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2019 Audi e-tron Review

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 2019 Audi e-tron Review

We recently had a chance to test out Audi’s first-ever electric SUV. Although we didn’t have a lot of time to do a thorough review, we did learn quite a lot. Here is what we thought about it.

What is the Audi e-tron about?

It’s Audi’s inaugural electric SUV, yet it could very well be a Tesla Model X killer. For starters, there’s the way it looks. Audi hasn’t made any radical changes to the exterior of the e-tron, instead opting to keep a slightly more conservative approach in terms of design. As a consequence, we end up with an SUV that’s actually rather handsome. It looks just like a conventional Audi, which is a great thing because Audi is in a design sweet spot at the moment.

The e-tron is a luxury SUV, it slots right between the Q5 and the Q7 in terms of size but is actually much closer to the Q8 in terms of the intended purpose. You can think of it as an EV alternative to the Q8 perhaps. To distinguish it from its internal-combustion engine powered siblings, Audi tweaked the styling to closely resemble that of the Q8. You’ll immediately spot the lack of a massive grille up front for instance. There’s still a large opening but it doesn’t extend all the way to the lower portion of the bumper. Since there’s no engine underneath the bonnet, the e-tron makes do with almost no front air openings.

Then there’s the styling of the front headlights. They’ve sharpened the inside edges and added an extension to the outside portion near the quarter panel. The end result is a slightly more aggressive front end compared to the Q7, but a bit softer than the Q8. The rear follows a similar story. They’ve taken cues from the Q8 so there’s a large horizontal strip of light connecting both taillights. Unlike the Q8 though, there are no exhaust openings at the bottom of the bumper, so they emulated that with some horizontal inserts. It’s wonderfully executed, it has to be said.

There are two electric motors powering the e-tron, one on each axle. The rear motor is slightly more powerful than the front, resulting in a total output of 402 bhp and 664 Nm of torque. The floor between both motors hides a 95kwh battery pack weighing 700 kilograms. The e-tron weighs 2,560 kilograms in total, some 400 kgs more than the Q8. Despite all of that, it’s still what you’d call exceptionally quick for an SUV. The sprint to 62 mph takes just 5.7 seconds thanks to a 40:60 torque split between axles, and top speed is limited to 124 mph.

How does it drive?

The first thing you notice about the e-tron, especially if you’ve never driven an EV before, is just how quiet it is. A Tesla Model X has good NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness), but the e-tron takes that to a whole new level. It’s so refined and smooth it makes the driving experience eerily spooky at times. As far as actual performance goes, it’s a big step up from the current crop of diesel SUVs.

Despite the fact that it’s a second slower to 62 mph than the I-Pace, it feels plenty rapid on the road. The thing about EVs that no one tells you is the immediacy of the powertrain. There are no gearboxes and no crankshafts the power has to travel through to reach the wheels. It feels instantaneous. Above motorway speeds it’s a little less accelerative, though we doubt that will be an issue for many people. The fact that it can still do 124 mph says it all really.

As with most EVs, the e-tron might struggle to match the claimed driving range. Audi says it will do 241 miles before needing a recharge, but as we know that will vary on how you drive it. If you drive sensibly I’m sure you can get somewhere around 200 miles from a single charge, and maybe if you are gentle you might get all the way up to around 240 miles.

Charging the e-tron is relatively straightforward though. A 150 kW DC fast-charger can charge the battery to 80% in 30 minutes but a standard 11 kW home charger will take 8.5 hours to fully charge the battery. If you have a 22 kW charger (which is optional) you’ll be able to halve that time to around 4 hours. Not bad at all then.

What is it like inside?

Here’s where the e-tron pulls a blinder on the Model X and even cars like the I-Pace. Audi does some of the best interiors anywhere on the planet, and the e-tron is no exception to that rule. Words can’t describe how plush and soft the cabin is. The materials are superb, there’s not a single cheap plastic anywhere in sight. The design of the dashboard is amazing too.

The 10.1-inch central infotainment screen is a joy to use. It’s crystal clear and the colours are very vibrant. There’s a secondary 8.6-inch touchscreen below the main one to control all of the vehicle’s onboard features like A/C and seat heaters. The instrument cluster is fully digital as well.

Our test car came fitted with the optional virtual door mirrors, which did take some getting used to. After just a few hours you adapt to the experience and you start looking at the little displays in the doors rather than the actual wing mirrors themselves, which are now cameras.

Elsewhere you’ll find the e-tron offers plenty of space in both rows. The wide boot stows 605 litres and that figure extends to 1,755 litres if you fold the rear seats down. The 180W 10-speaker audio system sounds great, but true audiophiles will appreciate the amazing 705W 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System, if you want to go a step further.

The experience

Getting used to the e-tron takes less than a day, or mere hours if you don’t opt for the virtual mirrors. The reason I like it so much is because of how conventional it is. Audi didn’t try to radically alter anything more than they had to. It feels like an Audi, from the way the cabin is bolted together to the way it behaves on the road. It feels planted and secure, and is devastatingly fast in a straight line for what it is.

You do notice how bulky it is in the corners when all of that weight becomes immediately apparent, but it’s an SUV, so you’re never going to be driving it at more than six tenths.

2019 Audi e-tron Cost

As tested our car came in at £82,615, which is a lot, but it’s actually a bargain when you consider a similarly-powerful Model X costs £90,000 before you add any options. Take away optional extras from the e-tron and it can cost you as little as £70,000, but add optional extras to the Model X or opt for the 100 kWh model and you’re looking at well over £120,000.

Verdict

It’s heads and shoulders above any of its rivals in terms of refinement and luxury. A Model X feels sparse and empty in comparison. The I-Pace is still the one to go for if you want a sporty looking EV SUV, but the e-tron feels the most car-like of the three without a question. The relatively short range might play on peoples minds, but I wouldn’t discount the car for that.

Specification

2019 Audi e-tron Specs

  • Price: £82,615
  • Engine: two electric motors powered by a 95 kWh battery pack
  • Power: 420bhp
  • Torque: 664 Nm
  • Transmission: 1 gear
  • 0-62mph:  5.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 124 mph
  • Weight: 2,560kg
  • Economy combined:  241 miles per charge
  • CO2: 0 g/km

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