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A3 just the start of Audi’s Aussie e-tron onslaught

Silent school run: Students at upmarket educational establishments will have to become more vigilant at drop-off and pick-up time when Audi’s next-gen Q7 e-tron silently glides up to the gate (Original Q7 sketch pictured).

Plug-in Q7 SUV odds-on to be Audi Australia’s next e-tron, could arrive next year

Audi logo25 Aug 2014

AUDI is keen to add a diesel-electric version of its next-generation Q7 large luxury SUV to its Australian line-up as it ramps ­up towards the local launch of the hybrid Audi A3 Sportback e-tron in March 2015.

Speaking at a media event for the five-door hatchback A3-based plug-in hybrid in Queensland last week, Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle confirmed the next-generation Q7 would showcase the company’s first diesel-electric drivetrain, combining a new 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine with a powerful electric motor.

“The next step for e-tron will be the TDI e-tron, following our racing success with the diesel hybrid concept,” Mr Doyle said.

“The first TDI e-tron from Audi will be the Q7 e-tron … power output will be substantial, around 275kW combined system power and 700Nm of torque (and) the electric range of the TDI e-tron will be more than 50km.”

No fuel use figure was provided, but reports suggest the plug-in Q7’s drivetrain can achieve less than 4.0 litres per 100 kilometres, with new model shedding at least 200kg compared with the current Q7 range, which weighs between 2375 and 2515kg.

Mr Doyle also confirmed the drivetrain would eventually roll out across next-generation vehicles based on the new Audi-developed modular longitudinal platform (MLB), including the A4, A6 and A8.

He told GoAuto he was “absolutely” interested in importing the Q7 e-tron to Australia.

“Q7’s a very popular model for this country, so if we are offered the opportunity to have the [e-tron] we would look at it,” he said.

Camouflaged test mules of the next-generation Q7 have been spied, with the new SUV reportedly aiming for a full reveal either late this year or early next, fitting in with Mr Doyle’s estimate that the car would be seen in Australia “later next year,” although like the A3, an e-tron version might not be available initially.

Audi Australia previously planned that petrol-electric versions of the A6 and A8 sedans would be its first hybrids, but Mr Doyle told GoAuto he would now wait for plug-in hybrid versions of those models.

“What we’re happy with is the e-tron technology and what we’re offering right now on the A3 and then rolling that out over time,” he said.

“With the e-tron concept that we have now, I think it would be a logical extension over time that we go to Q7 and potentially A4, A6 as well.”

A3 e-tron project leader Andreas Pfaller told GoAuto there was no sedan or cabriolet version of the A3 e-tron in development, suggesting this was because the Sportback is the best-selling model of the A3 range.

He said e-tron technology was being applied first to models used primarily in urban environments – hence the city-friendly A3, but also a telling indictment as to the real-world use of Audi’s huge Q7 SUV flagship.

Audi has previewed a third e-tron drivetrain via the Allroad Shooting Brake concept shown at January’s Detroit motor show, and the TT Offroad concept unveiled at Beijing show in April, both featuring a 300kW/650Nm plug-in hybrid drivetrain returning a claimed fuel use of 1.9L/100km.

Referring to those concepts, Mr Doyle repeated Audi AG technical development chief Ulrich Hackenberg’s assertion that “we are offering very concrete glimpses of the near future with this”.

Looking further into the future, Mr Doyle presented research done by Audi AG suggesting that by 2030, 40 per cent of all new vehicles sold would have some form of electrification, with two-thirds of those being hybrids.

If these predictions come to pass, then 80 per cent of new cars sold will still have some form of internal combustion engine on-board come 2030.

“This means for us it is very important that the efficiency that we currently have with our TFSI petrol and TDI diesel engines is very much relevant – in fact, it’s critical for us,” said Mr Doyle.

Beyond e-tron – which includes scope for full-electric cars – Audi’s alternative fuel strategy moves onto hydrogen fuel cells ­– technology that Toyota will put into its FCV production car early next year.

However, Audi plans to wait a bit longer before releasing any hydrogen-fuelled models. “This technology is still very expensive and quite a few years away from appearing in a series production (Audi) application,” said Mr Doyle.

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