The Audi Q7 55 TFSIe (Quattro 381PS Black Edition) combines a 3.0-litre petrol engine with a powerful electric motor. The combination promises strong performance and excellent economy, too, so long as the battery is charged. In its Black Edition specification, the 55 TFSIe costs £74,135.
But, does the hybrid match the towing ability of a diesel Q7? Can the petrol-electric return impressive economy figures while towing?
Audi quotes two sets of kerb weights and towing limits for the Q7 55 TFSIe, one for a car fitted with adaptive air suspension from the factory, and one without. There’s just a 10kg difference in the kerbweight, but choose to have adaptive air suspension installed from new and the towing limit is 3500kg rather than 2700kg.
Either way, just about any caravan you can think of will make a sensible match, thanks to the 2460kg kerbweight, which gives an 85% match figure of 2091kg.
We matched the Audi to a Swift Fairway Platinum 835 with a MiRO of 1671kg.
We used the Audi’s ‘hold charge’ function so we could collect the caravan with a full battery. The car’s display suggested 26 miles of pure electric range, slightly down on the official range, but then the cold of a late November day did the battery no favours.
Setting off, we set the powertrain to hybrid mode to balance petrol and electric power. There was enough poke from the motor to pull away on electric power alone, with the petrol engine adding extra help as required. The transitions from pure electric to hybrid driving were smooth and subtle.
Pulling up to 60mph was quick and easy, with no sign of strain or effort. The same was true when making a hill start on a 1-in-10 slope. The electronic parking brake held four tonnes of car and caravan still, and released smoothly. It was impressive to see how quickly the Audi was back into its stride, even towing uphill.
Use full throttle and the Q7 simply bolts forwards, even when towing. There’s enough pulling power for confident overtaking, and holding 60mph up motorway inclines is an absolute doddle.
Stability is also from the top drawer. Even when overtaking HGVs, the big Audi tracked straight and true.
With four-wheel drive, a high kerbweight, strong performance and unshakeable stability, the Q7 is an excellent tow car.
Like all plug-in hybrids, the Q7 TFSIe is at its best with a healthy battery charge (a full recharge from a 7kW wallbox should take around three hours). Running on electricity alone, the Audi is extremely quiet, but still quick off the mark. Even with the electric motor and petrol engine working in tandem the car is smooth and rapid.
Air suspension gives the driver a choice of modes, and in ‘comfort’ or ‘auto’ the Audi handles bumpy roads with great composure. Perhaps the hybrid’s extra weight makes this model less agile than other versions of the Q7, but it’s still very satisfying to drive.
Space and practicality
The biggest compromise in choosing the plug-in hybrid Q7 is the loss of the third row of seats – there’s room for five rather than seven in the TFSIe. Otherwise, this is a spacious and practical car.
There’s lots of space in the front, and even with a panoramic sunroof, headroom is very generous. The standard sports seat adjusts electrically, and we found it easy to find a comfortable driving position.
As part of the Q7’s facelift in later 2019, Audi added a twin-screen infotainment system. Both screens have ‘haptic feedback’, so it feels as though you are pressing a physical button when you touch the screen.
The big benefit of the second screen is that the air-con controls are on show by default, rather than being buried in a menu. This means it is much easier to make quick adjustments when required.
Passengers in the second row have plenty of room to stretch out, with the chunky transmission tunnel being the only real negative. Even tall adults should have enough head- and legroom to be really comfortable. The rear bench splits into three, slides and reclines, and generally does a passable impression of the flexible seating you’d find in an MPV.
The Q7’s air suspension can be used to lower the ride height of the back of the car, to make loading up with luggage less of a strain. The 650-litre capacity is generous, but if you carry charging cables with you, they do eat into the available space.
Buying and owning
The Q7 TFSIe is a pricey car. The list price of £74,135 compares with £71,310 for the equivalent BMW X5.
As well as being more expensive to buy, the Q7 will cost more to run. The official all-electric range of 273-29.8 miles is a lot shorter than the 52 miles of the X5, and while 108.6mpg sounds very impressive, it’s a long way off the X5’s 217.3mpg.
We achieved 19.9mpg on our towing route – some way away from what we would have expected of the equivalent turbodiesel.
On the other hand, the Q7 Black Edition is packed with luxury equipment, including leather upholstery, 21-inch alloys, adaptive air suspension, and a whole lot more.
The Q7 is expensive, and some other plug-in hybrid SUVs will go further while running one electricity alone. But in terms of towing ability, the performance and stability of the big Audi put this car up with the very best.
- Take a look at our best plug-in hybrid tow car round-up for more inspiration
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There was enough poke from the motor to pull away on electric power alone, with the petrol engine adding extra help as required
|Maximum Towing Limit
|332 lb ft