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Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
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Audi’s first electric model impresses in our early test drive

Audi E-Tron SUV (19 on) - rated 4 out of 5
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PROS

  • Early first drive in Audi's electric SUV
  • Claimed range of 248 miles between charges
  • Sports car performance and four-wheel drive traction
  • Spacious cabin for five people; batteries under floor
  • Very high quality interior fittings and impressive refinement

CONS

  • Styling doesn’t appear to break any new ground
  • Fiddly new video door mirrors take some getting used to
  • At over £70k, it's a rather expensive proposition
  • Not as fast as Tesla Model X or Jaguar I-Pace
  • UK fast-charging network needs to play catch-up

PROS

  • Early first drive in Audi's electric SUV
  • Claimed range of 248 miles between charges
  • Sports car performance and four-wheel drive traction
  • Spacious cabin for five people; batteries under floor
  • Very high quality interior fittings and impressive refinement

CONS

  • Styling doesn’t appear to break any new ground
  • Fiddly new video door mirrors take some getting used to
  • At over £70k, it's a rather expensive proposition
  • Not as fast as Tesla Model X or Jaguar I-Pace
  • UK fast-charging network needs to play catch-up

Verdict

Audi E-Tron summary review

The launch of the Audi E-Tron full-electric SUV is a big moment for the German company. As well as being the first series production Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) from Audi, it’s only the second full-sized SUV available from a major car manufacturer, with Jaguar’s I-Pace being the first.

But that’s only if you discount the smaller Tesla Model X from the running, while many buyers may also consider plug-in hybrid (PHEV) alternatives such as the much larger BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Porsche Cayenne.

Audi E-Tron side profile in red

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 that in size slots between the current Q5 and Q7 models. It’ll be followed by Sportback and four-door coupe versions on the same underpinnings over the next few years.

How much is the Audi E-Tron and when can I buy one?

Officially available for order in January 2019, 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 (355hp).

Audi E-Tron in red front grille design

It’ll go on sale for £71,490 before the Government’s Plug-in Car Grant of £3,500 is applied.

How fast is the Audi E-Tron SUV?

That power can be increased to 300kW (402hp) momentarily under boost when Sport is selected on the transmission, allowing the E-Tron a 0-62mph time of less than 6.0 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.

What’s the 2019 Audi E-Tron like to drive?

Helping here is standard air suspension, which lowers at speed to improve the aerodynamics for efficiency, the E-Tron boasting a drag figure of just 0.28, which is relatively low for an SUV.

Audi E-Tron in red rear driving shot

It’ll also perch up on the same suspension for the best ground clearance should you want to take the car off road. We found the ride quality highly impressive on its air springs, with a natural feel despite the fact our launch cars were sat on 21-inch alloys.

The steering felt a little light in Comfort mode, but gets heavier as you select sportier gaits from the E-Tron, and it’s fabulously responsive when you turn into a bend. Its all-wheel drive system functions a lot quieter than most 4x4s because it’s fully electric, which means the whir of motors takes the place of noisy differentials in the transmission.

We didn’t think it felt as lively as a Tesla or Jaguar electric car, but then the 5.7-second 0-62mph time is testament to that impression too – both Model X and I-Pace are much faster off the line.

High-speed refinement an E-Tron strength

However, 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. This has the net effect of making for an extremely quiet cabin environment at most speeds.

Audi E-Tron interior cabin design

Its brakes nip at your inside wheel where required to tighten the car’s line, but a cleverer trick is the introduction of a two-stage brake pedal. This means the car actually uses its motors in reverse, as a sort of generator, to recover some of the energy lost when you don’t need full braking power. Push harder and the car’s traditional hydraulic disc brakes begin to work, but you get 0.3g of deceleration with the motors alone.

We didn’t think it as abrupt as Nissan’s Leaf can be when slowing down, but during our test the car told us we’d managed to recuperate nearly seven miles of range simply by braking or lifting off.

The battery weighs around 700kg and is housed in the E-Tron’s unique structure - which Audi engineers claim is some 40% stiffer than that of the Q5. Its total kerb weight is a not inconsiderable 2,490kg, which highlights how impressive the handling is in spite of that heft.

Audi E-Tron SUV: cameras for door mirrors

An industry first for Audi here, as the door mirrors on each side are replaced with OLEV screens situated in the doors just above their handles. We simply couldn’t get used to this, if only because it took us nearly all day to get used to looking somewhere that wasn’t out of the window in order to see backwards. Perhaps we’ll get used to it on a more extended test, but our initial evaluation felt counter-intuitive.

The tiny door mirrors on the Audi E-Tron SUV

The perimeter of the screens flash when there’s a vehicle in your blindspot, which we found useful given the screens didn’t seem quite as clear as a regular door mirror. We also felt they were fiddly to adjust by using a fingertip on the screen itself. However, the camera system means less drag, and that’s important in a large electric SUV.

Our early drive gave us a good impression of Audi’s premium audio system, and navigating the touchscreen 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 maximum 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.

What’s the Audi E-Tron’s range and how long does it take to charge?

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 energy usage loading, the availability of any solar energy at home and reduced rate tariffs.

Audi E-Tron charging cable

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.

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.

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’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.

Audi E-Tron instrument cluster

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.

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 605-litre luggage space in the boot that’s not impinged by batteries underneath. Fold the rear seats flat and you’ve got 1,755 litres to play with.

Audi E-Tron boot

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.

The Parkers VerdictThe Parkers Verdict

An impressive entry into the electric car market from Audi, then. We’ll look forward to getting our hands on one in the UK for an extended test, but from what we’ve gleaned so far, it’s a well-built electric SUV with clever tech and a decent drive.

Audi E-Tron in red rear three quarter

Check back with us soon for the full Parkers Audi E-Tron SUV review once we’ve tried it in the UK

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