Audi e-tron SUV review
"Audi's first production electric car impresses with its acceleration, comfort and practicality"
- High-tech interior
- Impressive refinement
- Fast-charging support
- Feels cumbersome
- Only one battery option
- Some EVs have a longer range
As its first all-electric production model, the Audi e-tron represents something of a landmark for the German brand. It joined an increasingly competitive electric SUV market pioneered by the Tesla Model X, which also contains the impressive Jaguar I-Pace and the Mercedes EQC, so the e-tron needs to stand out.
In some ways, standing out isn't an e-tron speciality. To look at, the electric Audi seems closely related to its conventionally powered Audi Q5 and bigger Audi Q7 SUV stablemates, with a similarly expressive 'singleframe' front grille and a full-width LED lighting bar at the back that salutes the luxurious Audi A7. And, although very nearly as big as the Q7, the e-tron doesn't look enormous on the road.
At launch, the e-tron was offered only in regular SUV form but for buyers who want an extra dose of style, Audi also offers a sleeker coupe-style Sportback version that we’ve reviewed separately. The additional space offered by the SUV version will be welcomed by families – it might not offer the seven seats that some conventional SUVs of this size can but there's plenty of room inside for five adults and a pretty generous boot. Those less concerned by the practicalities of family life, meanwhile, might prefer to concentrate on the e-tron's superb interior design, which borrows heavily from the flagship Audi A8 saloon.
In e-tron 55 spec, this large SUV isn’t short on pace, either, with 0-62mph passing in under six seconds, thanks to a 'boost' function that allows its 355bhp twin electric motor setup to produce 402bhp in short eight second bursts. However, despite carefully managed weight distribution, a wealth of driving modes and a clever air suspension system with adaptive damping, the e-tron isn't a particularly rewarding machine to hussle along a challenging back road. For those who want a lower price tag and are happy with slightly less performance and range, the 308bhp e-tron 50 is still impressive; it manages 0-62mph in under seven seconds.
The e-tron S is capable of genuine knock-you-back-in-your-seat acceleration. This range-topping model has three electric motors, boosting power to 496bhp for 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds. It also features a variety of mechanical upgrades, including a more sophisticated version of the quattro all-wheel drive system, which can send more power to the rear wheels at the touch of a button.
Although the novelty of the rapid acceleration may quickly wear off, in e-tron 55 guise, the car’s 270-mile plus range figure is a far more practical virtue that could allow it to fit neatly into the daily routines of all but the most long-distance commuters. Equally, the entry e-tron 50 and flagship e-tron S models are still very capable, offering around 190 to 230 miles of range respectively. What's more, every e-tron is compatible with 150kW fast chargers, which will undoubtedly prove useful as the UK's charging infrastructure continues to evolve. Find a charger that can match these speeds and a top up to 80% takes a little over half an hour.
The e-tron’s range figures come courtesy of a 71kWh battery in the 50 model, with the 55 and S powered by a larger 95kWh version. Initially, the e-tron was available in Launch Edition and Launch Edition 1 specifications but these have now been discontinued. The e-tron lineup now resembles Audi’s standard trim range, with a choice of five: Technik, Sport, S line, Black Edition and the range-topping Vorsprung. Whichever model you opt for, you’ll get an e-tron with front and rear LED lights, 20-inch alloy wheels, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital dial cluster and electrically adjustable, heated leather seats. Usefully, there's a charging port on both sides of the car, a feature that makes using public chargers a bit easier thanks to the extra accessibility.
While the Audi e-tron's range is surpassed by that of lighter, less expensive rivals – such as the Kia e-Niro, Kia EV6, Hyundai Kona Electric and Hyundai Ioniq 5, as well as VW Group electric models like the Volkswagen ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq iV – it's a very impressive all-rounder. Its approachable, familiar nature will doubtless appeal to Audi fans who are looking to make the switch to zero-emissions electric motoring. It's a capable alternative to the I-Pace that offers Audi's classy blend of technology and style in place of the Jaguar's more sporty nature, and many families will find it slots seamlessly into their daily routine.