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Audi’s first electric model squares up to Jaguar’s I-Pace

PROS

  • Early passenger ride in Audi's electric SUV
  • Likely official range of 310 miles between recharges
  • Sports car performance and four-wheel drive traction
  • Spacious cabin for five people; batteries under floor
  • Expected to have very high quality interior fittings

CONS

  • Prices yet to be announced, but it won’t be cheap
  • Styling doesn’t appear to break any new ground

Verdict

Audi E-Tron summary review

Audi will finally get its first series production model to market early next year and we’ve been for a ride in one of the E-Tron prototypes.

Audi E-Tron electric SUV front seats

The new model will be built in Belgium, in a dedicated plant that currently produces the A1, it riding on an entirely new, dedicated electric vehicle platform which in size slots between the current Q5 and Q7 models.

Audi E-Tron electric SUV cabin design

Audi’s first fully plug-in production model features a pair of electric motors, one for each axle for quattro four-wheel drive, their combined output being 265kW.

How fast is the Audi E-Tron?

That can be increased to 300kW momentarily under boost when Sport is selected on the transmission, allowing the E-Tron a 0-62mph time of under 6 seconds. Top speed should be in the region of 200km/h, or 124mph. 

It retains Audi’s Drive Select system, which offers a choice of Offroad, Allroad, Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and a configurable Individual setting, Audi’s BEV not just an SUV in looks, then, it promising some real off-road ability.

Audi E-Tron electric SUV instrument panel

Helping here is air suspension, which lowers to improve the aerodynamics for efficiency, the E-Tron boasting a drag figure of just 0.28, which is low for an SUV. That’s assisted by the fitment rear-view cameras, this industry production first seeing the conventional door mirrors replaced by OLEV screens situated in the door. They’ll be optional, and only offered in countries where the law permits them.

Audi E-Tron electric SUV centre console

A huge amount of effort has been placed on the aerodynamics, not just for efficiency, but refinement, the E-Tron coming with an acoustic windscreen as well as the option of acoustic glass for the side windows. The battery, weighing some 700kg and housesd in the E-Tron’s unique structure - which Audi engineers claim is some 40% stiffer than that of the Q5.

This early drive was to get impressions of that refinement, as well as Audi’s premium audio system, though navigating the touch screen menus revealed a number of elements unique to its drivetrain. There’s a ‘Range Mode’, allowing drivers to select the most economical air-conditioning mode to increase the maxium range, while the regeneration on offer from the drivetrain is variable, allowing sailing modes at speed, or high regeneration via the motor in stop-start city traffic.

The quoted range under the WTLP measure should be in the region of 248 miles, a full charge via a 150kW high output charger taking 30 minutes - that infrastructure yet to be rolled out through Europe, but promised in the next few years. Home charging, via a typical high voltage charger should take about 8-9 hours, the E-Tron able to manage timings, depending on house loading, the availability of any solar energy at home and reduced rate tariffs.

Audi E-Tron SUV electric car driving shot

Our short passenger ride revealed that the E-Tron will be a strong contender against existing EV models like the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X, as well as forthcoming plug-in electric vehicles coming like Mercedes-Benz’s EQ C. Production starts late 2018, with UK deliveries anticipated early in 2019.   

It’s very evidently an Audi stylistically, so the E-Tron’s looks will immediately make it feel familiar, even if electric propulsion is a wholly new experience.

Smaller than the Tesla Model X it will undoubtedly be compared with, the E-Tron’s closest rival is the electric Jaguar I-Pace, but customers may also consider plug-in hybrid (PHEV) alternatives such as the much larger BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE and forthcoming Porsche Cayenne.

Why has Audi called it E-Tron?

Sized between the Q5 and Q7 SUV ranges, logic would have suggested that Q6 would have made more sense as a model name, especially as Audi has already confirmed it intends to launch future models badged Q4 and Q8.

Also, E-Tron is an already familiar derivative name to distinguish the PHEV versions of the A3 Sportback and Q7.

Audi E-Tron SUV rear dynamic

Audi’s management decided that by calling its first battery electric vehicle (BEV) without a combustion engine E-Tron, it will act as a recognisable halo model for other electrified cars within its range.

The German marque has successfully implemented this strategy before: almost four decades ago it launched the Quattro sports car, with the name then subsequently applied to all four-wheel drive versions of other Audis.

Completing this circle, the E-Tron SUV also wears Quattro badges, highlighting that all four of its wheels are driven.

Audi E-Tron SUV rear dynamic

Will my family fit in to the Audi E-Tron?

Built on all-new electric car-specific underpinnings that will also be used by SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen-badged BEVs, the E-Tron is a full five-seater, with ample luggage space in the boot that’s not impinged by batteries underneath.

All of the E-Tron’s battery cells are sandwiched under the floor of the passenger compartment, a factor that should also benefit the Audi’s handling.

Parkers will be getting to know this all-new electric crossover soon, so check back with us soon for the full Audi E-Tron SUV review

Audi E-Tron electric SUV rear driving shot

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