevant. Audi's model is the Q7 e-tron, which does things a little differently by combining an electric powertrain with a diesel engine - rather than the more conventional petrol. NGC finds out whether the whole package works in the real-world.
Review by Chris Lilly
There's certainly plenty of performance available from the Q7 e-tron. Up front is a 3.0 litre TDI diesel unit producing 258hp and 600 Nm of torque. That's a hefty amount for any car, but add in the fact that the e-tron badge brings a 94 kW electric motor to the party, and the Q7 tested boasts a maximum combined 374hp and 700 Nm of torque. It's a good job really since the Audi weighs in at about 2.5 tonnes, but still shoves the Q7 e-tron from 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds and on to 139mph. It's the huge amount of torque on tap that is most noticeable, with the Q7 offering quick pick-up in practically any of its eight ratios. Audi's famous quattro four-wheel drive system is present on the e-tron too, so I would be confident making a claim that the Q7 will get close to those official performance figures no matter what the conditions - though there was no chance to test that to be fair. Braking is strong if lacking in much feel. A communicative brake pedal is not something you would expect from a big SUV anyway though, let alone one that also has to deal with brake energy recuperation too. In short, the Q7 e-tron is quick despite its huge bulk.
As you might expect from a 2.5 tonne car - thanks to around 400kg worth of extra batteries - and particularly a tall one, you might expect the Q7 e-tron to not handle particularly dynamically. You'd largely be right too, with the Q7 feeling its weight if flung into a corner, despite it hanging on admirably. Body roll is kept reasonably in check, though you can still feel the car lean around bends - only natural really. Instead the Q7 e-tron is at its best cruising along and not being hustled down a country road. Around town or on the motorway, and the ride is excellent. It floats along, and simply brushes aside any pot-holes or speed bumps you might encounter. A sportier PHEV SUV is available from BMW with the X5 40e, but the Audi is very much in Volvo XC90 T8 territory, focusing on refinement rather than raucousness.
Audi's Q7 e-tron is big, make no mistake. It's one of those models that is bigger in the metal than you think from pictures. The current model is fairly stylish, though few would call it a looker. The rival Volvo XC90 has more about its design to appeal to customers, but the Q7â€™s aesthetics are hardly going to put people off buying one, and the flow through of the Audi design language means that it looks exactly what it is - a large Audi. That physical footprint translates fairly well to interior space, but not as much as you might expect. The rear seats offer good levels of space for all involved, but the head leg and shoulder room available aren't as luxurious as the exterior might imply. It would be churlish to complain about a lack of space, but it's all a matter of perspective here. Where there is definitely a downside in terms of practicality for the e-tron over the conventional models is in the boot. Because of the additional batteries for the electric drivetrain, there is no space for a third row of rear seats. As such the Q7 e-tron, unlike the rest of the range, is only available as a five-seater. For many, this will be no issue, but it might affect some buyers. This does mean though that boot space remains vast no matter how many people the Q7 is seating.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Audi is traditionally strong at creating excellent interiors and the Q7 e-tron is no different. It's a great environment to sit in, whether over short distances or on long trips. The seats are comfortable and supportive, with enough lateral support to hold you in place when cornering hard. The pews are best sampled in the Q7 e-tron's more natural driving style though, with everything set to maximum waft. The driver gets Audi's Virtual Cockpit, an excellent customisable digital instrument display, and the controls for all systems are neatly laid out in easy reach. It's all very logical and well-engineered, and the Q7 cabin will keep everyone happy no matter how long the journey is.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Q7 e-tron, with its use of diesel engine and electric powertrain, should return excellent fuel economy figures - and it can. Official statistics are 156.9 MPG on the NEDC combined cycle, with emissions of 48 g/km CO2. As with all PHEVs though, the figures depend largely on how the car is driven and how often you can charge. Cover less than 20 miles each trip and you won't use any diesel, but travel a few hundred miles between charges, and you're not going to get close to 150-odd MPG. During my time with it, the Q7 e-tron averaged more than 80 MPG, driving normally and charging when possible. On a long run of about 120 miles with a single charge, the average was only 37.9 MPG, so it just goes to show that topping up the battery is crucial for maximum efficiency. Over a mixture of journey styles, I would expect a mid-50s MPG to be reasonable for owners, certainly from the trips I made. This would be a reasonable figure overall, with the potential for short trips to cost nothing in terms of diesel at all. In terms of tax, the Q7 e-tron costs nothing for the first year rate (included on the OTR) and then Â£440 thereafter for the following five years.
There's plenty on offer from Audi in terms of green credentials, with the PHEV system allowing for zero-tailpipe emission motoring up to a quoted 34 miles. In reality, the Q7 e-tron will cover about 28 miles on a single charge, which is at the upper end of PHEV electric ranges currently available. The Audi's 17.3 kWh battery can be charged via a Type 2 connector from a home or public point at up to 7.2 kW, which is currently fast for an on-board charger - particularly on a PHEV. This brings charging times for a full top-up down to just over a couple of hours. Audi's drive select system allows the driver to put the Q7 e-tron into one of all-road, efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic, or individual, to suit needs and efficiency requirements. The driver can also hold the Q7 e-tron in EV only mode, hold the battery's charge, or put the car into hybrid mode. Various displays can show huge amounts of economy information, including a split showing how many miles and the percentage of time using the combustion engine or electric motor. Usual MPG breakdowns are available, as are kWh/100km figures too. Charging times can be scheduled as with many plug-in cars, with pre-conditioning set too so that the car doesn't work the battery hard when setting off. Audi's Predictive Efficiency Assistant uses route information from the sat-nav to calculate the best split of hybrid/diesel/electric power, helping to reduce fuel consumption further. Part of how it works is to make sure the car is in the most efficient gear, and will let the Q7 e-tron coast when best as well. Regenerative braking helps top-up the battery while on the move, and the Q7 uses a heat pump that uses engine heat to warm up the cabin when required. Audi's MMI Connect app allows the usual charging status checks, pre-conditioning, remotr control charging etc that many plug-in models offer. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 46.
The Q7 e-tron might cost a fair amount, but at least you get plenty of car and kit for your money. It's a good level of kit though, rather than generous. On top of all the PHEV systems, Audi gives the buyer 19-inch alloys, Audi Drive Select, active suspension, LED headlights with dynamic indicators, 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit, smartphone compatibility, MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system, interior lighting pack, multi-function steering wheel, leather trim, cruise control, heated front seats, and Audi Parking System Plus front and rear. Options added to the test can included leather/Alcantara front sport seats, Parking Assistance Pack, electric tailgate, Matrix LED lights, Bose 3D stereo, a Technology Pack that includes head-up display and improved mobile phone reception with Audi Phone Box, and Tour Pack which adds adaptive air suspension, adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go and traffic jam assist, collision avoidance assist, predictive efficiency assist, and active lane assist amongst other features. These, plus other features, added more than Â£10,000 to the cost of the Q7 e-tron tested.
If you're in the market for a large and luxurious SUV, the Audi Q7 e-tron's price isn't going to put you off. Add in the fact that big savings could be made in fuel costs and the Audi looks tempting. There are plenty of options in this market, but the Q7 e-tron is the only one that is fitted with a diesel - the X5 and XC90 using a petrol engine in support of its PHEV set-up. If most of the trips you make are short, but with long journeys a fairly regular occurrence, the Q7 e-tron could be a great pick - particularly for those looking for a relaxing car to drive.
Model tested: Audi Q7 e-tron
Body-style: Large SUV
Engine / CO2: 3.0 litre diesel and electric motor / 48 g/km
Trim grades: Only e-tron
On-road price: From £65,815. Price as tested: £79.200
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars