Tested: Audi Q7 50 TDI Quattro 286PS S line S tronic – Powertrain with Huge Potential

You can’t look at a large vehicle today without the question of emissions instantly popping into your head.

Yet, our recent story, Tire Wear Pollution 1,000 Times Worse Than Tailpipes, raises the question of what actually constitutes air pollution? Too many people confuse the drive towards cleaning up the air quality in our cities with the concurrent drive to lower the emissions blamed for global warming.

In a nutshell, at present gasoline and BEV powertrains are best for the former and diesel is kindest on the latter boasting very low CO2 emissions. So, approaching the large mass of the new Audi Q7 50 TDI Quattro parked outside my city home raised a host of conflicting thoughts in my perception of the car.

Having tried the powertrain before in the slightly smaller Audi A7 Sportback 50 TDI, I was fully prepared to accept the automaker’s performance claims of 228bhp of power, 442ft-lbs of torque and a 0-62mph sprint time of 6.3 seconds despite an unladen weight well over the two metric tons at 4,773-lbs.

With the last test, I applauded the diesel engine’s climate friendly credentials and do so again with the Q7. That’s because, in spite of its sheer mass, I saw nearly 40mpg (around 35mpg US) from the fuel consumption on high speed highway runs. Also there’s the knowledge that, in most countries using an energy production mix heavily dominated by fossil fuel burning power stations, the diesel has a smaller life-cycle carbon footprint than current BEV powertrains.

This is where the car really makes a convincing proposition for consumers who seldom venture into urban areas. Those you revel in the sheer size of the cabin with its fold up third row of seats offering seven comfortable seats. Also for those who need regular calls on extra grip from the Quattro all-wheel drive and carry large amounts of luggage or produce and will be grateful for a folding second row seat capability that offer a truly flat bed for storage.

Its connectivity package is also top-draw albeit not quite as easy to use as some other rivals. That said, the there can be no criticism that I can see for the superb Bose sound system.

Of course, all this you’d expect from a vehicle with a starting price of £60,505 ($74,408) including taxes. While that price won’t put off anyone who has sampled Audi’s beautifully built cars, the issue of urban pollution might well do. That’s because, used in Town, the big beast will gobble diesel at around 20mpg (17mpg US).

Yet, we now know even that consumption pales against the amount of particles kicked up into the city air by the car’s tires and brakes.

So, the question is: are the city regulators wise in banning all ICE powertrains in new cars if their main incentive is clean air in our cities? I would suggest, instead, a levy on the weight of vehicles which adds to the tire and brake particulates that make up 60% of a modern car’s emissions.

Of course, while hitting the big BEVs very hard, it would also hit beefy SUVs such as this Q7. That said, that wonderfully powerful 5.0 TDI motor might then see itself applied to a much more compact sporty little number boasting sensational performance, frugal economy and enhancing its climate credentials even more!

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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