With plug-in hybrid tech, Audi's Q7 luxury SUV might just be a touch more justifiable for some. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the 60 TFSIe variant.
By 2025, Audi aims to be offering no fewer than 30 electrified cars of various types in our market. When you look back at some of the company's earlier attempts at electric engine technology, you'll find that the marque's Q7 large luxury 7-seat SUV was one of the first of the Ingolstadt brand's models to benefit from it. The first generation design, though mainly sold with conventional engines, was also available in Q7 e-tron form with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel plug-in hybrid powertrain. A few examples of the Q7 model with a 2.0-litre petrol PHEV engine borrowed from the A6 also made it here.
Forget all that now because the current much improved version of the second generation Q7 these days has a much more sophisticated stab at the plug-in hybrid market in the form of the 60 TFSIe model we look at here. The badgework might sound clunky but there's little about this luxury PHEV model's technology that is.
Plenty of really exotic Volkswagen group large luxury models use this Q7 60 TFSIe model's 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol V6 PHEV engine, including the Porsche Cayenne, the Porsche Panamera and the Bentley Bentayga. Here, a 335bhp engine is mated to a 94kW electric motor powered by a 17.3kWh lithium-ion battery and there's a combined system output of 455PS and 700Nm of torque. The WLTP-rated all-electric driving range is around 26 miles. Actually, two plug-in TFSIe Q7 variants are offered, your starting point being a 55 TFSIe model with a combined system output of 380PS.
If you're unfamiliar with the TFSIe plug-in hybrid system, there are a few things to get used to. Like many hybrids, this one starts in almost silent electric mode and when it's operating in EV form around town, has a legally obligatory noise emitter to warn passers-by of your approach. On the highway, tyre roar is the most notable thing you will hear, otherwise refinement is exemplary. There's a seamless transition between the petrol engine and the electric motor - just a rapid surge towards the horizon, with 62mph achievable in 5.8s on the way to an artificially limited top speed of 155mph. Audi's drive mode select system has been slightly modified so that the 'efficiency' setting uses minimal fuel, while the 'comfort' mode balances power delivery 50:50 and 'dynamic' leaves the engine on, while instructing electric motor to help out.
Design and Build
There are no significant visual changes to distinguish this TFSIe plug-in model from more conventional Q7 variants. Visually, it does of course feature the revised look adopted by the facelifted version of the MK2 Q7 range in 2019, so there's the large octagon Singleframe grille of its Q8 showroom stablemate, this feature incorporating six upright slates and giving the car an aggressive look. Matrix LED headlights are standard and at the rear, a chrome strip connects the LED tail lamps. Big wheels vary in size between 19 and 21-inches.
Inside, the Q7 features the hi-tech piano black twin-screen haptic feedback control panel we're now used to from the brand's other larger models. And the fully-digitalised 'Audi Cockpit' screen you view through the wheel is standard. There are a few switchgear changes for this plug-in variant, like an electric mode button for the lower of the two haptic touch displays, the switch either forcing the car to use electric power only or making it hold the current state of charge for later in your trip. There's comfortable space for three in the rear, but unlike with other Q7 models, this plug-in hybrid version can't be ordered with the third row seating because of the placement of the PHEV batteries under the boot floor. There's 650-litres of boot space (120-litres less than a conventional Q7 in 5-seat configuration); and 1835-litres if you fold the rear bench. An electric tailgate is standard.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £65,000 for the Q7 55 TFSIe variant, which is offered in 'Sport', 'S line', 'Black Edition' and 'Vorsprung' guises. This 60 TFSIe model will require a budget starting closer to the £70,000 mark and is offered in 'Competition' and 'Vorsprung Competition' forms. Top 'Vorsprung' variants include just about everything you could possibly want. With 22-inch wheels, S line detailing and a black styling pack, they show the remodelled Q7 body in its most impactful light and their powered soft-close doors set the tone for the exceptional comfort and luxury within.
Occupants are treated to ultra-supportive front super sport seats with diamond-stitched Valcona leather upholstery, climate control and a massage function, plus an extended leather pack taking in the door pull handles, armrests and lower door trim, the front centre console trim and the underside of the instrument panel. Seat heating is also expanded to the second row, and attention is even lavished on the roof, which gains a soft-touch Alcantara headlining. The brand's 3D BOSE surround sound system is also installed to fill the interior with virtually cinematic sound quality.
Cost of Ownership
The official WLTP combined cycle fuel economy figure for the Q7 60 TFSIe is around 80 miles per gallon. For the Q7 55 TFSIe model, it's officially rated at between 85.6-88.3mpg. The official CO2 emissions WLTP figure for the 60 TFSIe is around 80g/km - for the 55 TFSIe, it's rated at between 75-72 g/km. To maximise the efficiency on offer here, it is of course, it's a question of keeping the car charged up (which should take around two and a half hours from a 7kW garage wallbox) and making the absolute most of the potential all-electric driving range, rated at about 26 miles. If you don't do that, you'll essentially end up with a heavier version of the conventional 55 TFSI petrol variant - and take it from us, one of those isn't going to be cheap to run.
There's a bit of tech to help you here. Audi's 'predictive efficiency assist' system uses sensors to monitor the road ahead, the topography of the terrain you're driving over and other vehicles, sending haptic feedback to the accelerator pedal that suggests when you should ease off the throttle for optimum energy management. For instance, it works as you're heading into an urban area, encouraging you to coast down to the speed limit.
In their more honest moments, car makers will admit that the current crop of PHEV models are a stop-gap solution until full EV technology is sufficiently mature to interest the volume market. And even this stop-gap solution has a way to go yet. It won't be long before buyers are wanting a lot more than 25 miles of all-electric driving range from a model of this kind, particularly at this price.
Yet this Q7 60 TFSIe is a big step forward from its Q7 PHEV predecessors, so rapid development of plug-in tech is clearly a priority in Ingolstadt. And this car is certainly a sublime place to spend your time, even if in this form, only five of you can live in it - it's disappointing that this variant lacks the third seating of other Q7s. In a Q7 60 TFSIe, you can pretend to be eco-conscious, enjoy big tax benefits and not change much about what might currently be a very pampered, cosseting automotive life. If that sounds appealing for you, then this Audi probably will be too.