£66,000 Price range
The Audi Q7 e-tron is a plug-in-hybrid that promises low running costs with a healthy slug of performance. It’s not the only large hybrid – buyers may also consider the Mercedes GLE 500e, BMW X5 ActiveHybrid and Volvo XC90 T8.
Just a battery range readout on the standard Virtual Cockpit display and the lack of a third row of seats distinguish the e-tron from a regular Q7. Otherwise you have one of the best cabins in class with impeccable build quality, smart design and lots of technology – including sat-nav that helps the Q7 tackle journeys as economically as possible.
The diesel-electric e-tron has the lowest running costs in the range, but this is offset by its huge price. Yes, you get free road tax and if you live in London you won’t have to pay the congestion charge. However, you’ll have to travel many, many miles to recuperate the price premium over a diesel model.
The current Q7 is some 240kg lighter than it’s predecessor, but all this is negated in the e-tron with its batteries in the boot and heavy electric motor. The result, unsurprisingly, is that it isn’t as fluid to hustle in corners and also rolls more. On the bright side the torque boost of the electric motor makes short work of overtakes.
The Q7 e-tron sits at the top of the Q7 range and comes with the kit to prove it – 19-inch alloy wheels, auto lights and wipers, keyless go, cruise control, parking sensors and adaptive dampers, heated, electrically adjustable leather seats, and three-zone climate control all come as standard.
The combined pulling power of the turbocharged diesel and the electric motor make for a rapid machine, illustrated by the six second 0-62mph time, but in corners the extra weight of the electrical gubbins makes the Q7 a cumbersome beast.
We can argue that comfort is more important in a large SUV and in this regard the Q7 rides much better than a BMW X5 Hybrid. Devouring mile after mile on the motorway is where the Q7 shines and the e-tron’s electric motor is powerful enough to keep it moving at the national speed limit.
Juggling between diesel power, electric or both happens in a way that’s almost imperceivable. Cruising on electric power, the Q7 might decide you’re going to use more battery charge in the approaching town (courtesy of a heads-up from the sat-nav) starting the diesel engine as a generator in anticipation, while the active throttle pedal vibrates gently to encourage you to conserve power.
The e-tron makes 373hp by combining the top-spec 272hp 3.0-litre diesel engine with a 126hp electric motor. It’s quite a bit more expensive than an entry level diesel Q7, but if your commute is short that may be a price worth paying – the e-tron can travel 35 miles on battery power alone, so conceivably you may never have to fill it with diesel.
Charging, meanwhile, takes eight hours from a wall socket or 2.5 hours if you get a fast charger installed by Audi. Official fuel economy sits at a headline-grabbing 156.9mpg (difficult to achieve in the real world), but the huge Audi is free to tax, exempt from London’s Congestion charge and qualifies for free parking in the Capital’s electric car charging stations.
Audi says plug-in hybrids will account for 25 percent of its sales by 2025 and, with the A3 e-tron flying off the shelves (it’s outselling its BMW i3 rival) we’re inclined to agree. The Q7 e-tron looks to form another piece of the overall puzzle and – combining everything we love about an SUV, with uncharacteristically low running costs – there’s no reason to think it won’t be another successful step towards Audi’s 2025 target.