As promised earlier this year, Audi has just unveiled its Q7 e-tron quattro plug-in hybrid at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, firing a competing shot directly across the bows of Volvo’s high-end, luxury XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid.
The first vehicle in the world to combine a 6-cylinder diesel engine and permanent all-wheel drive with a plug-in hybrid system, Audi says the Q7 e-tron quattro can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 6.0 seconds and go on to a top speed of 139.8 mph. It also claims a fuel economy of 138.4 U.S. mpg, using the ECE standard for plug-in hybrid fuel economy, and an electric-only range of 34.8 miles per charge of its 17.3 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
Based on the all-new 2016 Q7 full-size SUV, the Q7 e-tron quattro offers many of the same features as its non plug-in hybrid siblings, including the ability to tow when required. But while it has a massive 3.0-litre, six-cylinder TDI diesel engine under the hood, the full-size SUV defaults to all-electric mode every time it is switched on.
At 94 kilowatts, the motor — integrated into the Q7 e-tron quattro’s eight-speed tiptronic transmission system — is powerful enough to even provide all-wheel drive capabilities with the engine automatically decoupled. Thanks to a new software-driven central torque system can transmit power to whichever wheel needs it, improving handling during fast cornering and traction on uneven terrain.
A parallel hybrid, the drivetrain can operate in electric only, hybrid mode — where the car chooses the best power source for the speed and conditions — battery hold and battery charge modes. As the names suggest, battery hold mode allows the driver to reserve electric operation for later on in their trip as might be the case when travelling into a big city. Meanwhile, battery charge makes the diesel engine run a little faster and work a little harder, transferring excess energy generated by it back into the battery pack for later use.
Similar to other plug-in hybrids, the diesel engine can be engaged at any time by simply pushing the accelerator beyond the ‘kickdown’ point on the pedal, giving access to the vehicle’s theoretical maximum power of 373 horses and 516 pound feet of torque.
When operated from a full tank and a fully-charged battery pack, Audi says the Q7 e-tron quattro has a total range of 876.1 miles, enough to drive from John O Groats to Lands’s End in the UK — or if you prefer, St.Louis, MO to Washington, D.C.,– without stopping for fuel.
On a long trip, refuelling with diesel is obviously the quicker of the two fuel sources to replenish, but Audi says the Q7 e-tron quattro can recharge its on-board battery pack in 2.5 hours thanks to an on-board 7.2 kilowatt charger.
Also worthy of note is the intelligent regenerative braking system. When in hybrid mode, the Q7 e-tron quattro defaults to coasting on accelerator liftoff, helping to maximise fuel economy and range. However, if the car’s on-board front camera and optional radar sensors detect a slower vehicle ahead — or the car’s on-board MMI navigation plus system detects a slower speed limit ahead — it will automatically switch to regenerative braking to slow the car down in time for the hazard ahead.
Available as an optional extra is an adaptive cruise control system, complete with collision avoidance assist, turn assist, cross-traffic assist and trailer assist. At speeds of up to 40 mph, the adaptive cruise control can take over steering control too, something Audi calls Traffic Jam Assist.
Prices have yet to be announced, but expect the Q7 e-tron quattro to be similarly priced to the Volvo XC 90 T8 when it launches in Germany this spring, with other markets following shortly afterwards.
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