Audi e-tron Sportback SUV
"The striking Audi e-tron Sportback is an upmarket electric SUV with a range of up to 278 miles"
- Quality interior
- Rapid charging speeds
- Less space than standard e-tron
- Weight limits driver appeal
The Audi e-tron Sportback is a coupe-like version of the brand’s all-electric SUV. Its sloping rear windscreen makes it a little more striking, bringing it closer in style to the Jaguar I-Pace. It remains a big car, however, measuring almost five metres from nose to tail.
From the front doors forward, it's identical to the standard e-tron, with razor-sharp LED headlights and an eight-sided grille with shutters that can open and close as you drive. There are huge plastic-clad wheel arches to give the Sportback its SUV style, but at the rear the roofline is far lower and there’s a small lip spoiler and highly pronounced rear haunches, giving the e-tron a planted stance.
Of course, this has an impact on practicality, with two centimetres of back seat headroom and 45 litres of boot space sacrificed. Luckily the standard e-tron is a large car because even after the compromises, the Sportback still has enough room for tall adults, a 615-litre boot and 1,655 litres of space when the rear seats are folded flat. That's still plenty of room for families looking for an EV.
In standard form, there are two versions of the e-tron Sportback, badged 50 quattro and 55 quattro, and both versions are now available in the UK. The entry-level version gets a 71kWh battery pack and 308bhp. The 55 quattro has a bigger 95kWh battery, boosting its range to just under 260 miles, along with a power increase to 402bhp. This version is no slouch, getting from 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds, although frequent bursts of acceleration will see the range reduce significantly.
For those wanting more performance, the flagship e-tron S Sportback gets a 95kWh battery and a stonking 496bhp power output. This setup makes it the quickest in the range, managing 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. All of this performance does impact the cars range though, as despite sharing the larger battery with the 55 quattro model, the ‘S’ model can only manage up to 224 miles between charges.
The e-tron isn't cheap but even the entry-level Technik version gets features including LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and the Virtual Cockpit. There's also Sport, S line and Black Edition trims, with S line and above getting air suspension, Matrix LED headlights and 21-inch alloys. The top Vorsprung trim level adds 22-inch alloys, digital matrix lights with driver-configurable settings, sportier seats and a Bang & Olufsen sound system – this trim is only available on the more powerful 55 quattro and e-tron S Sportback models. Every ‘S’ Sportback model gets a new front bumper with larger air intakes, a prominent rear diffuser, widened bodywork and red ‘S’ badging.
The Sportback takes all the best attributes of the standard Audi e-tron and offers buyers a sportier look. It boasts the same high quality interior, refined driving experience and technology, but has a price tag to match.
Range, charging & running costs
Buyers of the standard e-tron Sportback can choose between the '50' and '55' models, which come with a 71kWh and 95kWh battery pack respectively. The higher capacity means the Audi has an official electric range of up to 259 miles, dropping to 232 miles for the flagship Vorsprung trim with larger wheels. In our testing, we've found it's unlikely you'll get this figure unless conditions are perfect, with 200 miles more realistic in the 55 with normal driving.
Unlike a petrol or diesel SUV, the car's range can go up slightly in stop-start traffic because lower speeds draw less current from the batteries and decelerating frequently puts more energy back into them. The e-tron Sportback has some clever tricks at higher speeds, too, hunkering down on its suspension to improve aerodynamics. However, there’s no getting away from the fact it also weighs around 2,500kg.
Picking the flagship e-tron S Sportback model gets you the same 95kWh battery as the ‘55’ model. The increased power available from the three electric motors means range is reduced to 224 miles. Drive it with any real enthusiasm - as most owners are likely to do - and the real-world figure falls to under 200 miles. Compare this to the Tesla Model X, which can manage over 300 miles, and the range offered by the e-tron S Sportback is a little disappointing.
Audi has also made several updates to its electric powertrain for the Sportback, including the ability for the front motor to stop working while cruising to help save energy. VED (road tax) is free, thanks to the e-tron’s zero emissions, and company-car drivers will pay no Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax in 2020/21. It’s also exempt from the London Congestion Charge and low-emission zones. However, it’s important to note insurance won’t come cheap, with the Audi sitting in the same band as Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Every version of the e-tron Sportback can be charged using a potent 150kW public charger and it can go from 10-80% in just 30 minutes, but you may have trouble finding one. As of late 2021, there are less than 4,000 rapid chargers in the UK out of almost 28,000 charging posts, but the network is being expanded and upgraded. Every e-tron has 22 litres of coolant to keep the battery pack cool enough to maintain higher charging speeds.
Electric motor, drive & performance
Both the ‘50 and ‘55’ versions of the e-tron have two electric motors powering the front and rear axles independently, creating a new version of Audi's quattro four-wheel drive that ensures grip and traction are excellent.
The entry-level ‘50’ model produces 308bhp and manages 0-62mph in seven seconds with a top speed of 118mph. The 402bhp ‘55’ model delivers all of its power with no drama, and virtually no sound, isolating occupants from the outside world while sprinting from 0-62mph in as little as 5.7 seconds depending on which drive mode you choose. This effect seems even more dramatic in the Sportback, which is one of the quietest cars we've driven.
Despite weighing around 2.4 tonnes, the 55 version of the e-tron Sportback also stays impressively controlled through fast, sweeping corners. Its steering is consistent and feels naturally weighted, while no less than seven driving modes range from Eco to Dynamic to adjust the driving experience. However, the e-tron Sportback feels big on anything less than a motorway, and there’s no disguising its weight. It’s a very relaxing car to drive, but not exactly fun or engaging.
The e-tron S Sportback gets a substantial upgrade over the standard e-tron, with three electric motors. The rear axle features two motors, one powering each wheel, while a single motor on the front axle powers the front wheels. It’s the first mass production electric car to feature a triple-motor powertrain, giving it a formidable 496bhp.
Plant the throttle, and the ‘S' manages 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds. Drivers will be able to repeat a fast standing start up to 10 times in a row before the battery and motors begin to overheat. Top speed is electronically limited to 130mph.
When driven in normal mode, power is sent to the rear wheels. Selecting S mode sends power to all four wheels, with the clever torque vectoring system distributing power between each of the rear wheels helping to maximise grip and performance. As well as improving cornering, the system allows the driver to produce tyre smoking drifts on a track when dynamic mode is selected by splitting power across the rear axle.
Every ‘S’ spec car has revised suspension with stiffer dampers and tweaked axle hubs. The steering is quicker too and the brakes have been adapted for the car’s unique torque vectoring system and triple-motor powertrain. All of these improvements help the flagship model disguise its considerable size and weight better than the standard e-tron, with improved traction, handling and body control.
Interior & comfort
Audi has a reputation for building some of the best interiors, and the e-tron Sportback is no exception. There aren't any annoying squeaks or rattles, and every surface looks and feels expensive and precisely crafted, while there’s technology in abundance.
Not everything is perfect, though, including the video camera door mirrors. These are designed to reduce wind resistance, increasing range ever so slightly. Unfortunately, we found the OLED screens mounted at either side of the dashboard are rather jarring, and we never really got used to looking at them to see traffic.
A pair of touchscreens provide access to the car’s infotainment and climate control, while the driver gets a Virtual Cockpit instrument screen which is one of the best available. Using the steering wheel controls, it’s possible to switch effortlessly between navigation and information displays.
Every e-tron Sportback comes loaded with kit – it starts from more than £60,000 after all. This includes LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control with remote preconditioning. There's also Audi's Virtual Cockpit instrument display, along with MMI Navigation Plus. Sport trim adds a different design of alloy wheels, a central armrest and sports seats trimmed in Valcona leather upholstery.
Matrix LED headlights, which automatically adjust for oncoming traffic, 21-inch alloy wheels and sports air suspension are fitted if you step up to S line trim. Black Edition includes gloss black instead of chrome trim, there's a sports three-spoke steering wheel and grey alloy wheels. The range-topping Vorsprung offered on 55 quattro and e-tron S Sportback models has a model-specific five-spoke 22-inch wheel design, Digital Matrix headlights, ‘super sports’ seats and a Bang & Olufsen stereo system.
Opt for the ‘S’ model and prices start from close to £90,000. The flagship performance model gets tweaked styling, with a sporter looking front bumper featuring larger air intakes. At the back the rear bumper has undergone the same treatment with a deeper rear diffuser and wider wheel arches housing unique 21-inch alloy wheels. Inside, leather-trimmed sports seats are standard, along with brushed aluminium interior accents and ambient interior lighting.
Practicality & boot space
Those sporty looks don't quite come penalty-free, cutting rear headroom by around two centimetres. Luckily the e-tron already had quite a lot, so even with less room, most passengers should still have plenty of room in the back seats. Anyone approaching 6ft may notice their hair starting to brush the roof lining, however.
The boot has shrunk from the e-tron's 660 litres to 615 litres, which, again, is a size that should still be perfectly adequate for most buyers. The Jaguar I-Pace is bigger, though, with 656 litres of luggage room. Folding down the e-tron Sportback's rear seats liberates 1,655 litres of space, down slightly from 1,725.
Reliability & safety
The Audi e-tron was the brand's first all-electric car but the manufacturer has been gearing up for the switch for some time, and has already been building plug-in hybrids for a number of years. Audi came 23rd out of 29 manufacturers in our 2021 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, with a fairly high 16% of owners reporting a fault within the first 12 months of ownership.
Families will also be pleased to hear that the e-tron scored the full five stars following Euro NCAP crash tests; a score we'd expect to be carried over to the Sportback version. It features Audi's latest safety kit, from autonomous emergency braking to active cruise control and lane departure warnings.