Audi is following a recent trend in the hybrid market that is bringing more SUV-like crossovers to the arena.

But the German carmaker is putting its own twist on the concept by combining a diesel engine and an electric motor to power its new hybrid SUV.

“In our strategy to electrify an entire product portfolio, we will introduce the highly efficient Audi Q7 e-tron Quattro later this year,” said Professor Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg at a press conference yesterday in Detroit. Dr. Hackenberg is a member of Audi’s technical development board.

“We are combing the best of two efficiency technologies: the plug-in electric drive, with a range of more than 50 km, and a direct-injected turbocharged diesel engine. It will be the first plug-in hybrid worldwide with permanent four-wheel drive powered by a 6-cylinder, 3.0-liter TDI diesel,” said Hackenberg.

Professor Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg introduces the Audi Q7 e-tron in Detroit.

Professor Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg introduces the Audi Q7 e-tron in Detroit.

The 94-kw electric motor is paired with a lithium-ion battery stack capable of storing 17.3 kilowatt-hours. Relying solely on its electric power, the Q7 e-tron has a range of 56 km (34.8 miles). It can accelerate to 60 km (37.3 mph) in 6.1 seconds in electric-only mode, or engage the diesel to reach 100 km (62.1 mph) in 6.0 seconds. The Q7’s top speed is 225 km (139.8 mph).

By designing a new chassis and using lightweight materials throughout the SUV, including all-aluminum doors, front fenders and engine hood, Audi was also able to shed 716 pounds on the Q7.

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Dr. Hackenberg says that because of the unique powertrain system and the Q7’s low curb weight, the SUV has the lowest CO2 emission levels for its class. Audi estimates that the Q7 e-tron’s C02 equivalent is less than 50 grams per kilometer (80.5 g/mi) and expects a fuel economy of 138.4 mpg. The EPA has not yet released its ratings for the Q7 e-tron.

Audi is adding a new system to the Q7 e-tron that will help maximizes its efficiency.

“The Q7 PHEV is the world’s first PHEV with a heat pump, which minimizes the energy requirement for heating and air conditioning without compromising customer comfort,” said Audi. “Furthermore, the customer can preheat or precool the car via an app.”

Up to seven passengers can ride in the Q7, which features an electrified third-row seat. The SUV offers plenty of tech throughout, including one or two seat-mounted Audi tablets for rear passengers.

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The driver’s infotainment center is split into two parts, beginning with a touchscreen and simple controls in front of the gearshift. The tablet-sized screen is mounted above on the dash within easy viewing for both the driver and passenger. In navigation mode, the map can be viewed on either the infotainment screen or the driver’s instrument screen.

Audi anticipates releasing the Q7 PHEV later this year and has not yet announced pricing.