Quattro. Evocative, isn’t it? If you are a certain age, images of fire breathing monsters terrorising rally stages might come to mind. However for many years now quattro has simply meant a four-wheel drive Audi, but the e-tron is a thoroughly 21st Century interpretation, because whilst all four wheels are most definitely driven, they are powered by electrons.
As Audi’s first venture into the electric car market, the e-tron is entirely logical. Customers like SUVs, their physical size makes it easier to package the batteries, and of course it’s easier to command the premium price necessary than if you’re knocking out superminis.
The e-tron is available in either ’50’ or ’55’ spec, normally we would feature the cheaper entry level model here, but the problem is that the 50 gets a 71 kWh battery which on the official tests just manages to top 200 miles which means more like 150 miles plus if you aren’t trying to conserve range. We think that doesn’t quite live up to the e-tron looks, so the more expensive ’55’ gets our nod, but if you can live with a shorter range it is good to know that you can save some cash.
We all know that Audi isn’t exactly short of a bob or two, but it is clear that they have taken the task of building an EV very seriously. The e-tron 55’s key spec list is spot on, a 95 kWh (gross) battery, separate front and rear motors, 150 kW DC charging capability, what Audi claims to be the most powerful regenerative braking system on the market, and even a factory in Brussels that has been certified as CO2 neutral.
On paper the e-tron sounds like it will be a hoot to drive. It has over 400 bhp in boost mode, is predominantly rear-wheel drive until the front axle is needed, and it has a near 50:50 weight distribution. But it also weighs 2.5 tonnes and rides on air suspension. The upshot is conservative Audi – think A4 rather than R8. In order not to spook the masses, the e-tron is brisk, very obedient, easy to drive and very refined. What it is not is desperately good fun, but let’s face it, it would have been a real shock if it was, so we suspect Audi knows what its customers want.
Initially the e-tron lagged behind key rivals in terms of range, but Audi has rushed through a host of technical updates which have meaningfully increased the official range, which now hits 270 miles. This has removed one of our biggest concerns and is an impressive response from Audi.
It is worth remembering that Audi’s state of the art regenerative braking system can harvest a massive 220 kW of power braking from 62 mph, which Audi says can add 30% to the range. The issue here is if you aren’t doing a lot of deceleration then this will have a minimal effect, so the increase in range is very welcome.
One key technical point is the ability to take 150 kW DC charging which, as the supporting infrastructure becomes available, will be a bonus; with a 0-80% charge in 30 minutes, the e-tron will have you back on the road quickly. For some this will be a bigger concern than the distance between charging, and if this applies to you then the Audi is in pole position.
As a purpose-designed EV it also has great interior space, a 660-litre boot, and it comes with an emergency three pin socket charger (mode 2), a second cable with an industrial plug (mode 2), and a 22 kW public charging cable which is very good given some manufacturers will make you buy cables separately. The onboard charger is capable of 11 kW with an option to upgrade to 22 kW which, along with the DC capability, makes the e-tron one of the most capable rechargers out there. It’s just a shame that it has such a big appetite for charging.
The e-tron delivers everything you would expect from an Audi SUV, with the ace up its sleeve of 150 kW charge capability. If driving dynamics aren’t top of your list, it’s very easy to make a case for the e-tron, especially as Ultra-Rapid charging facilities are being rolled out.
Estimated real world range: 220 – 270 miles
Official range: 270 miles
Official electricity consumption: 224 – 264 Wh/km
Battery pack: 95 kWh (gross) 86 kWh (net) lithium ion; 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty
Recharge time: 7 kW charge approx 13 hours+; 11 kW 8 hours 54 mins; 22 kW 4 hours 30 mins; Ultra Rapid 150 kW 50 mins (0-100%), (0-80%) 30 mins
Please note that CO2 emissions quoted for electric cars are not directly comparable to diesel and petrol cars. This is because CO2 emissions quoted are calculated by Green Car Guide and include the emissions created at the power station turning fuel (e.g. gas etc) into electricity and in transmitting and distributing the electricity to an end user. They do not include the actual production of the fuel (e.g. gas extraction and refinery emissions). Petrol and diesel emissions are supplied by car manufacturers and are based solely on the fuel burnt in the engine (tailpipe emissions) and do not include the production of the fuel or distribution to a fuel station. In practice this means that electric car emissions are over-estimated relative to petrol and diesel. For instance if an electric car, a petrol car, and a diesel car are all reported to emit 100 g/km CO2, the electric car actually has lower emissions.