The e-tron is Audi’s first all-electric production vehicle and it has certainly been well worth waiting for. With dynamic styling and all the on-board technology imaginable, this full-sized SUV boasts excellent handling ability along with impressive range limits.
The goodPerformance, styling, handling and range
The badPricey initial outlay even with Government grant
Audi e-tron – first drive (2019)
Being fashionably late is all the rage these days and Audi is perfect proof of that statement with the arrival of the all-new e-tron.
The premium German marque may be a little late arriving at the all-electric party, but with the launch of the e-tron it’s clear that some things in life are worth waiting for.
The full-sized SUV is Audi’s first fully electric production model and is sized somewhere between the Q5 and Q7 with space for five adults along with all their luggage.
Customers can select from two trim levels called e-tron and e-tron Launch Edition priced from £71,520 and £82,270 respectively (excluding the £3,500 Government plug-in grant). There was an Edition 1 version that was limited to just 30 cars for the UK but they were all snapped up within days of being announced.
There’s no denying the fact that the e-tron is a great looking car. It’s easily distinguishable from a ‘regular’ model, but it’s not so radical to scare away buyers. There is a unique e-tron grille, signature daytime running lights with four horizontal struts integrated into the LED headlights, LED Matrix lights, dynamic front and rear sweeping indicators, a panoramic sunroof, privacy glass and a choice of stunning 20 or 21-inch alloys with orange brake calipers available as an option to match the e-tron badges on the front wings.
Move inside and the interior is premium quality throughout. It oozes elegance and sophistication with soft touch surfaces, the finest leather upholstery and a wealth of on-board technology to explore. There are two high definition colour touchscreens with the upper one responsible for all the car’s infotainment, navigation, phone, audio, vehicle settings and much more. The lower screen is where all the climate control and seat heater controls are located.
Behind the steering wheel is Audi’s fully adaptable Virtual Cockpit which offers two supplementary e-tron and Sports layouts, and there is a head-up display for instant driving data and navigation directions at a glance without taking your eyes from the road ahead.
Powering the e-tron is a 95kWh battery which is mounted beneath the passenger compartment and that feeds two electric motors (one on each axle) to produce a maximum 408PS. This translates into a 0-62mph sprint time of 5.7 seconds and maximum speed limited to 124mph – not bad for a vehicle weighing just under 2.5 tonnes.
Range anxiety will be a thing of the past with the e-tron as it can cover 241 miles (WLTP) between charges and powering up the vehicle can be as rapid as 30 minutes for up to 80 per cent on a fast charger. Up to 11kW AC charging enables a full charge from empty in 8.9 hours. And for convenience, the e-tron has charging points positioned on both sides of the car.
When it comes to performance, the e-tron needs to be able to challenge the likes of Jaguar’s multi-award-winning i-PACE and it does exactly that. There are just two gears – forwards or reverse – that are selected via a quirky-looking lever. Funnily enough you push it forward to go backwards or backwards to go forwards!
As is the case with EVs, the acceleration is instant and can be as blistering as you want with the choice of seven drive modes to select from. And despite its larger-than-life dimensions, the e-tron is deceptively agile and great fun to drive with sharp reactions and excellent road holding thanks to Audi’s quattro AWD system. It can be pushed hard into long sweeping bends without any fear of body movement and the steering delivers superb driver feedback.
It’s a comfortable place to be too with the suspension system doing an excellent job of ironing out the rough road surfaces and the ride height can be adjusted by up to 76mm to suit driving conditions and terrain.
Pulling away in the e-tron can be quite eerie as the car is completely silent. And it remains that way until you pick up pace when a little road surface sound begins to filter through. However, we did notice quite substantial levels of wind noise at higher motorway speeds – this was easily rectified by turning on the excellent pitch perfect sound system.
There are steering wheel mounted paddles, but unlike conventional automatic models, these are nothing to do with gear changing. Instead, they allow the driver to control the level of battery regeneration when slowing down – it is possible to use these paddles to slow the vehicle at times rather than using the brakes, although we couldn’t get them to bring the vehicle to a complete standstill.
Apart from all the clever trickery, the e-tron is a full-sized SUV and needs to meet all the demands of a modern active family and, once again, it succeeds on all counts. There is ample space in the car for five adults to travel in comfort with oodles of leg, head and shoulder room. Even when fitted with a panoramic sunroof, the headroom was fine for passengers of the taller variety without spoiling their bouffant!
Storage options are also impressive with a boot, which is accessed via a powered tailgate, boasting a capacity that ranges from 660 to 1,725 litres with the 40:20:40 split folding rear seats dropped flat. There is an additional 60 litres of storage room beneath the bonnet making full use of the space vacated by an engine, along with a good-sized glovebox, covered central storage bin, a secret cubby near the driver’s right knee, door pockets, plus cup holders. Another clever feature is the upright slot for wireless charging with a small bar that folds across to hold the smartphone in position.
But, one feature that simply cannot be overlooked on the e-tron is the optional virtual door mirrors – the first ever seen on a full production vehicle. The conventional mirrors make way in the Launch Edition for distinctive slim camera-based units that transmit images of the view onto two OLED interior displays positioned in the corner of the doors near the outer ends of the dashboard. They can be adjusted similarly to standard door mirrors, but certainly take some getting used to.
We tested a car fitted with these virtual mirrors on a 10-mile stretch of motorway that meant lots of switching between lanes and while it all worked well enough it’s not something you take to immediately. The edge of the screen lights up in an amber colour similarly to blind spot detection to warn when a vehicle is passing, or green when the lane is clear to pull into. Without a doubt, it’s clever technology, but only time will tell whether or not it catches on with the masses.
All in all, factor in the comprehensive array of safety features and the e-tron is a spectacular launch model for Audi in the EV sector. And it’s just a sign of things to come as Audi claims it is the standard bearer for a major expansion of BEV and PHEV vehicles that will see in excess of 20 electrified models joining the range by 2025.