Green SUV? Tackling the impossible?
The Audi Q7 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid. It claims a test range of over 30 miles on electric alone, and a real 20 is possible. The electric motor sits between a 3.0-litre V6 diesel and the eight-speed auto,
so both power units drive all wheels.
Volvo’s XC90 T8 is also a PHEV, but differently configured. A four-cylinder petrol drives the front wheels, an electric motor the rears. Its battery has only half the Audi’s capacity, so pure electric range is only a real-world 11 miles or so.
Can they behave as promised?
In EV mode, the Audi gets along well. As with the XC90, it emphasises electric energy if you have a nearby destination in the nav. Hybrid mode is smoothly executed, the diesel cutting in and out seamlessly.
Both hybrid and EV modes work cleanly in the Volvo too. The petrol engine is quiet in town, but emits a strained whine if you push it. The T8, like the Q7, has snatchy brakes – blame mixing regen with friction.
What about the economical side of things?
Plug in the Q7 often, drive gently on short trips, and you’ll use no fuel. But on long trips on diesel, the Q7 does a real-world 35mpg. Because its battery is bigger than the Volvo’s it could significantly reduce your fuel bills. And at under 50g/km, company car tax is tiny.
With smaller battery range, electricity cuts the Volvo’s consumption only for very short commutes. And it’s a petrol, so beyond that it’s thirstier than the Audi: 30mpg or so. We’d recommend the much cheaper D5 diesel if it isn’t a company car.
How are they at just being cars?
The Q7 is just like a big posh Audi estate: loads of quiet quality, and a plush and secure if uninspiring drive. The big rear-mounted battery means a shallow boot with no space for the third-row seats of other Q7s.
The XC90 is also a relaxing rather than sporty drive. Clever packaging puts the battery in the car’s spine, so seats six and seven remain. As in the Audi, you get screen-based tech and much driver assistance.
The Q7 is more successful than the Volvo as a fuel-saver, which is sort of the point here. Decent to drive, too. As a result, it beats the Volvo in this spec, which remains the superior family car, but only as a cheaper diesel.