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First drive: Audi Q7 55 TFSI e. Image by Audi UK.

First drive: Audi Q7 55 TFSI e
Audi renames its plug-in hybrid Q7 SUV the ‘TFSI e’ and switches it to part-petrol propulsion.

 



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Audi Q7 55 TFSI e

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Our first proper sampling of the revised Audi Q7 line-up sees us having a go in the 55 TFSI e, the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) of the line-up. Can this eco-warrior, formerly known as the diesel-powered Q7 e-tron, truly convince now it has a V6 petrol engine to go with its electric running gear instead?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line
Pricing: Q7 range from £57,695; 55 TFSI e S line from £67,850 (or £763.01pcm on PCP, with a 9.7 per cent deposit plus limited-time Audi deposit contribution of £5,500 and optional final payment of £31,749.50 across 48 months at 6.1% APR), car as tested £68,600
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol plus 100kW electric motor and 17.9kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: quattro all-wheel drive with self-locking centre differential, eight-speed Tiptronic automatic
Body style: five-door, five-seat plug-in hybrid SUV
CO2 emissions: 60g/km (VED Band 51-75 Alternative Fuel Cars: £15 first 12 months, then £465 years two-six of ownership, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 104.6mpg, 21.7-22.6kWh/62.5 miles, 29.2 miles EV range
Top speed: 149mph (limited, Hybrid mode; 84mph limited, Electric mode)
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Power: petrol 340hp at 5,300-6,400rpm, electric 136hp, system maximum output 381hp
Torque: petrol 450Nm at 1,340-5,300rpm, electric 400Nm, system maximum output 600Nm
Boot space: 650-1,835 litres

What's this?

A second-generation Audi Q7, facelifted and refreshed ready for the 2021 model year. It's quite a significant update, actually, with the light clusters, trim strip on the bootlid, six-slat Singleframe grille and resculpted side sills all giving the big SUV a considerably different look to its pre-revision predecessor; we still wouldn't say it was handsome, per se, but the Q7 Mk2.5 certainly looks fresh enough to suitably impress your neighbours, should you choose to park one on your driveway. You'll notice the 2021MY updates easily within, where the three-screen MMI Touch digital interface more neatly integrates the main infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard, rather than having it pop out of the top of the fascia as on the pre-facelift models. Yet one thing this particular Q7 doesn't have is seven seats, because this is the PHEV and some of its part-electric ancillaries have to reside under the boot floor. Only five people may travel in this petrol-electric Audi SUV at any one time, although a 650-litre boot minimum somewhat makes up for this compromise.

If you're thinking you've seen a Mk2 Q7 PHEV before, you'd be correct; it's just that it was previously known as the 'e-tron', whereas now it's called the 'TFSI e'. This five-letter badging will be used for all Audi's plug-in hybrids going forward, to better differentiate the models with some form of internal combustion power onboard from the pure electric vehicles (EVs) that will appropriate the e-tron name. We've already got a zero-emissions Audi SUV with that latter branding, of course, and there's a Porsche Taycan-based sports saloon on the way from Ingolstadt that will be called the e-tron GT. So no more e-tron epithets for the PHEVs from now on.

As the 'TFSI' part of its name suggests, the big news here is that this Q7 is now a petrol-electric plug-in, rather than the diesel-electric it was before. And, on paper, it might not look like this switch was the best idea in the world. The old Q7 e-tron had system outputs of 373hp and 700Nm from a 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine augmented by a 94kW (128hp)/350Nm electric motor and 17.3kWh lithium-ion battery. It was said to be capable of 166.2mpg, 46g/km of CO2, 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds, 140mph flat out in Hybrid mode and 75mph in EV mode, and its quoted all-electric range was 35 miles. The new Q7 55 TFSI e, meanwhile, employs a forced-induction 3.0-litre V6 petrol with a 100kW (136hp)/400Nm electric motor and 17.9kWh lithium-ion battery, for total figures of 381hp (+8hp on the Q7 e-tron) and 600Nm (ahem, -100Nm on the e-tron). Even on its smaller 19-inch wheels, it will emit an increased figure of 58g/km of CO2 (60g/km for this S line on 20s) and its best quoted economy is 104.6mpg. Oh. So not as good as the e-tron, then. Perhaps the performance will be a lot better? Well... no, not really. The top speed increases marginally to 149mph in Hybrid and 84mph in electric, while the 0-62mph time is shaved by a tenth to 5.9 seconds, but at 2,450kg this is still a heavy old brute and so it's not like the 55 TFSI e is some sort of pseudo-high-performance SUV in disguise.

However. Allow us to offer some mitigation for the Audi. First of all, straight-up comparing the Q7 e-tron's published eco-stats to those of the 55 TFSI e is an exercise in futility, because the former was measured on the discredited NEDC test while the latter's data was all posted under stricter WLTP. Therefore, in reality the TFSI e and its superior battery energy management will likely have the better EV range, CO2 emissions and fuel economy of the pair, if used correctly. Secondly, the V6-petrol-plus-100kW-motor is the same drivetrain used in the excellent Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid and will soon be seen in the R version of the latest Volkswagen Touareg, albeit in both those two it runs a more potent 462hp/700Nm state of tune. Nevertheless, this is a cultured PHEV propulsion system and it should aid the Audi's overall refinement. And finally, the issue of seven seats: good as it is, the comparable BMW X5 xDrive45e cannot be specified with anything more than five chairs, while the plug-in hybrid '350 de' version of the current Mercedes GLE is also limited to a quintet of human occupants. Oh, and it's a four-cylinder diesel-electric, too. About the only premium seven-seat PHEV SUV in this specific market is the Volvo XC90, although this doesn't use a V6 petrol engine like the Audi but a 2.0-litre super- and turbocharged four instead.

So, if the Audi Q7 55 TFSI e can drive well, it shouldn't find itself at a significant disadvantage against its key sector competitors. Furthermore, it seems to be good value, as - for all its mechanical complexity - it starts from a price that's only ten grand more than the base 45 TDI in Sport spec. Audi will sell it in four trim grades, running Sport, S line, Black Edition and then Vorsprung. Prices start at £65,250 for a Sport, £68,400 for an S line, £71,600 for a Black Edition and finally a robust £87,900 for a stocked-to-the-gunwales Vorsprung, but our test S line had only £750 metallic paint added to it as an option, and yet it felt suitably grand and well-equipped inside nonetheless. So you don't need to drop in excess of 70 grand on one of these things, truth be told.

How does it drive?

It might have lost some torque, but the Q7 55 TFSI e has gained a shedload of refinement by switching the old TDI lump for a V6 petrol and the net outcome is that this is a thoroughly likeable PHEV SUV. It does all the things you need a distinguished family motor to do very well indeed, and isn't too bad at a few other dynamic disciplines either. Granted, that 2.5-tonne kerb weight doesn't make for the most involving handling experience and concomitantly the Q7 TFSI e doesn't feel particularly quick, either, despite a sub-six-second 0-62mph claim. So you're not going to get some quasi-SQ7 driving experience from the PHEV. Try and drive it hard and, while the V6 is willing enough at punting the heavy TFSI e down the road, the Q7 doesn't give off the air of being particularly comfortable behaving in such a fashion.

You're therefore better off revelling in the Q7 plug-in's undoubted refinement. The TFSI 3.0-litre is noticeably smoother than the TDI it replaces, so when you are actually using the Audi's engine there's still less in the way of noise and vibration coming from the combustion unit than there was in the old e-tron. The powerplant is also mated to a Tiptronic torque-converter auto, rather than one of the group's S tronic twin-clutch transmissions, so it operates slickly - responding sharply to big changes of throttle, blending gearchanges imperceptibly when the engine's being worked in a less frenetic fashion, and even reacting nicely to clicks of the wheel-mounted paddles. Which are the usual stunted, plasticky items from Audi, which means that as the Tiptronic works so well when left to its own devices then there's precious little point to using the paddles.

What makes the Q7 55 TFSI e so thoroughly pleasant to travel in beyond the sophistication of the petrol-electric drivetrain is the fact adaptive air suspension is standard on the S line. As you go up the four trim levels of the Q7 PHEV, the wheel sizes increase by an inch from the Sport's 19s to a whopping set of 22s on the Vorsprung, but the S line's 20-inch items might be the sweet spot of the range. They make the Audi SUV look nice enough from the outside, but they don't upset the composure of the ride when the Q7 TFSI e is on the move. There's little of the background patter at lower speeds that can sometimes affect air-sprung, heavy vehicles like this, and yet at higher pace there's a lovely, languid lollop to the way the Q7 deals with compressions and crests in the tarmac that speaks of quality damping. It's never abrupt in its vertical movements and the SUV never crashes through any surface imperfection in encouters, no matter how large they might be, while the body control is good in terms of reducing lean in corners. This is not a machine to induce motion sickness in passengers with a queasy constitution, because it keeps the shell on an even keel through bends and while traversing roundabouts. And, as usual for something that can travel along with zero tailpipe emissions for a given distance, it's incredibly dignified and hushed when running in pure EV mode. All in all, this TFSI e is one highly accomplished vehicle.

Verdict

Switching to petrol power has markedly improved the plug-in hybrid version of the Mk2 Audi Q7, even if it doesn't quite have the midrange thump of its turbodiesel predecessor. Like any PHEV, the key to getting the best from the 55 TFSI e will be regular charging and employing its electric reserves as often as possible, but the 3.0-litre V6 engine is good enough to cope with the increased mass of the hybrid Q7 once the lithium-ion battery's capacity has been depleted - which means it should be just as proficient doing long-distance motorway runs as it is swallowing up semi-urban commuting with ease. There are some very strong contenders in this premium plug-in hybrid SUV segment, but it's clear that the Q7 55 TFSI e is well among the front-runners of the sector.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 18 Dec 2020









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2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.

2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI e S line UK. Image by Audi UK.








 

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