2.9.2021Audi e-tron S Sportback quattro review
Audi’s e-tron line-up is one of the most extensive in the EV market. There’s the e-tron SUV with two different battery sizes, plus the Sportback coupe-SUV, also with two battery options. Then there’s also a performance S model with more power, adding another two choices to the mix. This model is technically the flagship of the e-tron range - the e-tron S Sportback; sleeker, sportier, more e-tron-ier.
Review by Chris Lilly
AUDI E-TRON S SPORTBACK: PERFORMANCE
Peak power is up from the standard model, with the Audi e-tron S Sportback quattro boasting up to 370 kW (503 hp) in over-boost - and 320 kW in ‘normal’. It’s all down to the addition of a third electric motor - because two motors is simply not enough. This means the 0-62mph sprint can be completed in just 4.5 seconds, and a top speed of 130 mph is theoretically possible. Compared to the e-tron Sportback 55 quattro, the S model is faster in the sprint by more than a second, thanks to an additional 70 kW - almost 100 hp - so the boost in performance is pretty significant.
To drive, the added power is certainly noticeable - it would take quite a lot to ignore an additional 100 horses after all. However, the e-tron S also feels like it’s not stupidly-quick. This is no criticism, and in fact the e-tron S Sportback feels faster than you might need in just about every circumstance. However, there are EVs out there with neck-snapping acceleration, and the e-tron S only almost gets there. Essentially, I believe it’s a deliberate move to open up the potential for a full-bore RS model in future.
It’s so accessible, as you might expect from an electric Audi, and the e-tron S Sportback is easy to drive quickly, slowly . . . just about any how you like. Useable in town, comfortable in its own skin on the motorway, there’s no doubting that a twisty country road is where the e-tron S Sportback shines best. It’s the combination of rapid acceleration and chance to maximise the strong brake energy recuperation that shows the Audi in its best light.
Like the standard e-tron range, you can feel the e-tron S Sportback’s weight when cornering. However, this isn’t simply a case of sticking an ’S’ badge about the place; Audi has made changes under the skin. Chassis tweaks have been made to sharpen things up, and the air suspension has new settings to improve stiffness, reduce body height, and better the e-tron S Sportback’s responsiveness.
All this combines to significantly improve the e-tron’s agility, with the Audi able to push most of the power to the rear wheels when driving enthusiastically, offering a significantly better driving experience than most large EVs - barring Porsche and Jaguar. It’s a large car, but not too unwieldy at slower speeds, and the e-tron S Sportback can cope with daily life easily. It’s settled and refined on faster roads, and even does a decent job in the supermarket car park.
The S models have been given a bit of Audi Sport-is treatment, with a little more aggression to the styling, some slightly beefier wheel arches, that sort of thing. It works well in my opinion, and received almost entirely positive feedback from friends and family that saw the car when it was in my care - I thought there would be a greater split in opinions, but what do I know.
It’s stylish, a bit moody in the grey paint of the test car, and is one of the better examples of Audi’s SUV design at the moment, helped by the Sportback coupe-like styling I’m sure. The Sportback loses a little of the standard SUV’s practicality, but not a lot in reality. You can’t pack as much in above the window-line, but that’s about all that’s different. There remains the front storage compartment under the bonnet, which is a great size for charging cables.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
There’s practically nothing about the S’s cabin that’s different compared to other e-tron models - Sportback or otherwise. But since it’s such a good one anyway, there are no complaints here. The dual touchscreen has haptic feedback and works as nicely as anything on the market, and the driver gets a customisable instrument cluster too. The drive selector remains a trigger type, rocking back and forth to pick direction. Sport mode is obviously more important in this model than in others however.
The rest of the cabin is spacious, comfortable, and well equipped, with the e-tron one of the more practical models in its class. There is plenty of leg space in the rear, though not quite the same feeling of spaciousness in terms of head height compared to the standard SUV. It’s more than good enough for an adult to sit in the back, so little real practicality is lost.
AUDI E-TRON S SPORTBACK: MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Using the same 95 kWh battery as found in the e-tron 55 quattro models, the e-tron S Sportback achieves a range of up to 223 miles on a charge. This is a drop of around 20 miles or so compared to the non-S model, which some will feel worth the added performance and driving appeal - others will not.
In real terms, the e-tron S Sportback was achieving a very close range to that official figure. Over more than 300 miles in the car, and driving enthusiastically at times to fully test the S changes, I averaged more than 220 miles on a charge. With more sedate driving including a mix of stints on dual carriageway, country roads, and driving in town, the e-tron S Sportback was returning a calculated range of more than 230 miles - my calculations rather than the car’s predicted range. It’s pretty accurate in terms of range at least, though far from the most efficient EV on the market. For example, I had a Renault Zoe van on test at the same time for a bit, which achieves a longer range with a battery almost half the capacity.
Familiar features for EVs are available in the e-tron range, including the S and Sportback models. Brake energy recuperation is a particular strength for Audi as the e-tron line-up can recover a large amount of energy compared to some other EVs. Selectable brake energy recuperation is available by using the steering-wheel mounted paddles, and works well on the whole, with strong levels available when required, or coasting at other times. There’s also an automatic mode which will try and determine what level of regen you need at that time.
Charging can be carried out at up to 150 kW DC on ultra-rapid points, allowing for a charge to 80% in half an hour. AC charging is possible at up to 11 kW as standard, with the option of a 22 kW on-board charger. Pre-conditioning, charge timings, charge check and a host of other features are available via an app.
The Audi e-tron S Sportback quattro range comes fitted with 21inch alloys, LED matrix headlights, S styling, sports seats, leather upholstery, sports multi-function steering wheel, LED interior lighting pack, air conditioning, powered tailgate, keyless start, virtual cockpit, dual touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and smartphone connectivity, and parking sensors front and rear.
There’s a Vorsprung trim available as well, adding 22-inch alloys, digital matrix headlights, gloss black styling details, heated steering wheel, Bang & Olufsen audio system, Tour pack including adaptive cruise control, and additional safety kit.
AUDI E-TRON S SPORTBACK: MODEL SUMMARY
The S model in the e-tron line-up is not going to appeal to everyone. However, it certainly justifies its place in the portfolio, offering a characterful driving experience, pace, a decent driving range, and an excellent cabin. If efficiency is paramount, it’s best to leave the e-tron S Sportback alone. But if you’re looking for a practical but engaging SUV, it’s certainly worth a look.
Model tested: Audi e-tron S Sportback quattro
Engine / CO2: 370 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: e-tron S Sportback & Vorsprung
On-road price: e-tron S Sportback range from £87,750.
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars