In separate press releases, Audi and Volkswagen have announced two new plug-in hybrid variants for their largest SUV models — the Audi Q8 and Volkswagen Taureg. Make no mistake; both cars looks substantially different on the outside but they are virtually identical under the skin. How do we know that? Because both offer two powertrains — one with 376 total horsepower and the other with 456 horsepower. Both come with a 100 kW (134 hp) permanently excited (like a 17 year old high school junior) synchronous electric motor embedded in the inner workings of an 8 speed dual clutch transmission.
Under the luggage compartment is a 17.8 kWh (gross) pouch cell battery that is capable of propelling the vehicles on battery power alone for up to 28 miles (WLTP) at speeds up to 83 mph, which means that for many people their new Audi or Volkswagen PHEV SUV can complete normal daily driving chores on electric power alone.
Nomenclature is always an interesting topic in the automotive world these days, especially for Audi. The base model is known officially as the Q8 55 TFSI e quattro while the uprated version carries the Q8 Competition 60 TFSI e quattro moniker. Imagine saying either of those to your friends over brandy and cigars at the club! Prices in the UK are listed as £73,860 OTR and £85,760 OTR respectively. On the Volkswagen side of things, the model names are Taureg eHybrid and Taureg R. Prices in Germany are 72,378 euros and 84,660 euros respectively. Both cars have a mechanical center differential that normally sends 40% of the power to the front wheels and 60% to the rears but is capable of transmitting up up to 85% to the front wheels or 70% to the rear wheels as conditions require.
“Luxury travel is obviously something to be savored, but for an ever increasing number of drivers it can only be enjoyed with due consideration and respect for the environment,” says Andrew Doyle, director of Audi UK. “Cruising on air suspension in the upscale surroundings of the new Q8 TFSI e accompanied only by the distant purr of its electric motor is a true golden moment, but also a green one that can be enjoyed for the entire duration of many commutes, eliminating exhaust emissions from numerous journeys. Factor in the V6 engine providing the luxury of abundant power and the convenience of a far-reaching driving range in hybrid mode and you have an SUV that really appeals on every level.”
Both vehicles feature sufficient regenerative braking capacity to make one pedal driving possible with a maximum rate of deceleration of 0.3 g. The Audi comes with a dizzying array of convenience and comfort options befitting its image a premium automobile for well heeled drivers. The Volkswagen is not far behind when it comes to the level of bumpf available for those who need to surround themselves with luxury touches.
Both cars have an onboard 7.4 kW charger and can be recharged in about 2.5 hours using a public charging station. There is no mention of DC fast charging capability. The battery can also be recharged by the engine while driving. Each also has a towing capacity of 3.5 tons — one of the highest tow ratings for any plug-in hybrid vehicle. Towing can be accomplished in full electric mode until the capacity of the battery is exhausted.
The ultimate question is whether we should be having the plug-in hybrid discussion at all. Whenever we do, our readers split about the advantages and disadvantages of PHEVs. Lots of people think they are just silly while others feel any car that can travel part of the time on electricity alone is preferable to one that burns fossil fuels continuously. The argument has no definitive resolution. If a plug-in hybrid vehicle works for your lifestyle and driving needs, we say go for it.
If we get a chance to test drive either of these cars (there is no word about whether either will be offered in the US market) we will be happy to put them through their paces. I personally would prefer the Q8 Competition 60 TFSI e quattro model, as I am sure my colleagues would be green with envy when I drive it up to the polycarbonate front doors of the CleanTechnica building with its facade of perovskite solar cells glistening in the sun. Imagine telling the valet, “Mine is the Toreador Red Audi Q8 Competition 60 TFSI e quattro.” Such fun!