Plug-in hybrids are supposed to be the perfect bridge between today and tomorrow, combining cheap, green, electric commuting with gasoline-powered long-range touring. Audi's first plug-in hybrid has been announced, but it looks like a swing and a miss, since its all-electric range won't cover the average daily commute.
The Q5 55 TFSI e Quattro (a poetically named beast if ever there was one) is a family-sized SUV with a two-liter, four-cylinder turbo gasoline engine making 252 hp (185 kW) and 370 Nm (272.9 lb-ft) of torque through a seven-speed S Tronic transmission. This is supplemented with a 140-hp (105-kW) electric powertrain that adds an additional 350 Nm (258 lb-ft) of torque to the all-wheel-drive powertrain.
Its lithium battery pack, which sits under the floor of the luggage compartment, stores 14.1 kWh of energy, enough for an all-electric range over 26 mi (40 km), on the tough WLTP test cycle. Which is nice, but the average American commute is around 32 mi (51 km), meaning that for many this car will need to burn gas around town on daily duties.
So it's not what we'd call a dream plug-in hybrid, and Audi's not alone in skimping on battery range for these machines. We'd like to see electric range get up around the 40-45 mi (64-72 km) range on these PHEVs, and completely eliminate gas stops for the majority of motorists until you get right out on the highway for a long trip. On the other hand, if you take it out of all-electric mode and let the electric and gasoline motors work together, you get an impressive overall efficiency figure of 98-112 US mpg (2.4-2.1 L/100km).
The Q5 55 TFSI e Quattro will offer a full hybrid mode, a gasoline-only "battery hold" mode that attempts to maintain the battery's charge level, and full electric mode. The latter won't wake up the gasoline engine at all, until you push past a perceptible pressure point on the accelerator pedal. Thus, you've got the car's full power available whenever you might need to call on it.
Charging from a wall socket will take around six hours, which isn't a problem if you leave it plugged in overnight. Faster charging is available, but likely won't be necessary for most drivers given that you can just run the thing on gasoline and recoup energy at rates up to 25 kW while coasting and 80 kW under regenerative braking, which handles all deceleration duties less than 0.2 g before the disc brakes chime in for additional stopping power.
Elsewhere, it looks plenty nice, with its LED headlights, sporty seats, 18-inch turbine-design wheels, and app-controlled pre-heating and cooling systems that let you set the climate before you walk out the door.
At €60,450 (around US$67,400) it can be pre-ordered now, with cars landing in showrooms in Q3 this year.
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