Most notably, it is the first Audi with a plug-in hybrid diesel powertrain. It pairs a 190kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 TDI and a 94kW/50NM disc-shaped electric motor in the transmission for total system output of 275kW and 700Nm.
It could also be the second e-tron variant to hit Audi showrooms in Australia after the imminent A3 Sportback e-tron model (launching May, 2015). The regular internal combustion new-generation Q7 arrives around October, and Audi Australia spokesman Shaun Cleary says the company is strongly considering the e-tron version for some point in 2016.
Update: Audi has now confirmed that the Q7 e-tron will be added to its range in 2016. Exact timing and local pricing awaits confirmation.
Despite the new-generation Q7's gargantuan dimensions (it spans 5.05 metres from front to rear, stands 1.74m tall and is 1.97m wide) the Q7 e-tron can dash from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.0 seconds.
Audi claims it is the world’s first six-cylinder diesel PHEV with all-wheel-drive — a small niche though it is. It’s also the first diesel to get active engine mounts to improve refinement. Sending power to the wheels via the quattro AWD system is an eight-speed tiptronic auto.
It is claimed to use 1.7 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres (better than the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Holden Volt), and its lithium-ion battery pack stores enough energy to deliver a claimed pure electric driving range of 56km. The car’s total driving range to depletion (diesel engine and battery) is 1410km.
There is new electromechanical power steering, and the five-link suspension on the front and rear axles is more than 60kg lighter compared with the axles of the previous-generation Q7.
The standard thermal management system with integrated heat pump, developed for the Q7 e-tron quattro, makes it possible for the waste heat from the electrical drive components to be made available to the interior ventilation system.
The new two-phase charging technology installed allows charging with up to 7.2 kW of power. Depending on the infrastructure (appropriate high-performance industrial socket) and the charging cable, full charging of the battery takes about 2.5 hours.
The driver can also choose between four drive modes. The 'EV mode' prioritises electric driving, while in 'hybrid mode' hybrid management decides on the type of drive for the most part freely. In 'battery hold' mode, the system stores the available electrical energy, and charges the battery in 'battery charge' mode.
The Q7 e-tron generally starts in electric mode. To activate the diesel engine, the driver has to press down on the accelerator pedal beyond a certain point of resistance. A pressure point must also be overcome for boosting, in which case both the engine and motor work together.
When the hybrid mode is active and the eight-speed tiptronic with integrated electric motor is in shift position D, the Q7 e-tron quattro changes to coasting mode once the driver takes their foot off the accelerator. The TDI and electric motor are then deactivated.
Should the Audi Q7 e-tron quattro approach a slower vehicle ahead or traffic, the coasting mode ends in favour of controlled regenerative deceleration. To detect the traffic situation ahead, the data from the sat-nav and the forward-facing camera are used.
When driving in shift position S and in the battery charge mode, energy recovery begins as soon as the driver releases the accelerator. The driver can progressively influence the degree of recuperation by operating the paddleshifters on the steering wheel, via a form of engine braking.
Click the Photos tab above for more images of the 2015 Audi Q7 e-tron quattro.