2009 Audi Q7 Hybrid

On March 24, 2008, Automotive News reported that Audi will not sell the Q7 Hybrid in the United States. Johan deNysschen, head of the Audi brand in the U.S., said Audi could not make a business case for the gas-electric version of the Q7, based largely on a weak dollar.

The Audi Q7 is one of the most refined and opulent SUVs on the market. It offers world-class styling, a plush cabin, and amenities galore—not to mention a 280 horsepower engine that launches the Q7 in a rocket-like fashion. Unfortunately, the Q7’s fuel economy is dismal. The average city/highway EPA-rating for the 3.6-liter Q7 is 16 mpg, making Audi Q7—the largest of all Audis—about as eco-unfriendly as a vehicle can get. Audi is attempting to nullify the green penalty when it releases the hybrid version of the Q7 in late 2008.

Audi’s full hybrid system, developed in partnership with Porsche and Volkswagen, will utilize the same 3.6-liter powerplant found in the current model. The gas engine-electric motor combination will offer various enhancements over the standard powertrain. The hybrid system will add an extra 50 horsepower thanks to the electric motor, which will draw its energy from a 288-volt nickel metal hydride battery pack. That means more torque and more pulling power. The seven-seat Audi Q7 Hybrid is expected to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds.

But most hybrid drivers would prefer to emphasize efficiency rather than performance. Official figures have not yet been released, but Audi is promising a 27 percent increase in fuel economy over the conventional Q7—with a similar reduction of tailpipe emissions. Therefore, the Audi Q7 Hybrid is expected to offer combined fuel economy around 21 miles per gallon. This is roughly the same math used by GM on its full-size SUV hybrids, like the Chevy Tahoe, the GMC Yukon, and the Cadillac Escalade. The Q7′s mileage falls short of the Ford Escape Hybrid, Mercury Mariner, Toyota Highlander, and Lexus RX 400h.

As a full hybrid, the Q7 will operate in one of three driving modes: either solely by gas engine, solely by electric motor, or a combination of the two units during periods of acceleration. For drivers with a steady foot, the vehicle will operate in all-electric mode at speeds up to 30 miles per hour, and for distances ranging up to one mile. At that point, the hybrid system will be call upon the gasoline engine to recharge the batteries.

The pairing of this hybrid system to Audi’s advanced quattro all-wheel-drive system will make the Q7 one of the most stylish, capable, all-condition, full-size hybrids on the market. Porsche is likely to introduce its Cayenne Hybrid a year or two after the Q7 Hybrid arrives on the scene.