FRANKFURT – Audi AG makes good on its promise for a worldwide debut of the long-awaited Q7 cross/utility vehicle, but surprises with a second model: a Q7 hybrid concept.

The German auto maker, known for advanced technology, lives up to its reputation by showing the industry's first hybrid-electric vehicle powered in part by an FSI direct-injection gasoline engine.

Development was focused on the U.S. market, officials say.

A spokesman tells Ward's it would take three years from the decision to proceed to put the hybrid on the market. The conventional Q7 goes on sale next spring. (See related story: Audi Reveals Q7 CUV)

The Q7 hybrid integrates the electric motor into the driveline between the V-8 engine and the automatic transmission's torque converter. It is coordinated with the FSI engine via a separating clutch, so the vehicle is capable of running on either drive unit alone or simultaneously.

Audi Q7 hybrid

The 4.2L FSI V-8 generates 345 hp at 6,800 rpm, with peak torque of 325 lb.-ft. (440 Nm) at 3,500 rpm.

The electric motor adds 148 lb.-ft. (200 Nm) of torque. By itself, it can propel the Q7 up to 19 mph (30 km/h), and the batteries provide a range of up to 1.2 miles (2 km) in pure electric mode.

Energy is captured during braking and engine overrun and fed back into the system.

If the vehicle is coasting without the accelerator pedal depressed or is stationary for more than three seconds, the combustion engine switches off. Releasing the brake and stepping on the accelerator turns it back on. The electric motor assumes the role of a starter-alternator.

Audi Board of Management Chairman Martin Winterkorn says the FSI direct-injection gasoline technology in the Q7 HEV is the same as that in the RS 4 engine, tuned for its first use on a series-production V-8. The technology led the Audi R8 Le Mans racer to five victories.

Quattro permanent 4-wheel drive (enjoying its 25th anniversary) is part of the package, and the transmission is 6-speed Tiptronic-type automatic.

The statistics read like a sports car. The Q7 HEV can sprint 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 6.8 seconds, shaving 0.6 seconds off the time for the conventionally powered Q7. It can accelerate from 50 mph to 75 mph (80-120 km/h) in 5th gear in seven seconds – 25% quicker.

The 5,313-lb. (2,410-kg) vehicle returns average fuel economy figures of 20 mpg (12 L/100 km), a 13% improvement over the Q7 with a conventional gasoline engine, Winterkorn says.

The V-8 features a chain-driven camshaft, and the auxiliary air conditioning compressor and power steering pump are electrically driven so they continue to work when the engine is not being used.

The hybrid hardware does not impinge on compartment space in the 7-passenger vehicle with three rows of seating. The nickel-metal hydride battery system resides beneath the rear luggage compartment floor.

The electric motor and battery system add 326 lbs. (140 kg) to the weight of the concept, Audi says.

Another unique feature is the integration of solar cells into the “open sky system,” the Q7's huge glass sunroof that extends, in three segments, over all three rows of seating.

The solar energy powers the ventilation and air conditioning systems when the vehicle is parked, and the driver can activate the climate control system remotely so the temperature of the interior is pre-conditioned. The vehicle uses some of its battery capacity, as well, to perform this function.

apriddle@primediabusiness.com