Audi’s first production electric car impresses with its acceleration, comfort and practicality
As its first all-electric production model, the Audi e-tron represents something of a landmark for the German brand. It joins an increasingly competitive electric SUV market pioneered by the Tesla Model X but now also containing the impressive Jaguar I-Pace. With further rivalry on the horizon in the shape of the Mercedes EQC, the e-tron needs to stand out.
In some ways, standing out isn’t an e-tron speciality. To look at, the electric Audi seems closely related to its conventionally powered Audi Q5 and bigger Audi Q7 SUV stablemates, with a similarly expressive ‘singleframe’ front grille and a full-width LED lighting bar at the back that salutes the luxurious Audi A7. And, although very nearly as big as the Q7, the e-tron doesn’t look enormous on the road.
At first, the e-tron will be offered in this SUV form alone, with a coupe-style Sportback expected to follow later, along with an e-tron GT saloon with a rather lower profile. The SUV package provided by the first e-tron model will be welcomed by families – it might not offer the seven seats that conventional SUVs of this size can boast, but there’s plenty of room inside for five adults, and a pretty generous boot. Those less concerned by the practicalities of family life, meanwhile, might prefer to concentrate on the e-tron’s superb interior design, which borrows heavily from Audi’s flagship A8 saloon.
The e-tron isn’t short on pace, either, with 0-62mph passing in under six seconds, thanks to a ‘boost’ function that allows its 355bhp twin electric motor setup to produce 402bhp in short bursts. However, despite carefully managed weight distribution, a wealth of driving modes and a clever air suspension system with adaptive damping, the e-tron isn’t a particularly rewarding machine to hussle along a challenging back road.
Although the novelty of its rapid acceleration may soon wear off, the car’s near 250-mile electric range is a far more practical virtue that could allow the e-tron to fit neatly into the daily routines of all but the most determined commuters. What’s more, its compatibility with 150kW fast chargers will doubtless prove a boon when the UK’s charging infrastructure evolves to make such technology widespread – on the continent, existing 150kW chargers are claimed give an 80% battery charge in a little over half an hour.
The e-tron’s range comes courtesy of a 95kWh battery, and there’s no smaller, lower cost battery option offered. You can choose from any of three trim levels, though – standard e-tron, Launch Edition and Launch Edition 1, with only 30 of the latter being offered to UK buyers. Every model has LED lights all round, 20-inch alloy wheels and electrically-adjustable, heated leather seats. Usefully, there’s a charging port on both sides of the car.
While the Audi e-tron’s battery range is eclipsed by that of less expensive rivals – such as the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric – it’s a very impressive all-rounder nonetheless. Its approachable, familiar nature will doubtless appeal to Audi fans who are looking to make the switch to zero-emissions electric motoring. It’s a capable alternative to the I-Pace that offers Audi’s classy blend of technology and style in place of the Jaguar’s more sporty nature.
Audi e-tron EV