Although it launched at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, it was confirmed that Audi’s all-new 2016 Q7 SUV — the second-generation model to bear the Q7 name — would be available later this year as a plug-in hybrid model across Europe, becoming the first full-size all-wheel drive production plug-in hyrbid SUV to come with a 3-litre, six-cylinder diesel engine as its range-extender.
Then last month, we learned that while Europeans will get the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid with a oil-burner under the hood, customers in Asia and North America would be given a gasoline plug-in hybrid instead, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine in addition to its 94 kilowatt electric motor and 17.3 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
Now we’re happy to report that very vehicle will make its international debut later this month at the 2015 Shanghai Motor Show in China, ahead of the model’s official May press launch.
The plug-in hybrid drivetrain is one of several brand-new drivetrains developed by the Volkswagen group for its all-new, full-size modular longitudinal (MLB) platform on which the Audi Q7 is built. In fact, while the MLB platform will eventually underpin all of the Volkswagen Group’s full-size cars, encompassing everything from high-performance sports cars to full-size SUVs, the 2016 Audi Q7 is the first vehicle to enter production which is based on the new platform.
As CarAndDriver details, other drivetrain choices include a super-powerful V-8 TDI, complete with electric turbochargers, while the MLB platform itself has been designed to take everything up to a massive V-10 TDI engine and even a twin-turbocharged W-12 engine.
While Audi won’t be offering anything quite as silly for the Q7, that massive engine will put in an appearance in the first-ever SUV made by Volkswagen’s luxury marque Bently, whose upcoming Bentley Bentayga shares much of its underpinnings with the Audi SUV and by association, Volkswagen’s up-coming Cross-Blue SUV.
Why mention the Bentley? While it will be offered with a gas-guzzling W-12 for those hardened petrolheads with a large enough pocket to keep such a gas-guzzler on the road, CarAndDriver says the Q7 e-tron’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain will also be offered to Bentley customers looking for something a little more environmentally conscious.
With that in mind, let’s focus on what we already know about the Q7 e-tron.
Unlike Volvo’s XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid, which uses a through-the-road hybrid drivetrain in which there’s no physical connection between front and rear axles and the largest of its two electric motors provides tractive power to the rear wheels, the Q7 e-tron uses a traditional four-wheel drive setup complete with transfer box and front and rear differentials.
Locked into permanent all-wheel drive, the Audi Q7 e-tron’s electric motor is housed inside the gearbox bellhousing where a traditional automatic torque converter would sit. As well as saving on space within the car, this makes it possible for the electric motor to drive all wheels in electric-only mode for and estimated 34.8 miles of range, use power from its internal combustion engine, or combine the two power sources for maximum performance.
But where it gets interesting is the way in which the Audi Q7’s GPS-aware engine management system handles changes in terrain or road conditions. Using GPS elevation data and topographical information stored in its mapping software, the Q7 e-tron’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain will automatically enable a coasting mode when descending a hill to use as much of the car’s potential energy as possible.
When approaching a built-up area or stop light, the car’s on-board system will automatically disengage the power and engage regenerative braking too, recapturing as much of the car’s kinetic energy as possible to avoid the use of friction-based brakes until absolutely necessary. This, says Audi, should give it a truly impressive fuel economy on the combined cycle.
Those who want to find out more will have to wait until later this month for the Q7 e-tron’s official debut in Shanghai, but it’s worth noting that at the current time Audi doesn’t have any plans to offer an all-electric Q7.
What it does have though, claims CarAndDriver is a sporty, all-electric Q6 SUV which it says will follow the Q7 e-tron to market at some point in the next few years. Also designed on the MLB platform, the car has been confirmed by Audi’s Engineering Boss Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, who says that it won’t look like any of Audi’s existing vehicles but will be designed to cross-shop head-on against Tesla’s upcoming all-electric 2017 Model X Crossover SUV.
As for design? Hackenberg says the Q6 EV will be based on design language used in the various Prolouge Concept cars we’ve seen from Audi, and given a third Prolouge concept car is due to be unveiled at the same time as the Q7 e-tron in Shanghai, we think it’s conceivable that it will give us more clues as to what this future all-electric Q6 will look like.
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