Audi Q7 e-tron

Hybrid behemoth really is one bright spark

PETER McKAY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

TAKING technical cues from the wildly successful Audi Le Mans cars, the new Q7 e-tron quattro is Audiís second production model with a plug-in hybrid drive system, following the A3 e-tron Sportback.

Here are two statistics to contemplate: this Q7, weighing in at a hefty 2438kg, will burst out of the blocks and hit 100km/h in 6.2 seconds, and yet it also has the chameleon-like ability to get along (rather more sedately, let it be said) whilst using diesel at the rate of not even two litres across a 100-kilometre journey.

The 3.0-litre TDI V6 and the electric motor are both paired to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. A choice of four modes is provided: EV, Hybrid, Battery Charge and Battery Hold. Electric driving is prioritised in EV mode, while in Hybrid, the management system makes the calls on which power source is used. Battery Charge mode is self-explanatory, while Battery Hold saves the available electric energy for later.

Near Madrid, on a mixed 100km loop of freeways and twisty rural roads meandering through sleepy villages, we tried all the choices (but mainly went with the Hybrid mode), returning 6.6L/100km.

This included some pedal-down acceleration runs where the big unit effortlessly launched using lots of rear-end squat.

In some modes, throttle sensitivity is dulled for better fuel efficiency but when asked, the e-tron gets the scenery moving.

Its weight is a handicap when required to hustle through some tight corners but the extra kilos help keep it settled over the urban speed humps. Its recovery from bumps is exemplary.

In Ďcomfortí driving mode thereís some bodyroll, but this type of behaviour tidies up when in Ďdynamicí. In all-electric mode the Q7 is capable of travelling up to 56 kilometres solely reliant on its 205kg lithium-ion battery Ė with impressive throttle response and of course with zero tailpipe emissions. Audi reckons that a full charge on a three-phase industrial outlet takes less than two-and-half hours so itís possible to use battery power on your daily work commute. You can also recharge from a conventional outlet at home or work.

According to the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) test, the efficiency reaches as low as 1.7L/100km. Real world readings are higher. Unequivocally, though, Audiís smooth Leviathan is a frugal jigger. Charged up and with a full 75-litre tank, and sometimes taking advantage of braking and cruising recuperation, the Q7 has a massive range of 1400 kilometres.

Its Australian price is yet to be determined, but somewhere adjacent the Porsche Cayenne hybridís $140K is a good guess.

All mapped out

The Q7 e-tronís standard MMI Navigation Plus system and hybrid management system work together using the GPS data and real-time traffic info to compute the best-case strategy at the start of a trip.

A predictive efficiency system generates a detailed image of the route up to 3km ahead and uses visual signs in the head-up display to prompt releasing the throttle to save fuel. The pedal simultaneously pulses against the sole of the driverís foot.

PLUS & MINUS

Remote steering; no spare tyre; big price hike over regular Q7 Hybrid response and frugality; ride quality; classy cabin