Home TravelWheels, Wings & Water A Superior Drive: AUDI Q7 55 TFSI e quattro

A Superior Drive: AUDI Q7 55 TFSI e quattro

tiptronic ‘Black Edition’ (381PS)

by Adam Attew

Audi first unveiled the Q7 back in 2005 as its first entry into the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) market. SUV is a broad term with different meanings from country to country, but we like to think of it as a superior, luxury road-going passenger car with certain features borrowed from 4×4 cars like high ground clearance, all or 4 wheel drive but with more road worthy attributes such as better handling, speed and performance.

The Q in the name stands for over 40 years of evolution of quattro, Audi’s famous permanent all-wheel drive system used in such cars as the Audi TT, so the Q7 is a member of a rather auspicious family. Now in its 4th generation, the Q7 55 TFSI e quattro has finally arrived.

Can you believe it, but Audi developed their Plug-in charging and energy-regenerative braking back in 1989 with the Audi 100 Avant quattro Duo.  The TFSI in the name refers to the turbocharged petrol engine, while the ‘e’ denotes the electric motor that supports the petrol engine.

The Q7 has ‘Predictive Efficiency Assist’ and ‘Predictive Operating Strategy’ to ensure optimum use of the battery’s charge and the correct driving mode for each scenario. If you are wondering what the 55 in the name means? Well “55” signifies that the car has an output of 328 to 368 horsepower.

The Q7 55 TFSI e is officially classed as a 5-seat luxury SUV, with a plug-in hybrid drive, which can be plugged into a charger or charged on the go. The engine consists of a 3.0 litre V6 petrol engine with an electric motor offering an output of 381PS (PferdStarke is the metric measure of horsepower, basically the equivalent of about 98.6% Horsepower) and 600 Nm (Newton Meters) (442.5 lb-ft) of system torque for the tech-minded of you and in laymen’s terms the Q7 moves like poop off a shovel. Once fully charged the electric range is 27.3 – 29.8 miles (44 – 48km).

The Q7 (Black Edition) offers a combined fuel consumption of 108.6 mpg and a low 58 g/km of CO2. As for top speeds, it can hit 149.1 mph (240 kph) with an acceleration of 0-62.1 mph (0-100 kph) in 5.8 seconds; and the top speed in Electric mode is 135 mph (83.9kph).

A superior driving experience

So, what was it like to drive? We thought the only true way to put the Audi Q7 to the test was to fill the car with 4 adults, and a mountain of luggage and travel across the English channel via our favourite method, the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle to the Austrian Alp. Faster than a ferry at only 35 minutes, cheaper than flying with no transfers or queues, and you can take all the friends and luggage you desire, then there is the ecology.

If your car is full of passengers, your carbon emissions will be reduced by up to 67% compared to flying. Eurotunnel Le Shuttle produces on average 2kg of CO2 per car per crossing, compared to 147kg of CO2 for a typical Dover to Calais ferry so perfect for our carbon-reduced trip to the Alps with Audi. Once on the continent, we drove down to Austria, picked up some ‘Q7’ Skis from the Atomic factory (keeping it on the brand) and then a road trip our way through the Austrian mountains for 18 days.

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Once we started our journey from the UK, it became clear that the Audi Q7 55 TFSIe quattro is something of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You park yourself in the driving seat and everything seems calm and comfortable, a luxurious interior surrounds you, nothing too over the top with every instrument in the right place.

One presses the ‘On/Start’ button and you would be forgiven if you thought that it had not started anything, not even the radio and you are initially left wondering if the start button is for something else entirely different, perhaps unbeknown to me my dishwasher has fired up back home.

However, it seems the button is more of a gentle nudge to wake the car from its slumber; and if you keep quiet and listen very carefully you can hear the car exuding a very gentle and almost silent purr! Once in drive mode, with your foot tentatively pressed against the accelerator pedal the car magically seems to move, without any sign that anything is happening under the bonnet.

Is this the hybrid electric part of the car driving the car silently, a very quiet petrol engine ticking away under the bonnet or is there an invisible herd of unicorns pulling the Q7 along? Whatever is powering the Q7 TFSIe the car seems to eerily float forward effortlessly.

This makes for a very comfortable and quiet ride through built-up areas and along the winding Alpine roads. This Dr Jekyll seems to be a rather quiet yet debonair sort, full of confidence as it winds its way through Alpine villages, however, there seems to be a darker side to the Audi Q7 55 TFSIe.

IMG 9447 Moment

During our journey down to the Austrian Alps from the UK, of course, we had to make sure that our route went via Germany. Germany still holds one of the last few bastions of ultimate freedom, the Autobahn. Could the Audi sense that it had returned to the land from which it originated?

For when the car hit the Autobahns Mr. Hyde could be unleashed. With the simple action of ‘Pedal to the Metal’ the Q7 needed no more encouragement, from under the bonnet came the growl of an alternate personality, that of the illusive Mr Hyde.

Without further ado, our collective weight of over 2.8 tonnes rocketed forward without restraint, even with a roof box we managed to very comfortably hang around the 180kph (105mph) zone with the odd peak of 200kph (124mph). This acceleration certainly came in useful when driving through the French tolls on our way to Germany.

When exiting the toll gates, one could leave behind the vast amount of lorries and dawdling idiots with just the drop of a foot. The acceleration was so extreme that it was enough to leave one’s stomach far behind!

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On the way down to Austria, the Auto Cruise control was extremely handy on the motorways, the Lane Assist worked pretty well and was not too interfering, just delivering a slight vibration through the steering wheel if one drifted over the lines. The car also has Night Vision Assist, whereby a thermal camera detects humans in the dark and then displays them on the dashboard and gives a warning sound.

The indicators worked very well, flashing bright orange and telling people around me when I was changing lanes, something most cars do not seem to come equipped with these days it seems?!? The driver’s position was very comfortable with a very well-organised set-up, although the drinks holders did not hold the larger eco coffee mugs required for these long-distance Alpine trips.

The smartphone interface which includes Apple carplay and Android Auto was a wonderful addition to enabling all of your usual phone apps like Waze and Spotify to appear on the car’s screen, and the charging plate on the central island was a great feature too. For such a long journey it is great to have two drivers, and we liked the feature whereby we could save our preferred display and seat settings so we could change drivers quicker than a Formula One pitstop. Also, it is very rare for me to sit in the back of the car, but essentially it was so comfortable in the back that I was catching 40 winks before I knew it.

Small 1913 Q755TFSIe BBB

Of course, an important aspect of these winter trips is the boot space. Do not be fooled by the litre measurement of car boots, it is more about the length, depth and width, for instance, my car has a good boot space on paper but it is useless when stowing big long bags.

The Q7 boot is long so we could fit four large ski bags plus extras without a problem. One slight issue was we could not find a good place to store the key when driving, so we opted for a lanyard around the neck so we did not lose the keys under a seat or down some crevice.

The expansive sunroof looked amazing, however on this trip it was a shame because we had to cover it by putting a big roof box over it for the skis, perhaps we should return to the Alps in summer to make full use of that feature. The back seat windows were heavily blacked out which is great for helping hide the luggage and giving privacy to any passengers in the back, however, windows like this have to be lowered when passing through passport control.

As previously mentioned we opted for an aerodynamic sporty Audi 405 litres roof box for our skis, opening both sides made it easy to use and at one point we had about 6-7 pairs of skis plus poles in there so it’s certainly roomy!

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When it came to the long journey down to Austria, the majority of the journey was powered by petrol, however once in Austria around ski resorts or moving from one resort to the next the electric power came in handy and it certainly kept the use of petrol down once in the region. Leaving ski resorts usually requires a lot of downhill, the perfect opportunity for charging the battery.

We found the best plan was to charge the battery when at the hotels, however, this only works if the infrastructure is set up and we discovered a few problems here and there. Our first hotel had a brilliant charge point which was charged by the flow of the river, but sadly it was broken when we arrived. At the next hotel, we had to remove the roof box to reach the underground charging point, lucky for us the Audi-designed roof box was quick to remove with simple clamps.

One hotel could not charge because we needed a European adaptor, so make sure you have the correct foreign adaptor as part of the kit then another hotel forgot to charge the car for us; if you want something done properly, then do it yourself! Once we got the hang of charging the battery though, it was pretty straight forward and the speed of charge depends on the electrical setup. Some places were quite fast to charge, some like my home which is not currently set up for Hybrids took 8 hours. Being in the Alps in Winter means cold temperatures, so one has to bear in mind that if left outside a full charge may not get you the full recommended distance.

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All in all, four of us travelled to Austria, through the mountains for 18 days and then back to the UK and the Audi did not let us down at any time. Considering we pretty much lived in the vehicle in between the eight different ski resorts that we visited, the Q7 performed extremely well. Also taking into account how much equipment we took we never struggled with space, though it is good to get a packing system going.

Plus the combined weight of all of us plus equipment never seemed to hold back the Q7, the horsepower… or should I say unicorn power, was never hindered, but then again they are magic. It was always a pleasure at the end of our ski day, to step off our high-performance Atomic Q7 skis and finish off in the Audi Q7 and continue with the same stunning handling, speed and performance whilst giving our legs a rest and letting the powerful Q7 55 TFSI e quattro do the hard work.

The Q7 is where technology, performance, comfort, style and ecology collide and combine, creating what is a very well-balanced car, a car made for Alpine road trips, a car made for the mountains, a car to make memories in.

So, what did the other three members of the road trip team think of the Audi Q7? Each one of them had a different role in the car and thus a different experience which we thought would be important to include.

The View from the Back, by Michael Cranmer

How to write a car test without doing any driving? Easy. Follow the age-old rule of ‘never volunteer for anything’. When roles were being decided in our ‘Four-in-a-Quattro’ gang, Adam wanted to drive, Katie said she would, and Lady Charlotte naturally assumed the role of Commander in Chief. That left me with no discernable responsibilities. Suits me, sir.

We first met (the car and I that is) outside a Travelodge in Ashford at 5.00 am on a freezing March morning. It was big and shiny and clean. My scruffy old bag containing kit for the next three weeks was easily swallowed up by the huge boot already holding Adam and Charlotte’s immaculate matching cases, leaving plenty of room for Katie’s bags. Then we were off to catch the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

I hunkered down bleary-eyed, into the leather-clad luxury behind the driver and savoured the sensation of being chauffeured in style. Everything about the car oozed discretion, attention to detail and comfort. The soft seating, umpteen individual controls for air conditioning, lighting and so on, and above all, space, glorious space. No SqueezyJet knees under the chin for me.

As we sped across Europe Adam drove at speeds far above my normal comfort zone but I felt secure and safe inside the big German Quattro-cocoon. We left England at dawn and arrived in Austria at dusk tired but content. During the next three weeks up and down mountains carrying us four, or six pairs of skis, boots, bags and bits, the car never faltered, even though we all did by the end.

Audi Q7 Puradies

A View from Every Seat, by Katie Bamber

The Audi Q7 – a plush ride, both as a driver and backseat passenger. The quattro all-wheel-drive didn’t get a chance to do its thing on a snowy mountain pass, but what it did give were easy handling and nimble steering. It felt powerful and smooth when we let it go on the German autobahn (not to mention quiet), and very safe to drive on the winding Alpine roads. Comfortable and spacious in the back, it has an even more roomy boot space, enough for four adults’ kit for three weeks on the road.  (We never did get those back speakers working though…) 

A view from the Co-Driver/Navigator/DJ/Canteen/Mum seat, by Lady Charlotte Lynham 

I think one of the most important jobs on any road trip is the Co-driver. Essentially you are everything; navigator, DJ, car/lorry/danger spotter, Autobahn prepper (essentially as we were in a right-hand drive car it was the co-drivers job to shout when there was a space to pull out into the outer lane on the Autobahn and floor it), food distributor and general manager of the car’s inhabitants and luggage.

When doing this job you want to be comfy and have all the necessary mod cons as to tech close to hand. The Audi Q7 certainly lived up to this requirement! With Apple Carplay I could easily sort the navigation and tunes and with the dual action of the onboard computer at the reach of both the driver and co-driver I could assist in changing the hybrid drive facilities, managing the cool/warm air, changing the speaker distribution and generally monitor the car as we made out way from the UK to the Austrian Alps.

There is a lot of room up front with space to stretch out one’s legs or fit a few bags (mostly containing snacks for the driver) underfoot. I suffer from back pain a lot and this was not the case in the Audi Q7, the seat is ergonomically designed and adjustable with lumbar support so I could change it up as we made our way through Europe. I arrived in Austria relaxed and pain-free (despite Adam and Katie’s driving on the Autobahns).

The Audi Q7 is certainly a road trip kinda car, loved every minute with our motley crew as we breezed to and fro the Austrian Alps. For more information on the Audi Q7 55 TFSI e quattro visit online.

Author

  • Adam Attew

    Ski is life and life is ski, but when Adam is not skiing he is an accomplished Alpine Landscape artist specialising in winter scenes and has exhibited in London, Austria and beyond. With over 40 years of skiing experience from ski touring to Giant Slalom, Adam is a BASI-qualified Ski and Telemark instructor and is also a member of the prestigious Kandahar Ski Club. Despite his love of G&Ts; health and nutrition are a way of life for Adam who has lived Paleo or 'eating like a caveman' for over 20 years.

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