Nearly a year ago, Audi presented the new Q7 at the Detroit Auto Show. Meet its plug-in hybrid version, with 373 hp and an impressive 56 km electric range.

It is hard to say that the Audi Q7 will instantly win everybody's hearts with its new exterior. We can, therefore, understand its opponents (or anybody who dislikes its exterior) in their claim that the car more resembles a mini MPV than a pure-bred premium crossover. Audi immediately refuted these implications, during our conversation at the Detroit Auto Show, while also adding that, even though the exterior design may not be the car's biggest attribute, the new Audi Q7 was on the right path to convince the public.

And it did! In fact, it was even acclaimed as one of the top premium crossovers. That's not because the car is visually attractive, needless to say, but it is because it's genuinely good. It will conquer you with the traits that lurk out of your sightlines. It will convince you, as well as your passengers, the moment you sit in it. It will captivate you with an above-average ride that even many luxury limousines fail to live up to. In a nutshell, the new Audi Q7 embodies various worlds (classes, specifically) and promises a unique driving experience. If we paraphrase, it matches all that had been promised and predicted by Audi experts, when the new Q7 was first introduced.

Less than a year since its world premier, the Audi Q7 also hit the European roads as a hybrid. Audi models alike, the Q7 brandishes a recognizable and well-known e-tron extension. Though it remains the same in terms of design (a disappointment to some), the Q7 e-tron comes technologically advanced, with an excellent hybrid system and a better-than-average ride.

But what matters most is that driving the hybrid version requires no compromises. Even more, the Audi Q7 e-tron offers all the bells and whistles of the internal-combustion engines, while increasing the value of the car, thanks to its hybrid drivetrain. It seems as though the electrification of private vehicles has finally arrived, at a stage where a driver will have a clear conscience, enjoying the benefits of the inaudible electric ride, while playing with the possibility to exploit everything (and even more) that comes with the versions powered by an internal-combustion engine. In this day and age, that should apply to all plug-in hybrids, or at least regular hybrids, but that is often not the case. Not only do some of these cars feature a different design, they also come with a carefully (and sometimes badly) chosen engine, and a transmission that may not be to the driver's liking. But there is no denying that there are customers out there who will want a green and visually distinct car, primarily to show off.

Though it is nearly identical to its other Audi siblings, in terms of design, the Audi Q7 e-tron has nevertheless undergone some minor alterations. It features a different front grill, and special 19- or 20-inch aluminum wheels that have been used in other models. No less impressive is the interior, which remains the same and unrestricted, even in the face of the hybrid drivetrain. To keep track of its operation, the Q7 e-tron features a standard multi-media system MMI, including the Audi virtual cockpit which will, upon request, provide detailed statistics about the fuel consumption and electric range. The MMI system can be operated by voice, by steering wheel controls, center console keys, or by use of a touchpad. Among the numerous driver assistance systems, particularly worthy of our attention is the Predictive Efficiency Assistant, which notifies the driver of the upcoming ascents or descents, curves and changing speed limits, with the help of its omniscient navigation system. Warned of a situation on the road ahead of time, the driver is able to release the accelerator in timely fashion, to avoid late and more intense braking, while also saving on fuel and electric energy.

The Audi Q7 e-tron powertrain pairs a 3.0 l turbo-diesel engine of 258 hp and 600 Nm of torque, with an electric motor of 128 hp and 350 Nm. With the system output of 373 hp and 700 Nm of torque, the Q7 e-tron can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in a mere 6 seconds, and tops out at 225 km/h, which is also owing to the exquisite eight-speed automatic transmission, and a Quattro permanent all-wheel drive. Most paramount, when we talk hybrids, are the electric range and the average fuel consumption. In ideal conditions, the Q7 e-tron will run for about 56 km on electricity alone, with a speed of up to 125 km/h. Theoretically speaking, moderate driving and a full battery will make the car consume no more than 1.7 liters of fuel per 100 km, and achieving an astounding 1400 km range should be possible. The driver can chose between four driving modes: EV (fully electric ride), Hybrid (automatic employment of the electric and internal-combustion engine), Battery Hold (battery energy conserved for later use) and Batter Charge mode (battery charging mid-drive).

Electrical energy is provided by a 17.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, mounted beneath the base of the trunk, which will take less than 2.5 hours to charge.

Furthermore, Audi offers its customers in Germany a transition to renewably-generated energy (Audi Energy), and a special Audi Charge & Fuel Card, which can be used to pay for your fill-up. All this and more can be controlled via your smart phone.

What about the driving experience? Although hybrids are designed largely to accommodate the needs of laid-back drivers who appreciate a fuel-efficient car, we wondered what such a car can do during an ordinary, or slightly more dynamic, ride? In contrast to the basic model Q7, which offers an above-average driving experience, that is. The more than five meter-long Audi Q7 is no less convincing as a hybrid. Like the regular version, the e-tron inspires confidence on windy roads, despite more than 400 kg of additional weight from the hybrid powertrain and battery.

This is why we don't really have to think twice, to determine that Audi has kept its promise to make the new Q7 the best of the both worlds, those of the hybrid and the internal combustion engine.

May 5, 2016 Driving photo: Audi

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