The Audi Q7 E-Tron is an incredible feat of hybrid automotive engineering – and it’s finally convinced me that there’s no need to buy an all-diesel car ever again.
*** Note : £1 = $1.33 (correct at time of post)
The death knell of petrol and diesel cars is ringing. It’s been that way for a while, but the fate of all-fuel drivetrains was sealed earlier this year when the UK government vowed to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040. The clock is ticking, so why not get a headstart?
After all, there are plenty of solid hybrid options out there right now, including the formidable Audi Q7 E-Tron. I’ve driven a whole host of impressive hybrids, and the Audi Q7 is certainly amongst the best.
But what’s really great about this car is that it looks and feels like a vehicle with an all-fuel drivetrain, but it’s way more efficient to run – and is better for the environment to boot. Here are four reasons why the Audi Q7 is one of the most compelling hybrids – and cars, for that matter – that I’ve ever driven.
Model tested: Audi Q7 E-Tron 3.0 TDI Quattro Tiptronic 258PS
Audi Q7 E-Tron Design: As far from a Prius as it gets
The Audi Q7 is the biggest model in the German automaker’s SUV line-up. It boasts an impressive 2994mm wheelbase, which is longer than the Audi Q5’s 2819mm wheelbase. And with a total length of 5051mm, it’s marginally more stretched than the driveway-hogging Range Rover TDV6 Autobiography (4999mm).
Its sporty, estate-style body means that it’s not overly tall however, so it comes in at a height of just 1741mm – a little dinkier than the 1754mm BMW X5. From the outside, this long and low-slung body gives it a racy look. That’s a welcome change from rivals like the X5, which carries its bulk much more obviously.
Audi’s full-size SUV isn’t particularly revolutionary in terms of design; it looks like any other Audi. There’s the large and familiar Q-series grille, the sides that taper inwards as they rise (unlike a boxy Range Rover, for instance), and a roof that slopes gently downwards towards the rear of the car. Some might call it a little prosaic, but the advantage of this traditional design is that the Q7 is instantly recognisable as an Audi – which is particularly important when you’re trying to flog a hybrid.
Basically, this hybrid SUV doesn’t look any different from a regular diesel, and that’s a good thing in my view.
Audi Q7 E-Tron Tech: Practical German interior, with some welcome trimmings
The inside of the Q7 is also very Audi: functional and practical, with lots of clearly-labelled buttons that all do what you’d expect.
Anyway, you sit down, and you’re confused. There’s no screen? And where the heck are the speakers? All you can see are smooth, flat surfaces – until you hit the ignition. Suddenly, the car springs to life.
A large 8.3-inch colour display slides upwards out of the dash, which itself is flanked by two Bang & Olufsen speakers – they sit in the corners of the dash, and look a bit like reclaimed sprinklers – that also rise up out of their respective cubbies. Various light strips also illuminate around the car, including down by the bottom of the door, and near the gear-stick.
Other than those oddities, everything else is as normal. The temperature controls are physical dials that provide a pleasant, tactile click as you twist them. The automatic gear stick is a huge, hulking slab that you nudge back and forth between various drive modes; traditionalists may prefer this to the dial-drive system seen in Range Rovers, but it’s fun at best and inoffensive at worst.
There’s a bunch of smart driving tech, with all the expected trimmings. For instance, you get adaptive cruise control so you can glide along a motorway at a set speed without having to worry about braking for (and catching up to) cars in front. You also get 360-degree proximity sensors, so you’ll be alerted if you’re about to hit a wall (or person) when reversing into a parking space.
The sound system is what I found most impressive, mind. Built in partnership with high-end Danish soundsters Bang & Olufsen, this £6,300 option is well worth the money for anyone who appreciates thick bass, pin-sharp treble, and a lofty maximum volume that makes you question whether such loudness is even legal.
There’s very little to complain about with the Q7’s interior. The only potential niggle with the E-Tron model in particular is that you can only get it in a five-seater variant. That’s because the electric batteries are hunkered down in the back, so you’ll have to forgo seven seats for improved efficiency.
That could be a deal-breaker for some, but assuming you don’t need to fill seven seats, you’ll benefit from a very spacious boot and all the perks that come with a part-diesel, part-electric drivetrain.
Audi Q7 E-Tron Performance: A proper Audi, albeit a little greener
So how does it drive? Surprisingly well, given that it has a frankly ludicrous unladen weight of 2445kg.
The model I tried had a large 3.0-litre (2967cc) V6 hybrid diesel engine with an exhaust turbocharger. This proffers an impressive max power of 258PS at 3250-4500rpm, and a respectable 600Nm of torque at 1250-3000rpm. There’s an 8-speed automatic transmission with tiptronic function (basically, you can drive it like a manual if you want).
It moves really well, too. In hybrid mode, you’ll get a roaring top speed of 143mph (not bad considering the size) and a very nippy 0-60mph of 6.2 seconds. The top speed drops to just 83mph in all-electric mode, but the quick acceleration is largely retained, dropping to a marginally slower 6.5 seconds for 0-62mph.
On paper, it sounds great. The good news is that these impressive metrics translate well to real-life usage too. I found the Audi Q7 E-Tron to be a remarkably pleasant drive, with impressive handling and cornering, and wicked-fast acceleration that – despite the vehicle’s heft – presses you back against your seat. If you were worried about hybrids being a little fuddy, you can rest easy: this is as fun an SUV as they come.
I also drove this car Staffordshire, Derbyshire and the Peak District on December 9th and 10th, which some of you may recall was the weekend when much of the country – and the midlands, especially – was afflicted by what can only be described as a snowpocalypse. The Audi Q7 performed well under pressure, and managed to clear seriously slippery hills with relative ease – partly thanks to the Quattro permanent all-wheel drive system.
The drive was stable and smooth, with minimal sidewards motion even on the most treacherous northern roads. The heated seating was very welcome, too.
Audi Q7 E-Tron Price, Value and Efficiency: Incredible value for money
The aforementioned automotive thrills are great, but they’re not why people are buying hybrids. If you’re looking at this car, it’s probably because you either want to save on fuel costs without compromising on the luxuries of an SUV, or you fear impending tax hikes and want to dodge the long arm of the treasury.
Whatever your reason for buying a hybrid, rest assured that the Audi Q7 probably ticks most of your boxes.
This car is a proper hybrid, which means that – as well as a standard hybrid option – it has a dedicated EV mode that allows the car to run entirely on electric energy. Granted it can only manage 34 miles in this mode, but that’s plenty for people who doing relatively short commutes with charging options at one (or both) ends. It’s also fairly green, churning out just 48g/km in CO2 emissions.
For longer journeys, Audi promises a combined fuel consumption of 157mpg. That’s a frankly ludicrous figure, and it’s not what you’ll actually get when it comes to day-to-day usage. Due to the additional weight of batteries and a whole host of other reasons, you’re probably going to get somewhere in the region of 70mpg and 100mpg.
That’s significantly lower than the quoted figure, but it’s still very impressive for an SUV. For comparison, a fairly economical Renault Clio will manage 48-88mpg combined fuel consumption, depending on the model – and that’s a lightweight hatchback. For a more like-for-like comparison, a BMW X5 gets around 25-53mpg, depending on the spec. So the Audi Q7 E-Tron is certainly an economical option, if you’re keen to keep driving an SUV while pinching your pennies.
It’s also not ridiculously expensive, all things considered. The base model will set you back £65,815, but the version I drove came to £84,560, with the following extras included:
- Ink blue, metallic exterior colour – £675
- Front Sport seats with Valcona leather and Rock Grey upholstery – £2,850
- 20-inch ‘5-arm aero’ design, partly polished alloy wheels – £1,200
- Matrix LED headlights with LED rear lights and dynamic rear indicators – £950
- Extended LED Interior Lighting Pack – £280
- Tour Pack – £2,800
- Technology Pack – £1,695
- Trailer Pack – £1,300
- Bang & Olufsen 3D Advanced Sound System – £6,300
So how does it compare to rivals? A standard BMW X5 will cost you £47,160 (or £58,925 for the hybrid variant), while the quirkier BMW X6 is £57,780 – both cheaper than the Audi Q7 E-Tron.
It’s also slightly cheaper to get the standard Range Rover Sport at £60,760, although a full-size Range Rover TDV6 will set you back a heftier £78,740. It’s also a little more expensive than the Mercedes GLE-Class Coupé, which costs £61,905.
So yes, it’s certainly at the high-end of SUVs in terms of starting price. But I’d also argue that it’s probably the most attractive SUV you can buy, if you count out the new Range Rover Velar and Jaguar F-Pace.
It’s also worth mentioning that the savings associated with hybrid driving should also be factored into the cost of purchase; it may be worth shelling out for this model over a standard X6, for instance, given the vastly improved fuel economy.
If you’re looking for a hybrid that won’t provoke sniggers from your petrolhead mates, the Audi Q7 E-Tron Quattro is a great place to start.