Audi Q7 e-tron (2015) road test review

Audi attempts to make an eco-friendly diesel SUV. Just don’t mention dieselgate.

Audi Q7 e-tron: what is it?

Audi Q7 e-tron: what is it?

First it was Mitsubishi, now everyone wants in. Plug-in hybrid SUVs are all the rage, apparently – with the Volvo XC90 and the BMW X5 both being available with electric motors, not forgetting Porsche’s upmarket Cayenne S E-Hybrid.

But Audi is doing it slightly differently. Rather than going down the conventional petrol/electric hybrid route, it’s combining its 3.0-litre turbodiesel with an electric motor. Is it enough to convince the environmentally-conscious to drive a diesel Audi SUV?

Audi Q7 e-tron: what are its rivals?

Audi Q7 e-tron: what are its rivals?

Traditionally, you’d consider the BMW X5 to be one of the Q7’s closest rivals. But most people who’ll buy the Q7 e-tron will do so for tax reasons – and for reasons we’ll come to shortly, the X5 just doesn’t cut it.

Its closest rival, on paper at least, is the Volvo XC90. If you’re scoffing at the thought, it can only be because you haven’t heard just how impressive the new XC90 is. With its flagship T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain, the XC90 starts at £59,955 in Momentum trim (not including the Government’s plug-in car grant). Prices of the Audi Q7 e-tron are yet to be confirmed, but expect it to be marginally more expensive than the XC90.

Audi Q7 e-tron: which engines does it use?

The Q7 e-tron is powered by Audi’s 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine, which produces 258hp and 442lb ft of torque. Combine this with an electric motor and an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox and it’ll hit 62mph in 6.0 seconds flat – topping out at 140mph.

Audi Q7 e-tron: what's it like to drive?

Audi Q7 e-tron: what’s it like to drive?

If a relaxing drive is what you’re after, the Q7 e-tron is up there with the best. When you set off, it’ll initially start in silent electric mode – only starting the diesel motor when you push the accelerator pedal beyond a certain point. When the diesel does kick in, it’s practically seamless – there’s not the vibration or the lurch you may expect.

It uses clever autonomous technology to work out the best driving mode for you. Set the sat-nav and it’ll alternate between using pure EV, hybrid and diesel-only modes depending on what’s best for the situation. So, for motorway cruising, it’ll use the diesel engine to charge the battery, while around town it’ll switch to electric mode to provide silent, emissions-free driving. Cleverly, it’ll make sure the battery is practically empty by the end of the journey, so the journey has been as efficient as possible.

Audi Q7 e-tron: fuel economy and running costs

The Audi Q7 e-tron boasts an official electric-only range of 34.8 miles. This equates to an MPG figure of 166mpg in the European NEDC tests. Of course, you’re unlikely to see this in real life, as part of the tests are done under electric power alone. But over a 60-mile test route, we managed a more-than-respectable 67.3mpg.

Crucially, the Q7 e-tron emits 46g/km CO2, putting it into the lowest bracket for company car tax. At 77g/km, that’s something that the BMW X5 plug-in hybrid misses out on.

Audi Q7 e-tron: is it practical?

Audi Q7 e-tron: is it practical?

While the Q7 e-tron’s battery pack doesn’t particularly eat into boot space (650 litres compared to 770), it does mean it’s not available with seven seats or a full-size spare wheel. If five seats are enough, the e-tron is about as practical as, well, a regular Q7. At just over five metres in length, the Q7 is a big car, and the interior offers Range Rover levels of comfort.

Audi Q7 e-tron: what about safety?

If you’re going to have a crash, the Audi Q7 is probably a good car to be in. Not only is there plenty of mass to absorb an impact, it’s also piled high with clever systems to help prevent an accident in the first place. These include collision assist, turn assist and cross traffic assist rear. Adaptive cruise control includes traffic jam assist, which takes over the braking, acceleration and steering from the driver at speeds of up to 40mph.

Audi Q7 e-tron: which version should I go for?

Audi Q7 e-tron: which version should I go for?

Specifications for the Audi Q7 e-tron are yet to be confirmed, but buyers are likely to get little choice. It should be loaded with kit, however.

Audi Q7 e-tron: should I buy one?

If you want a big, comfortable SUV that’ll provide exceptional fuel economy then the Audi Q7 e-tron is a worthy contender. It’s pricey to buy, but so are its rivals, and it offers little in the way of driving pleasure in the traditional sense. But it’s brilliantly relaxing to drive, and darting around town (as much as you can in a huge cumbersome SUV) is surprisingly fun. You’ll be doing it in exceptional comfort, too.

Audi Q7 e-tron: pub fact

Audi Q7 e-tron: pub fact

The Q7 e-tron uses information from sensors, as well as data from cameras and its navigation system, to generate a detailed image of the route ahead for up to 1.9 miles. It will then pulse the accelerator pedal to tell you when to lift off in a bid to encourage economical progress. It’s a step towards autonomous driving.

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Richard Aucock
Richard is director at Motoring Research. He has been with us since 2001, and has been a motoring journalist even longer. He won the IMCO Motoring Writer of the Future Award in 1996 and the acclaimed Sir William Lyons Award in 1998. Both awards are run by the Guild of Motoring Writers and Richard is currently chairman of the world's largest organisation for automotive media professionals. Richard is also a juror for World Car Awards and the UK juror for the AUTOBEST awards.


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