Coachbuilders and tuning specialists combine for road-and-racetrack-ready special
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Another hybrid SUV? Horse, bolt, door, close, after? (re-arrange to suit) Well, yes. But this one’s interesting, especially after a little time spent behind the wheel in the real world. But first some facts. The Q7 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid Q7, equipped with a 17.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 3.0-litre TDi V6, plus eight-speed auto ‘box. That produces a system power of 373bhp and 516lb ft, and enough to shove it to 62mph in 6.2 seconds and on to 139mph. So far, so good. NEDC range - the unachievable lab-specific figure - is quoted at nearly 157mpg and 46g/km of CO2. And that’s despite the extra 400kg (this Q7 weighs in at a porky 2,445kg all told) added in from the batteries. But it does produce an EV-only propulsion range of a quoted 34 miles. Which doesn’t sound much. That’s not a brilliant start. And it gets slightly worse; because of where the batteries are situated underneath the boot floor, there’s no seven-seat option for the e-tronified Q7. Or even a spare tyre. So it’s a big, five-seater-only SUV that weighs quite a bit. Doesn’t sound very ecological, really. So what’s the point?
Well, here’s the rub; the Q7 actually does manage most of the EV range it says it does. From a full charge, it actually ran to nearly 30 miles EV-only. Now, for most of my week, I tend to do shorter trips, with a couple of longer runs on motorways and A-roads. Which meant that for most of my journeys, I actually only ran around on EV, with the V6 kicking in where it was most efficient running at low-rpm at speed. There’s an on-the-run charging mode, which meant that at the other end of said motorway, I already had charge in the ‘tank’ - meaning that the town-based running was almost exclusively EV-only. Which is good for town-centre pollution, and means the car actually ran very efficiently. I managed well over 85mpg during a typical week, and that’s not driving ‘carefully’ and in cold conditions with heaters and lights all used as normal. That’s pretty impressive. It’s also got ‘Predictive Efficiency Assistant’, which sounds genuinely the most boring thing I’ve ever heard of, but helps reduce fuel consumption by as much as ten per cent by using navigation route data to alert the driver to oncoming situations in which it might be reasonable to slow up a bit. Like roadworks, or town speed limits. It also works with the adaptive cruise and traffic sign recognition systems to calm things down, and can even take over predictive control of the free-wheeling function of the eight-speed tiptronic ‘box. So you’re always in the most efficient gear. Or not, as the case may be. And yes, it all contributes. I realise that not everyone has the same usage pattern, but with judicious use of charging - I have an EV PodPoint installed at home - you really can make the most of the low-cost night-time charging. Unless you live in a flat. Or in a terraced house. Or park on the street. Sorry. How does it drive? Pretty much as you expect. It’s fast enough, but feels the weight. So even though acceleration is strong and the diesel nice and quiet when it does kick in, it’s not exactly the perkiest of SUVs to fling about. But that’s not really the point. There’s a nice interior, some lovely touches with Audi’s ‘Virtual Cockpit’ and genuinely spectacular LED headlights. And it’s comfy and handsome. I started off wanting to hate it, but if you have to have an SUV and don’t spend the entire time hammering down the motorway, I can see why it would appeal. Mind you, £65k is a lot of money… Haven’t there been rumblings of problems with UK e-trons though? Yep. So a quick call to Audi UK came up with the official response. Which amounted to saying that due to capacity constraints for components specific to the RHD Q7 e-tron 3.0 TDI, Audi was initially unable to fulfil existing customer orders as originally planned or to accept new customer orders after the vehicle’s UK market launch. Ordering went back online at the start of the year, and deliveries were happening back in June (2017). The good news is that customers should have received a ten per cent discount if they were affected, even if they swapped their order to another Audi model. Verdict? If you’ve got to have a £65k-plus SUV, and you’re not bothered about trying to make it fly down a B-road, you really need to look and see if an electrified version stacks up with your usage. They’re definitely getting more attractive.