It’s been a good ten years since Audi introduced their first luxury SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005. The Audi Q7 has been a great success in the luxury SUV segment ever since, and the most recent sales figures of the 2016 Q7 that was launched earlier this year substantiate this success. We are told that in the past five months, Audi sold more Q7s than in the entire previous year.
Following the 2016 Q7 – with the ever-pressuring EU emission regulations in mind – Audi announced a hybrid variant of the 2016 Q7 earlier this year in order to conqueror the luxury hybrid SUV market. This market has been growing rapidly in recent years due to appealing subsidies offered by several governments on cars that live up to a certain low emission standard. Audi’s answer to this growing market comes in the form of the all-new 2016 Q7 e-tron Quattro.
In the light of the Audi Future Energy Performance days, we travelled out to the heart of Spain to test drive the first Audi Q7 e-tron.
The Audi Q7 e-tron is equipped with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine combined with an electric motor that delivers 94 kW at its peak. Additionally, the Q7 e-tron is fitted with an eight-speed tiptronic gearbox. The combination of a 3.0 V6 TDI and an electrical component make it unique in the luxury SUV segment. For now, it’s the only diesel plug-in-hybrid in this segment, facing its main competitors that currently only feature petrol plug-in-hybrid drivetrains.
If you are wondering about the Q7 e-tron main competitors, these are the four to be reckoned with: the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, BMW xDrive40e, Mercedes-Benz GLE500 e 4MATIC and the Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in-hybrid.
Audi have naturally set their eyes on efficiency with the Q7 e-tron, stating that a range of 1400 kilometres on a full tank (75 litres) is theoretically possible. We all know that such figures are usually a bit on the optimistic side of things, but it is nonetheless still an impressive figure. To put things into perspective; that’s a trip from Amsterdam to Budapest on just one tank of fuel. The corresponding average consumption figure of just 1.7 litres per 100 kilometres is equally astonishing.
In order to help reach the theoretical stated range, the Q7 e-tron comes with several driver assistance systems. The optional predictive efficiency assistant is arguably the most important and innovative one. The predictive efficiency system reads the route up to three kilometres ahead and informs the driver of what’s coming up next. The system recognizes curves, roundabouts, intersections, downhill slopes and both town and speed limit signs.
Depending on if the driver has adaptive cruise control enabled, the car will slow down automatically well ahead of the upcoming limit or traffic situation. If adaptive cruise control is not enabled, the driver will be alerted via a ‘foot from gas’ message in the centre instrument panel as well as on the optional heads-up display. The system even goes as far as to calculate the ideal hybrid strategy once the destination is entered into the MMI navigation plus.
The MMI navigation plus comes as standard, as well as the LTE standard internet connectivity module. Combined, this makes it possible for the navigation to take into account live traffic situations and subsequently optimising the hybrid strategy even more.
The infotainment system of Audi is top of the range, as we know it from other recently introduced models. It features all the ins and outs, from Apple CarPlay to their own Audi smartphone interface. All of it is viewable on the 8.3-inch monitor that pops up out of the centre of the dashboard. In addition, there is the option of two 10.1-inch Audi tablets mounted on the back of the front seats, for rear seat entertainment. Because of the standard internet module, a WiFi hotspot is also available for passengers.
Another seriously cool feature is the optional Audi phone box. Just by putting your phone in the box, it connects to the Q7’s mobile radio antenna and it can also be charged inductively – like a powerbank – if needed.
Chassis and Suspension
Audi drive select let’s you choose from seven different driving modes if you opt for adaptive air suspension, ranging from efficiency, auto and comfort to dynamic, individual, allroad and off road. Audi’s drive select dynamic handling system makes sure the suspension, gearbox and steering are changed accordingly to the driving mode of your choice.
In dynamic mode this means stiffening the suspension and chassis with quicker gearshifts, and in efficiency mode Audi’s thermal management system comes into play, making intelligent use of an integrated heat pump. This way waste heat from the electrical component is used for climate control, extending the electric range of the car.
Additionally, the car is fitted with the well-known regenerative braking, instantly charging the battery when letting go of the gas pedal. Apart of the thermal management system, there are several other driver assistance systems that work closely with Audi’s efficiency mode. For instance, the adaptive cruise control in combination with the earlier mentioned predictive efficiency assist.
Not only are these systems a great contribution to efficient driving, they are also an important step forward to autonomous driving. Making use of both the optional lane assist and adaptive cruise control, the car can basically drive itself as long as you keep your hands close to the wheel. The Q7 e-tron is standard equipped with the pre-sense city package. This package includes collision warning systems, heavy braking assistant and the cross traffic assist rear.
In combination with the park sensors, it will warn for cross traffic when backing out of a parking spot. The exit warning system will alert passengers for approaching vehicles or cyclists when opening the vehicle doors. The city package also includes parking system plus and a rear view camera. The autonomous parking feature and 360 degrees camera are available in the parking package, but also as individual option.
The exterior looks no different than that of a regular 2016 Q7, depending on what options are installed. The only difference is the extra cap on the side for charging the battery of the e-tron. If you are unfamiliar with the Q7’s exterior and interior styling, we invite you to read our 2016 Audi Q7 review. That being said, there are a few things we would like to highlight when it comes to the interior of the Q7 e-tron.
A nifty function is the button in the boot that automatically lowers the back of the car, making it easier to load it. As far as we know the car doesn’t feature Audi’s ambient lighting, although aluminum door sills with a highlighted Q7 e-tron logo are available. Last but not least is the ingenious phone box with integrated power bank, besides functionality it emphasized the technical features that are available on the 2016 Audi Q7 e-tron Quattro.
Our first experience behind the wheel of the Audi Q7 e-tron Quattro comprised of some curvy mountain roads in the surrounding hills of Madrid and lovely sunny weather conditions. We started out in dynamic mode, getting familiar with the car’s performance. The Q7 e-tron’s performance is not bad at all considering it’s a plug-in-hybrid. It accelerates quickly and it feels like you can still pull mountains like in the good old 4.2 TFSI.
The Audi Q7 e-tron sprints to the magic number in just 6.0 seconds. With dynamic mode engaged, there is even a bit of sound, albeit partly artificial. The cornering ability is stable like in all Quattro’s and the steering seems quite responsive as well. The only thing that put you straight back to earth is the somewhat conservative braking pedal, which is hard to nail when it is programmed to function automatically most of the time in efficiency mode.
In retrospect, what it is all about in this car is efficiency and our unconditional love for the environment. We selected efficiency mode from Audi’s drive select panel and also engaged adaptive cruise control and active lane assist. The result is that the car goes completely silent and that it drives itself (semi-autonomous) comparable to Tesla’s autopilot.
On country roads, the active lane assist doesn’t always live up to the task, however it isn’t yet developed for such road types. In the city, the system performs well and only for junctions and roundabouts we took over command, although even on roundabouts adaptive cruise control can do its job. The clever predictive efficiency assist performs surprisingly well indeed, reading the road ahead as indicated.
There were only on a few occasions when it didn’t quite get the speed limit right, but to be fair this has been a serious struggle for all manufacturers and we can imagine it will stay that way for many years to come. If anything there may be the slight annoyances of other road users that occur when slowing down well before the speed limit. This of course has everything to do with reaching the optimal efficiency, and not so much taking into account the agenda of other drivers.
Apart from the driving experience, the driver seat of the Q7 e-tron is a comfortable place to be. That theoretical range of 1400 kilometres we mentioned earlier, should be no problem in terms of comfort. The seats are comfortable and electrically adjustable and on top of that feature both heating and air-conditioning. In the back there is plenty of head- and legroom buyers of this car should be the last to complain about space in the boot.
Despite the tucked away battery, there is still a maximum luggage space of 1835 litres with the seats folded down. Finally, the electrical tailgate and optional gesture control make controlling the boot of the car even more convenient.
Looking at direct competitors of the Q7 e-tron, one can clearly see the Q7 excels in balance of power and efficiency. The Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid features a V6 petrol with a combined output of 306 kW / 416 hp and was one of the first hybrids in the segment. Its electromotor however only reaches 20 kilometres in E-mode and it consumes 3.4 litres per 100 kilometres.
The BMW X5 xDrive40e comes with a 2.0 four cylinder delivering a combined performance output of 230 kW / 313 hp. Considering it’s a four cylinder, the average consumption of 3.3 litres per 100 kilometres is far from impressive compared to the Audi Q7 e-tron figures.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE 500 e 4MATIC comes with a V6 petrol and a combined power output of 325 kW / 442 hp. With an all-electric reach of just 30 kilometres and an average combined consumption of 3.3 – 3.7 litres per 100 kilometres, it doesn’t come anywhere near the efficiency figures of the Audi.
Finally the new Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in-hybrid features a 2.0 four cylinder petrol combined with an electromotor delivering a combined power output of 235 kW / 319 hp. With an average combined fuel consumption of just 2.7 litres per 100 kilometres it comes closer to the Audi in terms of efficiency. In terms of performance, the Audi Q7 e-tron Quattro comes in third with a combined power output of 275 kW / 373 hp.
The range of the electromotor in the Q7 is capable of reaching 56 kilometres in e-mode only, that’s almost double of what the GLE is capable of (30 kilometres) and triple of what the Cayenne is capable of (20 kilometres). At an average of 1.7 litre of fuel per 100 kilometres, Audi comes in first, even taking competitors with smaller engines into consideration such as the X5 from BMW and Volvo’s XC90.
For buyers on the outlook for a hybrid in this segment that ‘genuinely’ want to get the most out of their tank of fuel, the Audi Q7 e-tron should top their list. We however don’t blame you if that’s not your first priority, in the end these hybrids are capable of top speeds that make you wonder why they are labelled as environmentally friendly. It is commonly known that usually buyers’ first motivation for buying a car in this segment are the fiscal advantages that come with it, and then still the Audi Q7 e-tron is one of the top contenders on the list.
What to spec?
Just like all the recent Audi models, there is an extensive range of options available for the 2016 Audi Q7 e-tron Quattro. Many come as standard and are included in the base price starting at just €80.500. Talking about value for money, after the Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in-hybrid that is priced at €79.795, it’s Audi that comes out quite favourable.
Standard included within the €80.500 base price are the LEDs, Audi’s virtual cockpit, the MMI Navigation Plus, Internet connectivity module, Pre Sense City package with predictive efficiency assist, parking sensors, front and rear view cameras and electrically powered tailgate. With such a range of features that come standard with the Q7 e-tron, we can imagine it’s not easy to choose additional specifications. To help you on your way:
- Audi’s adaptive air suspension. With this option come many different driving modes as well as more stability and sportiness.
- Bang and Olufsen 3D sound system. Not cheap, but if you are an audiophile it is a must-spec.
- Head-up display. It’s one of those features that go hand-in-hand with many other options on the car and we hope that it becomes standard in the near future. It keeps the driver focused on the road ahead and thus increases safety.
- Adaptive cruise control and active lane assist. The latest in driver assistance systems and it coordinates perfectly with the predictive efficiency assist.
- For those that want to add a bit of style to the car we recommend choosing a premium interior finish and the optional 21-Inch wheels.
Looking back at our review of the ‘regular’ 2016 Audi Q7, we stated that the Q7 is the best ‘all-rounder’ in the segment. This is exactly what came up when driving the Q7 e-tron as well. Whereas competitors excel in certain aspects of the car, they usually have to make compromises on other features. Audi has you covered without compromising on any aspect.
Its extensive range of options will let the buyer configure its car with no limits, and on the other side the standard baseline Q7 e-tron has everything you need at a very competitive price of just €80.500 in Germany. Being the most efficient in its class and having nailed the balance between performance and efficiency, we have no doubt the 2016 Q7 e-tron Quattro will be among the favorites of the luxury plug-in-hybrid SUV segment.