Audi Q7 e-tron

Review: 2018 Audi Q7 e-tron

The Q7 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid with a narrow useable electric range of around 55-60km. This probably covers 90% of trips in Australian cities, but the problem is, of course, keeping it charged.

The electric car business is a funny one. Car makers made a few tentative steps, with smaller cars, tried a few things and then Tesla happened. The cars were big and sporty and fast – suddenly an iMiev looked a bit weak and silly. Renault and Nissan played around with the brilliant but weird Twizy, but it didn’t take off.

Tesla completely changed the game and the legacy car makers knew it. Toyota continued its slow and steady path. The Germans played around with things like the BMW i3 while the Valley start-up continued redefining customer expectations.

Electric cars got big – physically big. Since the first tiny runabouts, a parallel and juxtaposed change happened in the “normal” car industry – the flight to SUVs means we all want bigger. So electric cars have followed.

That played into the hands of the traditional auto industry because those big platforms gave them the space to cram in the extra electric hardware. And the bigger the car, the bigger the margin. Audi’s Q7 e-tron, which is a plug-in hybrid – or PHEV – is the intersection of all these things.

What is the Audi Q7 e-tron?

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The Audi Q7 is a large five or seven-seat SUV based on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB platform. That means it shares bits with everything form the Skoda Kodiaq right up to the Bentley Bentayga and forthcoming Lamborghini Urus. It shares nothing substantial with the upcoming all-electric Audi etron or its sister car, the Porsche Taycan.

In other words, it’s a compromise.

The Q7 is only available in Australia with the 3.0 turbodiesel V6 in two states of tune as well as the hugely fast SQ7, a triple turbo diesel V8 – that third turbo is powered by the 48V power system to spin up before the standard, exhaust-driven turbos come on stream.

The e-tron sits between the 200kW diesel and that top-end SQ7. Priced from $139,900 it’s only available as a five-seater – the battery pack, which enables the e-tron badge, eats the third row space.

What makes the Q7 e-tron move?

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As with the standard cars, the e-tron packs Audi’s 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6. In the e-tron the diesel engine specs come in at 190kW and 600Nm while the electric motor brings 94kW and 350Nm to the party. Audi quotes the combined specifications 275kW and 700Nm.

The battery is a 17.3kW/h lithium-ion pack under the boot floor, enabling a displayed maximum electric-only range of around 56km.

Charging times vary from 2.5 hours from a 400V/16-amp supply to 10 hours from a household socket.

You can tow 750kg with an unbraked trailer and 3500kg if you’ve got brakes – the same as the diesel-only cars.

0-100 acceleration times are an impressive 6.2 seconds for the e-tron, which is quicker than all bar the SQ7.

What’s in the Audi Q7 e-tron?

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TheQ7  e-tron is clearly a low-volume proposition here in Australia. On a standard V6, you can easily double its circa $100k price with options whereas the e-tron offers a more modest set of tick boxes.

Having said that, you won’t want for anything:

  • Heated front seats
  • Audi Connect
  • LED headlights
  • e-tron styling
  • adaptive air suspension
  • 19-inch alloy wheels
  • three-zone climate control
  • reversing camera
  • sat nav
  • front and rear parking sensors
  • LED daytime running lights
  • cruise control
  • hill descent control
  • power tailgate
  • floor mats
  • electric front seat
  • leather trim
  • air quality sensor
  • park assist
  • electric everything, auto wipers and headlights
  • …and a hefty electric charging unit.

The instrument panel is Audi’s pioneering Virtual Cockpit, a full digital and configurable screen that completely replaces traditional analogue dials. Some cars (BMW, I’m looking at you) don’t really get the point of this but the Audi’s is very clever and crisp. You can reduce the size of the dials to maximise the impressively detailed GPS system which, if you add a SIM card, will overlay Google Maps if you have coverage.

The Audi MMI system also looks after navigation system as well as various car functions and the stereo system. You can hook up with Bluetooth or USB, the latter providing functionality for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The big screen perches on top of the dash and controlled with a combination of rotary dial, touchpad and shortcut buttons.

Safety

The Q7 has a five star ANCAP safety rating with six airbags, reverse cross traffic alert, traction and stability controls, forward (up to 85km/h) and reverse AEB, around view camera, blind spot sensor and lane departure warning.

Any options?

Natürlich – it is an Audi. The company offers two packages, Assistance and Technik.

Assistance consists of active cruisecontrol with stop and go in traffic, lane keep assist, collision avoidance (helps with steering in an emergency) and turn assist (stops you turning across oncoming traffic.

The Technik Package adds a wireless Qi charging pad, 19-speaker Bose system, head-up display and rear seat entertainment preparation. You pay more for the actual screens.

Some features are available individually. The Matrix LED headlights are out on their own and are excellent if you spend much time outside of the city.

On the road

You have three choices when you hit the start button and one of those is e-tron mode. With a full charge, the car reckons you’ve got 56km.

The battery pack isn’t a big one and the car itself is 2.6 tonnes before you load up. So that seems…optimistic.

Having said that…

I had a week with the Q7 and found the electric range quite useful. Coinciding with a chaotic time – we had effectively to move out while the house was being painted and a death in the family meant trips to the airport 10km away and the nearby nursing home – the electric range got a good shakedown.

We plugged the car in overnight the first day, but the charger tripped the power point we were using. An option on the charge unit meant we could step down to half power to avoid tripping. That worked just fine the second night, giving us a full charge in under 12 hours.

The Q7 is a big unit, but moves quite smartly on electric power and is quiet and composed doing it. The higher profile tyres of the e-tron make for a very comfortable ride  and the standard air suspension seals the deal.

Annoyingly, the e-tron isn’t as aggressive on energy recovery as we’re used to in other electric cars. Lifting off the throttle doesn’t provide much engine braking, just a coasting effect.

It does recover a little – and you can see that in the dash indicator – most gentle start-offs are electric, saving a lot of fuel.

When compared with the performance of a 160kW or 200kW diesel-only Q7, the e-tron feels really good. Add in the quietness of electric propulsion and the extra features, it feels like any other electric SUV. If it’s a school run car, the real-world 30km range is perfectly useful.

The official combined fuel figure for the Q7 e-tron is 1.9L/100km, which is obviously ridiculous. I averaged about 7L/100km over the week in mostly suburban driving. The diesel engine has all the usual emission gear on it, if you’re interested.

What do I think about the Audi Q7 e-tron?

The Q7 e-tron is much like the A3 e-tron – a plug-in hybrid with a narrow useable range. Similar to Europe it probably covers 90% of trips in Australian cities. The problem is, of course, keeping it charged. You’ve got to hurl the big charge unit around and if you don’t have a garage or carport, it’s a bit unwieldy.

It doesn’t shout about its electric credentials, just a bit of discreet badging and some less than funky wheels, so if it’s stealth you want, you got it.

Oddly, the five-seat etron SUV  will probably come in around the same price.

Apart from an extra cost (partly-covered by extra options), you miss out on the two seats at the rear. The Q7 is an excellent package, and the Q7 e-tron just changes the way you live with it, rather than changing the game.

Peter Anderson is a freelance motoring journalist based in Sydney. He wanted to be a car journalist from the age of fifteen but lucked into it almost twenty years later by engaging in Twitter banter with the-then deputy editor of a motoring website. Since then Peter has written for Carsguide.com.au, Practical Motoring, Box Magazine and regularly appears on radio on ABC Sydney to talk cars. He’s the owner of theredline.com.au, a performance car website and YouTube channel.

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