When it officially launched last week at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, much emphasis was placed on the fact that the Audi Q7 e-tron Quattro plug-in hybrid was the first full-size production plug-in hybrid SUV to come with a 3-litre, six-cylinder diesel engine.
Indeed, when the high-end luxury SUV goes on sale in its home market of Germany next spring, the Audi Q7 e-tron Quattro will be offered in its Geneva Motor Show guise of 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel mated to a powerful 94-kilowatt electric motor. But as Automotive News Europe reports (subscription required) the full-size plug-in SUV will be given a 2.0-litre turbocharged gasoline engine when it goes on sale in the U.S. and China.
In Europe, where diesel-engined vehicles still account for around a half of all new car sales, the higher gas mileage offered by the 3.0-litre diesel engine could give the Q7 e-tron quattro a market edge. In the U.S. and China, where diesel engines have traditionally struggled to sell and not all filling stations even stock diesel, a smaller turbocharged gasoline engine is a better fit.
In its diesel form, the Audi Q7 e-tron quattro has a combined power output of 373 horsepower and can produce a total of 516 pound feet of torque. When operated from a full tank of diesel and a fully-charged battery pack, it has a total theoretical range of 876.1 miles on the NEDC test cycle.
While the 3.0-litre oil-burner helps give the Audi Q7 e-tron quattro one of the largest ranges of any plug-in hybrid on the marketplace, diesel engines produce more particulates than a comparably-sized gasoline engine. Marketing such a vehicle in certain key market areas — noticeably in the air-concious early-adopter market of California — would be extremely tough.
Keeping the same 94-kilowatt electric motor and 17.3 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack but swapping the internal combustion engine for a gasoline one for U.S. and Chinese buyers is a smart move for Audi, especially given its estimated 30+ miles of all-electric range.
At the time of writing, it’s not clear which of Audi’s many engines will replace the 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder for the U.S. and Chinese markets, but if we had to guess, we think it’s likely to be Audi’s ultra-robust 2.0-litre four-cylinder TFSI, which is known for its reliability and good gas mileage as well as its ability to generate decent levels of torque at a fairly low engine speed.
Of the engine swap, Audi’s chief of development, Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, said that the modular design language used throughout the new Q7 lineup made the engine swap a simple process.
“We have a modular system that allows us to react to the different needs of the world,” he said at Audi’s annual shareholder meeting on Monday.
Despite initial plans to offer U.S. and Chinese customers a gasoline rather than diesel plug-in hybrid variant of the Q7 e-tron quattro — which has permanent all-wheel drive — Hackenberg said that Audi’s recent success with diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. means that a diesel plug-in hybrid version could one day make it to North America.
“In the U.S., we are having success with diesel cars,” he said. “We are analyzing the market so maybe we will also have a diesel hybrid.”
Unlike other plug-in hybrids on the market, Audi’s Q7 e-tron quattro uses GPS and elevation data to figure out the best power source to use at all times. When it knows it is approaching a stop light or built-up area, it automatically switches into a coast-down mode, disengaging the drivetrain for maximum efficiency.
When it detects a sudden change in traffic speed or knows of a change in speed limit ahead, it similarly activates regenerative braking to recapture as much of its kinetic energy as possible, avoiding the use of friction-based brakes unless absolutely necessary.
Audi hasn’t detailed when it expects to bring the Q7 e-tron quattro to market outside of the EU, but as always, we’ll keep you posted as soon as we know.
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