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First Drive

First Drive: Audi Q7 PHEV

The story:
In a bid to shake off dieselgate and hit upcoming European CO2 regulations, Audi is going large on electrification. And Audis don’t get much larger than the Q7 full-size SUV, which gains a new plug-in petrol-electric hybrid model from the start of 2020.
Category:Large SUV
Key rival:Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV
MPG:100 mpg
On sale:Early 2020

As a rule-of-thumb, the larger the car, the larger the CO2 emissions figure. That also means there’s significant savings to be had with a plug-in-hybrid version and that’s definitely the case with the Q7.

Since Audi dropped the previous plug-in Q7 from its range last year, the best CO2 figure for the current Q7 range is off the chart in terms of Benefit-in-Kind taxation and attracts the maximum 37%.

However, the new Q7 PHEV, now badged Q7 60 TFSIe quattro, should fall into the lowest non-battery EV BiK tax band of 16% when it goes on sale at the start of 2020 with CO2 below 50g/km, although Audi has yet to release an official figure.

First Drive- 25th October 2019- Audi Q7 PHEV-Image 1To achieve this, Audi has paired its 340hp 3.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to give a combined total of 455hp. Power from the motor and engine feed both the front and the rear wheels giving proper, full-time all-wheel drive. In ‘normal conditions’ this is distributed 40% to the front and 60% to the rear, although this can be adjusted up to around 80% front or rear should the Q7 detect a slippery surface .

To give a range of more than 25 miles in electric-only mode, the Q7 has a 17.3kWh battery that will charge from a typical 7.5kWh home charge in around 2.5 hours.

As with the majority of premium PHEVs, the driving experience is dominated by the refinement and the sheer performance. The silent running in electric only mode just adds to the luxury experience of the high-quality cabin, and as for the pace, it’s close to that of the hot SQ7 model.

The electrified Q7 isn’t perfect though. While Audi hasn’t published official weight figures, it feels like the heaviest in the range, most noticeably when cornering and under braking. The brakes are easily up to the job, you just have to give them a proper shove to slow from higher speeds.

First Drive- 25th October 2019- Audi Q7 PHEV-Image 4And on a practical note, the addition of batteries means there’s no option to have seven seats; the Q7 PHEV is only a five-seater.

While on the move, the transition between pure electric and hybrid drive is almost imperceptible. It’s only under full acceleration and higher revs of the petrol engine you can hear it’s working.

As with Audi’s other PHEVs, the Q7 doesn’t allow manual control of the brake-energy regeneration. Instead Audi’s systems control everything automatically. This includes a function that, when the sat-nav is in operation, will read the road ahead and adjust the regen function; for instance, when approaching a roundabout.

It’s all these factors that mean Audi will easily meet its expectations of selling up to 30% of the Q7 mix as plug-in hybrids, of which 50% will be company cars.

Tristan young

The verdict

The most fleet-friendly Q7. It’s also the most appealing to use thanks to great efficiency, impressive performance and total refinement. But only five seats.