Hush, hush drive

from Audi Q7 e-tron

Audi Q7 e-tron Front Action
Audi Q7 e-tron Front
Audi Q7 e-tron Rear
Audi Q7 e-tron Rear
Audi Q7 e-tron Interior
Audi Q7 e-tron Interior

IT seems wrong - sitting behind the wheel of a near two-and-a-half tonne SUV as it silently makes its way along the road under nothing but electric power.

Somehow it seems that a car the size of the new Audi Q7 e-tron should make a bit more noise - after all, it's practically big enough to have its own gravitational field.

But if you want to continue to be able to drive cars like this, you should make a noise for the Audi yourself - a round of applause.

Because this hybrid SUV proves that even though car makers are increasingly obliged to make greener power plants available, there's no reason why the vehicles so equipped can't be big, or fast, or fun or all three.

In a way, this is a vision of the future in which nothing much changes for the car owner once all the oil dries up except the engine noise.

We're not all the way there yet, however - as noted, the Q7 e-tron is a hybrid and besides its 94kW electric motor (roughly comparable to 128ps) it has Audi's excellent 3.0 V6 TDI engine under the bonnet as well. That adds up to a combined 373ps of system power and 700Nm of torque, which lets it hit 62mph in 6.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 143mph.

On electric power alone, the car will cover 34 miles before it needs charging (which takes 2.5 hours on a fast charge, pretty good by contemporary standards). For some, that could mean a couple of days commuting or driving around town without needing to plug in. For others, it will seem a bit short.

If you need the diesel engine to add a helping hand, a firm press on the accelerator - a bit like kickdown on an automatic - brings the V6 into play.

The car's hybrid management system is a clever thing - its three modes allow it to either prioritise electric power, decide on the best hybrid power combination for the conditions, or regenerate and store electrical energy to use at a later stage in a journey, for example when driving into town from the country.

That's not all - the car can use its sat nav to let the driver know when there are opportunities ahead to save fuel by reducing speed.

It'll even recycle waste heat from the electrical drive components to keep the cabin warm.

This means that, driven carefully, the car can achieve a claimed economy figure of 156mpg.

Aside from its power train, the car offers all the features and comforts of the regular Q7, such as Virtual Cockpit, MMI navigation, and Audi's excellent interior fit and finish.

The latest generation of the Q7 is packed with clever quattro technology and you soon forget how big the car is as you hustle it along country roads.

And, or course, it'll cope with most off-road situations the average driver is likely to encounter.

There's a cost for all this, though, and the Q7 e-tron will set you back just under £65,000, making it more expensive than comparable competitors from BMW, Volvo and Porsche (just), and a tad cheaper than the equivalent Mercedes.

By contrast, the standard Q7 3.0 TDI in SE trim is just over £48,000.

New technologies will always be more expensive, but for now the Q7 e-tron is a glimpse of a future in which the end of internal combustion definitely does not spell the end of the big car.

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