Audi’s first all-electric production car certainly hits the spot. Although its true abilities are restricted by the UK’s limited 50kW charging network, as this infrastructure improves the SUV’s appeal will grow. It’s quiet, comfortable and beautifully built, while also coming laden with all the latest tech and semi-autonomous drive features.
It’s practical, too, with loads of space for the family and all their luggage. If you like the idea of a premium electric SUV and you can live with the available charging options, the Audi e-tron should be very near the top of your shortlist.
The e-tron is Audi’s very first all-electric production car, and follows a whole two years after the first Tesla Model X arrived in the UK. But the extra time has been well spent by the Germans, and the Audi beats its rival in almost every way; comfort, refinement and build quality are fantastic, while the near-250-mile range and quick charge options could make this SUV a genuine contender for even the biggest EV sceptics.
There’s just one bodystyle and one battery option to choose from for the time being but an e-tron GT(saloon) and e-tron Sportback (coupe-style SUV) will join the range in the future.
The five-seat Audi e-tron SUV gets a 95kWh battery as standard, but is available in three trims: standard, Launch Edition and Launch Edition 1 – though the latter is limited to just 30 units in the UK. All versions get LED lights, 20-inch wheels, electrically-adjustable heated leather seats and two charge ports; one on either side of the car.
All models use a two-motor set-up with one motor on each axle. Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system is standard, as is the firm’s adaptive air suspension. Being an EV, the car gets a single-speed automatic transmission and features some of Audi’s latest semi-autonomous driving technologies. Audi says the e-tron is designed to receive Tesla-style ‘over the air’ updates, although this functionality won’t be available until sometime after the car’s launch.
As well as the Tesla Model X, the Audi e-tron rivals models like the excellent Jaguar I-Pace, which was awarded Auto Express 2018 New Car of the Year. The e-tron sits proud as Audi’s only electric car for the time being, slotting in between the Q5 and Q7 in terms of size and interior space. Its styling is fairly conservative, yet is easily recognisable as an Audi SUV.
On first impressions, the Jag will have its work cut out to beat the e-tron when we test the two back-to-back in the UK in spring 2019 – although we’ll reserve final judgement until that duel has taken place. The Audi’s excellent comfort, tech-filled interior and class-leading refinement could mean the Jag’s reign at the top is somewhat short lived.
Engines, performance and drive
3.8While not as fast as a Tesla Model X, the e-tron offers more than enough power and performance for most buyers
Electric cars are famed for their instant acceleration and scintillating straight-line performance – and with 664Nm of torque, the Audi e-tron is no different. While it may not be as fast as a Tesla Model X from a standstill, the e-tron will still offer plenty of shove and more than enough punch for most motorists.
The instant torque and quattro all-wheel drive system mean the e-tron launches effortlessly time after time. It makes light work of quick overtakes, and can nip into gaps in traffic that diesel rivals might miss.
On the open road the Audi impresses with incredible refinement, too. Granted, our experiences on the pan-flat smooth roads of Abu Dhabi aren’t all that representative of what UK buyers might feel, but the complete lack of tyre noise should at least ensure it proves a quiet motorway car back in Britain. At 70mph there’s little in the way of wind whistle, either.
It’s comfortable, too, thanks in part to the standard air suspension system, which can cycle through various settings and levels of suppleness. Again, we’ll have to try the set-up in the UK to deliver a definitive verdict, but even on 21-inch wheels it seemed more than capable of soaking up lumps and bumps – both on and off-road in the United Arab Emirates.
However, the e-tron is a heavy car and struggles to disguise its bulk on twistier roads. At almost 2.5 tonnes, it is more than 350kg heavier than the Jaguar I-Pace, and even weighs more than a Tesla Model X. This harms its agility and can make it feel quite cumbersome through tighter bends. Grip is good thanks to the quattro system, but this isn’t a car you’ll particularly relish hustling along your favourite B-road; an I-Pace is more accomplished in this regard.
But accept the e-tron isn’t a sports car and you’ll find the driving experience can satisfy in plenty of other ways. The regenerative braking system is particularly intuitive to use, and while it isn’t as aggressive as the set-up you’ll find in a BMW i3 or Nissan Leaf, it can sufficiently slow the car on approach to junctions or roundabouts. Unusually, the system also works when you depress the pedal; only reverting to the mechanical brakes under particularly heavy loads.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
Whichever way you look at it, the Audi e-tron is a quick car. The 0-62mph sprint takes 5.7 seconds, while the top speed is electronically limited to 124mph in an effort to preserve a usable all-electric range.
While that may not be as fast as a Jaguar I-Pace (0-62mph in 4.8 seconds) or a Tesla Model X 75D (0-62mph in 5.2 seconds) it still offers all the torque, power and performance you expect from an electric car. It certainly isn’t slow, that’s for sure.
Response from the two electric motors is instant, while Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system keeps things in order – and the e-tron pointing in the right direction. Of course, being an EV means there’s little in the way of ‘engine’ noise; there’s just a muted whine from the motors. Refinement is excellent, too.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
3.8The Audi e-tron can charge faster than any EV on sale, but the infrastructure isn’t available in the UK just yet
As an electric car, how much the e-tron costs to run will depend on where and when you charge it. Despite being capable of charging via a 150kW fast-charge point, no such stations currently exist in the UK. It’s not yet clear whether Audi’s plan to offer easy access (using a single account/card) to 70,000 Europe-wide charge points will be available to British customers.
That means you’ll be forced to charge at a maximum of 50kW for the time being, which should top the car up to 80 per cent full (total range stands at a WLTP-tested 249 miles) in less than 90 minutes. Of course, you can recharge the car overnight using a domestic three-pin socket or a quicker home wallbox. No times have been given for this kind of charging.
Being an electric car, the e-tron is exempt from road tax (VED) and escapes the London Congestion Charge, too.
Electric range, battery life and charge time
The Audi e-tron can’t match the Jaguar I-Pace’s 292-mile (WLTP) range but counters with super-quick 150kW charging. However, while that would allow you to add 80 per cent of the e-tron’s near-250-mile range in less than 40 minutes, the infrastructure isn’t currently available in the UK. So, like the I-Pace, you’ll be forced to charge at a slower rate, hampering the car’s feasibility for longer journeys.
Further to this, our only experience – in the scorching heat of Abu Dhabi, granted – showed the range to plummet faster than Audi suggests. In just 30 minutes we did a little over 50km (31 miles) but lost over 100km (62 miles) of range. But with the air-con on full blast and a higher motorway speed limit (140kmh), this was a particularly tough test for Audi’s first EV.
You needn’t worry about battery degradation, though; Audi offers an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on all models. That matches the Jaguar I-Pace’s guarantee, and comes in addition to the e-tron’s standard three-year manufacturer warranty. There is currently no option to rent or lease the battery pack, with the cost included in the car’s £70,000 list price.