The Audi e-tron Sportback is all-electric, but first and foremost it’s mostly a familiar Audi, with the normal premium interior environment and a very refined driving experience.
We’ve already tested the Audi e-tron; now we have the Audi e-tron Sportback, which is based on the same car, but with a ‘fastback’ body style. This is designed to look more sporty and stylish, so is this the e-tron to go for?
The Audi e-tron Sportback has a 95 kWh lithium ion battery in its floor and a 300kW electric motor which delivers up to 664 Nm of torque to the road via quattro permanent all-wheel drive.
The styling is more sporty than the regular e-tron, but there’s still a decent amount of space for five occupants and luggage. You can store the charging cables in a compartment under the bonnet, which helps to free up boot space.
One of the main selling points of the Audi e-tron Sportback is that it’s basically similar to a regular Audi SUV, so the switch to electric motoring doesn’t seem like a huge change. The interior is essentially familiar Audi territory. You still end up with a slightly unconventional gear selector; pulling down the right-hand side of the selector allows you to choose D or S. You can also select different drive modes – lots of them – in fact so many of them you can’t initially see them all on the screen. There’s off road, all road, efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual.
All modern Audis are refined, but the electric powertrain takes refinement to the next level. The e-tron Sportback is a very pleasant place to be on the motorway: it’s comfortable, with good ride quality, and it’s very quiet. An exception is on certain road surfaces, when there’s some noise from the large tyres.
If your journey takes you off the motorway onto country roads, you’ll soon become aware that the e-tron is a big car. And when you go round a corner, you’ll feel its 2,595kg weight: there’s no sporty agility to report in the handling department. However grip from the quattro permanent all-wheel drive is excellent, and this is especially impressive on wet roads.
Even with the road tyres, the e-tron had no problems with mild off-roading, and the ability to raise the height of the suspension was certainly useful.
Performance is good, but the e-tron doesn’t have the instant acceleration responses of a Tesla – and the weight of the Audi obviously doesn’t help.
There aren’t any gears to play with, but there are flappy paddles behind the steering wheel, which can be used to increase or decrease the amount of brake regeneration – although there’s nothing on the dashboard to tell you what level of regen you’ve selected.
The interior is mostly conventional Audi – that means very high quality design and materials, and lots of technology. Rather than take the approach of a Model 3, ie. with nothing on the dashboard apart from a central touchscreen, the e-tron provides digital instruments in front of the driver, a central touchscreen with the main information including satnav, and another screen underneath this with climate control functions. All the displays have high quality, sharp graphics, however selecting different information to view in the main instrument display can sometimes appear to be over-complex.
If you need to enter a destination in the satnav, the system encourages you to write the address on the screen with your finger, which generally works well (although there’s also a digital keyboard).
The most important information in an electric car instrument display is the car’s remaining range, and the level of battery charge. Both of these items of information are displayed in the e-tron, but both could be more prominent.
Our test car had virtual door mirrors (a £1,250 option). The idea is that the absence of large traditional door mirrors means that the e-tron is more aerodynamic (it has an impressive 0.25 Cd drag coefficient), and so it’s more efficient. The images from the mirrors are viewed in the corner of the door panels. We recently spent a lot of time in the Honda e, which also had virtual door mirrors, and the system worked more effectively in the Honda, because the images from the mirrors are larger, clearer, with a wider field of view, and they’re on the ends of the dashboard rather than in the doors, ie. they’re further forward, higher up, and more in your line of sight. And rear vision isn’t helped in the rain by the e-tron having no rear window wiper.
You can adjust the level of driver assistance in the touschscreen, and you can switch off the lane departure warning system by pressing the end of the stalk on the left-hand side of the steering column (a function that is hidden behind the steering wheel, making us think that a good proportion of drivers may take a while to find it).
The Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro’s official combined electric driving range (WLTP) is 241 miles. In the real-world we averaged 194 miles.
The e-tron comes with an 11kW onboard charger, with the option to upgrade this to 22kW. There are charge ports on both sides of the car – for a Type 2 connector for home AC charging on the passenger side, and the same port together with a CCS connector for DC public rapid charging on the driver’s side.
The e-tron has the ability to charge from 0 to 80% capacity in around 30 minutes at a 150kW charge point – when you can find one.
Having charging sockets on each side of the car is useful. There’s a button next to the socket to open the cover, and after you’ve finished charging, the cover automatically closes, which again is very helpful.
The Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro 300kW S line costs £79,185. Our test car had a very long list of options, including Catalunya red metallic paint (£750), Super sport seats (£1,050), Virtual door mirrors (£1,250), Tour pack (£1,950), Side assist including pre sense rear (£625), Comfort & Sound pack (£1,895), Orange e-tron brake calipers (£425), Acoustic glazing side windows (£525), Electrically adjustable steering column (£425), Panoramic glass sunroof (£1,475), Tyre pressure monitoring system (£325), 4-Zone deluxe automatic climate control (£825) and Virtual cockpit plus (£150). All the options took the total price of the test car to £89,470.
Benefit in Kind tax for e-tron company car drivers is 0% for 2020/21, which could save drivers many thousands of pounds per year. And running costs for EVs can be around one-fifth of the cost of petrol cars.
Trim levels for the e-tron Sportback are Technik, Sport, S line, Black Edition and Vorsprung.
If you’d prefer more space in the boot, there’s also the ‘regular’ e-tron SUV. Both the e-tron and e-tron Sportback are also available as ‘S’ models.
The Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro is a capable and desirable premium product. It’s as refined as you would expect an Audi electric car to be, and the interior is a very high quality – and mostly a conventional Audi – environment.
The e-tron has the instant responses typical of an electric powertrain, and it also has the ability to tackle gentle off-road challenges.
Some may like the Sportback styling, but the regular e-tron SUV is more practical in terms of boot space.
Having a premium electric car with this body style is a welcome addition to the EV market, but at £80,000 – or £90,000 with options – the e-tron Sportback can hardly be described as affordable (although the e-tron’s leasing costs make it more attainable than outright purchase).
For this price, we’d also like a 300 mile range rather than the 200 mile real-world range.
Perhaps one of the main selling points is that this is basically an Audi SUV, which just happens to be electric. Just don’t expect the Sportback to drive like a sporty car, because at 2.5 tonnes, this is a heavy car to haul around corners.
The Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.