12.4.2019Audi e-tron first drive
Audi’s new e-tron is the manufacturer’s first electric car, with a range of 241 miles quoted, and some serious performance potential. Set to go up against the Jaguar I-Pace and forthcoming Mercedes Benz EQC, this premium SUV looks a good starting point for Audi’s electric push, with three more pure-EVs on their way by the end of next year. Next Green Car attended the UK launch to test drive the new Audi e-tron.
Review by Chris Lilly
The e-tron comes with two electric motors, producing a combined 265 kW (360hp) and 561 Nm of torque, good for a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds - or that’s most of the time at least. Audi has also fitted the e-tron with a boost function, which increases power to 300 kW (408hp) and 664 Nm for up to eight seconds, reducing the 0-62mph time to 5.7 seconds. The motors are placed one on each axle, and partner to create an all-electric version of Audi’s famous quattro four-wheel drive system, so you can expect the power on tap to be usable even in wet or slippery conditions. Certainly on the test route around parts of Yorkshire, acceleration felt as brisk as the times would suggest. It doesn’t feel quite as immediate as the Jaguar’s or the larger Tesla Model X for that matter, and this is borne out in the performance figures - both rivals provide a sub-five second sprint time. There will be few that drive the e-tron who require more pace though, since the Audi is plenty quick enough for day-to-day life. On the motorway it shows no hint of struggling at high speeds, and will continue to pull strongly when overtaking anywhere within the UK speed limit. The quick response from Audi’s electric motors meant it was also fairly engaging on country roads, able to immediately up the pace if overtaking slow moving traffic for example. Around town, the throttle response wasn’t too sharp, and Audi has pitched the performance just about right here. The e-tron can dart into gaps in a manner that belies its size and weight, but it deals well with crawling and stop-start traffic.
Although the e-tron might be Audi’s first pure-electric model, the handling feels very familiar to anyone that has driven anything else in the company’s range. There isn’t any real agility to the e-tron’s handling capabilities, instead the Audi is set-up for safe, secure, and comfortable performance, rather than anything too dynamic. The e-tron weighs in just under two and a half tonnes, and you can feel that mass being transferred over the springs as you corner, though it is largely placed low down in the Audi, dropping the centre of gravity. As such, the e-tron feels settled and refined on fast, open roads, and will deal with urban lumps and bumps with ease. Body roll is kept well under check, and Audi's quattro wizardry means it will keep a tight line through a corner and maintain grip even when pushing on. It’s not a car to look forward to threading down your favourite twisting road, but the Audi performs extremely well in just about every scenario - and importantly feels composed throughout.
I reckon the e-tron is a fine looking SUV, with plenty of the current Audi design language to place it firmly within the company's line-up, but without any of the over emphasised features that make the likes of the Q8 for example look quite aggressive. It’s one of the better looking models in Audi’s range, and even has it’s own party trick, with the option to remove the wing-mirrors for rear-facing cameras - more on that later. Sitting between the Q5 and Q7 in Audi’s range, the e-tron is longer and taller than the I-Pace, but not as wide. Like the Jaguar, the interior is remarkable spacious, with Audi making good use of the improved packaging options available to engineers when there isn’t the need to fit an engine and gearbox into the car’s footprint. As such, there is ample space for four adults to sit in comfort, plus a boot large enough to deal with a holiday’s worth of kit for said occupants. Three adults would fit across the back, though shoulder room would be a squeeze, but leg and head room throughout is excellent. Boot space is class leading with the seats up, and it is worth remembering that there is a small storage area under the bonnet as well.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
As befits Audi’s current reputation, the cabin in the e-tron is superb. Design, materials, and build quality all feel top-notch, and the interior is a lovely space in which to sit. The seats throughout offer high levels of comfort, and the driver can easily get into a good position. The dashboard is dominated by Audi’s dual MMI touchscreen set-up, with the upper screen offering all the usual functions you would expect of a premium model, and the lower allowing access to common controls, such as the air conditioning and media system without affecting the higher display. Responsiveness and quality of graphics are very good, and the system provides haptic feedback, assisting the driver in particular in knowing when a button has been pressed while concentration on the road. Although a traditional rotary selector is the easiest way to navigate around menus safely, the haptic feedback system works well, and frees up space on the centre console. Here Audi has provided a new type of drive selector, built into the side of the wrist rest for the lower touchscreen. The lever allows the driver to easily shift into drive, reverse, or park using their left thumb or forefinger. A couple of additional dials or buttons forward of that complete the controls available, apart from those situated in front of the driver, and allows for a large and deep central storage bin. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instruments are also fitted to the e-tron, which allows the driver to customise the display. It’s an excellent set-up, and works beautifully.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
I’ll say up front that there wasn’t the time or distance available during our test drive to truly discover the e-tron’s range potential. We’ll look to get one on test for a longer amount of time to do that. The official WLTP score is 241 miles, and previous experience shows that the WLTP range for electric vehicles is pretty accurate. It’s typically achievable, and real-world driving tends to produce results only around 10 miles below the quoted figure. We completed around 120 miles on the test route, over a good mixture of roads. Setting off from our base, we quickly headed up the A1 M for a stretch, along a variety of A- and B-roads around the Yorkshire Dales, before looping back to Harrogate and encountering some heavy traffic and roadworks; essentially it had a little of everything. We used a little over 50% battery, and from a quoted range of 170 miles off around 95% charge, we ended with 73 miles displayed - clearly the previous drivers had a heavier right foot than us, though there was certainly no attempt on our part to drive economically. The economy score we had by the end of our time in the car was 2.3 miles/kWh, which equates to a range of almost 220 miles on a charge. I’d reckon this is towards the lower end of that many drivers will find, as although the weather was bright, it was a chilly spring day, with temperatures around 5-10 degrees. Winter will no doubt see the range dip under 200 miles, but I’d wager that a range of 225 miles on a charge would be a reasonable average. It’s interesting to note that the I-Pace will go a little further, despite having a battery smaller by 5 kWh, presumably largely down to the almost 300 kg difference in kerb weight.
Audi has made much of the fact that its brake energy recuperation system is very efficient, and reckons that it can account for up to 30% of the e-tron’s range in normal driving. It’s certainly a good system, adjustable by the driver using paddles behind the wheel, or set to alter automatically depending on traffic and conditions. There is the usual suite of connected car systems available via smartphone app which allow the user to alter charging times, check on the car’s status, and pre-condition it. Audi currently leads the way in terms of charging, with the e-tron capable of being charged at up to 150 kW DC from a rapid CCS charge point - and is one of the manufacturers behind the pan-European Ionity ultra-rapid network, which is rolling out charge points capable of charging at 350 kW. The on-board AC charger for home and public use is 11 kW, which is higher than most EVs on the market, and later in the year there will be an option to upgrade that to a 22 kW on-board charger, for faster charging on public points. The e-tron has a charging inlet on each side, to make access easier no matter where parked. Audi’s drive mode select system includes an Efficiency function, and adaptive air suspension can raise or lower the ride height for improved aerodynamics. Also aiding air flow are the optional rear-facing cameras in place of wing mirrors - seen on the concept car. These display the view of a wing mirror in a screen just below the window line, and although having only had a brief try, I’m uncertain as to how I’d get on with them. The view on the passenger’s side is fine, since there isn’t much difference in placement between the screen and where a mirror normally is, but the driver’s side screen is noticeably lower than where you automatically look for a wing mirror. Time with the set-up might alter habits, but at least the screens are high-res and work nicely, even if in an unusual place. According to our calculations, the Audi e-tron tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 34
The e-tron comes highly equipped, as befitting a car starting at £71,520 (before grant). Fitted as standard are 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension LED headlights electric and heated front seats, 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, MMI Navigation Plus with MMI Touch with 10.1-inch and 8.6-inch screens, DAB radio, with Bluetooth, and USB connectivity, cruise control, lane departure warning, rear-view camera with all-round parking sensors, keyless go, wireless mobile phone charging, two-zone climate control, powered tailgate, and leather trim. Launch Edition specification upgrades the wheels to 21-inch alloys, 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise assist, Matrix LED headlights, Virtual Cockpit plus with two additional layouts - e-tron & sport, black styling pack, connected systems via myAudi app, electrically adjustable steering column, front sports seats, panoramic glass sunroof, and virtual door mirrors. Packs include the Comfort & Sound, Tour, and City Assist packs.
The Audi e-tron isn’t the most efficient EV around, nor does it offer the longest range, or the largest interior; but it is excellent nonetheless. The combination of good range, performance, and comfort will appeal to many, and the style, interior, and kit on offer are are some of the best around. As a first attempt at an EV, it’s a very accomplished effort, and will prove a popular choice despite a relatively high price tag.
Model tested:Audi e-tron 55 quattro
Engine / CO2: 265 kW (300 kW in boost) dual electric motors / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Standard, Launch Edition
On-road price: From £71,520 (exc. PiCG)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles - battery: eight years/ 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 Stars