Thursday 13th December 2018
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First drive: Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi e-tron quattro
The Audi e-tron majors on quality and mass appeal, even if it isnít the EV range champion.

 



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Audi e-tron quattro

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The arrival of the new Audi e-tron EV signals the start of a wave of new electric SUVs from the established premium brands, targeting rivals such as the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi e-tron 55 quattro
Pricing: from £71,490; £89,490 as tested (both excluding OLEV grant)
Engine: two asynchronous electric motors
Transmission: single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Driving range: 248.5 miles (WLTP)
Top speed: 124mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds (with boost function)
Power: 408hp
Torque: 664Nm
Boot space: 605-1,755 litres

What's this?

You're looking at the first all-electric Audi production car. It's called the e-tron and it's a five-seat SUV that is a bespoke design but remains more conventional in appearance than some electric vehicles. Measuring in at just under five metres long, it slots into the space between Audi's Q5 and Q7. Nonetheless, space inside is generous due to the lack of the usual mechanical hardware of all-wheel-drive SUVs.

An electrically operated tailgate opens to reveal a 605-litre boot, and you can fold the rear seats down to create a cargo capacity of 1,755 litres. A smaller storage area under the bonnet up from accommodates the charging cables and other small items. Rear passenger space is helped by a long wheelbase and headroom isn't bad either. Up front you get a 12.3-inch digital instrument screen as standard with the option of a large colour head-up display. The centre console comprises of 10.1- and 8.6-inch touchscreen displays for the infotainment and climate control systems respectively.

The interior is what we've come to expect from Audi, exhibiting excellent quality in terms of finish while also featuring some of the latest in-car technology. One of the big talking points is the use of what Audi calls Virtual Mirrors. This camera-based system replaces the traditional door mirrors and displays what they see on two OLED touch screens in the top corner of each of the front doors. Looking like something straight from a motor show concept car, we've only experienced these previously in the super-limited Volkswagen XL1, though more recently McLaren's Speedtail was revealed featuring the same idea - and Lexus is also planning to use them in the near future. We did find them tricky to get used to, especially on the driver's side, where you have to look lower down to see the display, but we suspect they will soon become second nature for owners. As standard the e-tron does come with conventional door mirrors, which fold electrically. Aside from the sheer coolness of them, Audi's use of the camera-based mirrors mean they can be much smaller, thus reducing aerodynamic drag and adding to the car's range.

Speaking of which, Audi claims that the 95kWh lithium-ion battery is good for a driving range of 248.5 miles under the latest WLTP testing. That's still down more than 40 miles on the Jaguar I-Pace, which only has a 90kWh battery. Crucially it is a thermally managed battery in the Audi, which is one of the reasons why it can support high-speed charging at up to 150kW where such charging stations exist. The IONITY network, which is currently being rolled out across Europe's motorway network, can do this.

How does it drive?

One of the main goals for Audi's engineers was to make the e-tron as refined as possible, and in our opinions, they've nailed the brief. The e-tron's slippery body shape, and the use of those clever virtual mirrors, means that it cuts through the air more cleanly, thus more quietly.

The acceleration of the e-tron isn't as blisteringly fast as you may expect, especially if you've experienced what a Tesla can do in Ludicrous Mode. You can select a boost mode when the Audi e-tron is set to Sport in its Dynamic driving mode, and this propels the car from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. It is in this mode that all 408hp is available, though only for periods of eight seconds at a time.

Normally, you get 360hp, so the dash to 62mph takes about a second longer. Audi's reasoning for doing this is to preserve the lifespan of the components and driving range and, if we're honest, most owners are unlikely to be doing full-on race starts at every set of traffic lights. You still get a hefty surge of forward momentum when you accelerate and the fact that it does it so effortlessly adds to the driving experience. Even roll-on power at higher speeds is instantaneous, making quick overtakes a cinch.

The ride quality on the standard adaptive air suspension is pretty good, though we did mostly only experience driving on very smooth surfaces. In the sportier Dynamic mode, the suspension firms up, which has the expected effect. Even so, the cabin is very well insulated from harsher bumps. There isn't much noticeable body roll during harder cornering and the all-wheel drive shuffles power around without any apparent intervention from the traction control in the same way you might experience with a combustion engined powertrain.

Away from the fast stuff, it's in the everyday driving scenarios where the e-tron delivers its most impressive performance, namely in its energy recuperation. As with most EVs, there are three stages, starting with a coasting or sail mode, so when you lift off the throttle the car freewheels with little resistance from the powertrain. Pull on the left paddle and you get the first of two stages of energy recovery. The second is strong enough to allow for one-pedal driving for most of the time.

During braking, up to the first 0.3G of deceleration is carried out by the (larger) rear electric motor. Beyond that the hydraulic brakes are applied, but in all cases, you don't get any change in sensation of feel through the brake pedal, which is good. The car's navigation system and adaptive cruise control also constantly monitor your surrounds and route and can automatically begin to slow the car down, for example when approaching a roundabout and in doing so, more energy is recovered back to the battery. The way that it does this so subtly demonstrates some smart thinking from Audi's boffins.

Verdict

The e-tron might not be the sportiest or most engaging driver's car, but then it isn't professing to be either. Whereas some of its rivals have tried hard to push the boundaries, we can't help but feel that Audi has set out to do just enough, rather than try to set a new standard. What it does extremely well is allow you to float along isolated from the world while delivering a driving experience that promotes many of the positive aspects of living with an electric car. We love that it has a normal design, but equally appreciate the innovative parts such as the virtual mirrors.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

3 3 3 3 3 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Dave Humphreys - 5 Dec 2018









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2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.

2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.2019 Audi e-tron quattro. Image by Audi.








 

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