Wheels (Australia)

Audi e-tron



Variants tested 50 quattro, 55 quattro First Edition As-tested prices $140,450, $161,900 Warranty 3-year unlimited km

TARDY TO THE EV party – especially for a brand endlessly spruiking Vorsprung Durch Technik – the e-tron is Audi’s delayed response to the establishe­d Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace, as well as 2020’s COTY-winning Mercedes-Benz EQC. No pressure, then.

Based on Audi’s MLB Evo architectu­re underpinni­ng most models from the A4 up, it’s also the entrée to a buffet of upcoming EVs, with most expected to switch to an all-new specific platform still under developmen­t.

Like the EQC then, the e-tron SUV and its swoopier Sportback twin (imagine an electrifie­d BMW X6 rival) aren’t strictly bespoke, although – incredibly – the e-tron is currently the only EV offering a choice of bodystyles. It slots between the Q5 and Q7 in size, though not pricing.

Two versions are available: a 50 quattro (from $137,100) and 55 quattro (from $146,100), with the Sportback adding $11,000. Not cheap, but competitiv­e against the other luxo SUV EVs, and generously equipped to boot.

Visually, both e-trons look comparativ­ely ‘normal’, with the only way-out elements living in the details – like the grille, alloys and available mirror cameras. No Spock shock here, and less futuristic than EQC, never mind the radical I-Pace.

The spacious five-seater cabin, meanwhile, also aligns with brand convention, integratin­g establishe­d design themes and family-friendly practicali­ty (including a vast cargo area) with dual touchscree­ns and other digital tech for most functions. Again, up-to-the-moment, but with minimal intimidati­on. But some cheap (for an Audi) materials are also jarring missteps.

All e-trons feature an electric motor on each axle, but the rears are always driving at least 60 percent of the time, depending on the given traction requiremen­ts.

To approach the EQC’s seat-bracing accelerati­on, avoid the smooth and silent 230kW/540Nm 50 and stretch to the stronger 265kW/561Nm 55 instead. Though only marginally quicker to 100km/h (6.6 seconds versus 6.8), a brief 35kW/103Nm ‘Sport’ spurt slashes that to 5.7s, for significan­tly more muscle across the spectrum.

With a 71kWh battery, the 50 can average 300km of range whereas the 55’s 95kWh unit breaches 400km-plus; finding a 150kW charger (good luck with that) brings 80 percent charge in 30 minutes, or a ‘full tank’ in 45 minutes.

Unlike the EQC, the e-tron includes air suspension on both axles, not just the rear; working with a multi-link arrangemen­t, it provides exceptiona­lly flat and controlled handling, together with outstandin­g isolation over some very demanding road surfaces.

Conversely, at other times, the Audi also occasional­ly rides with an obvious firmness, and doesn’t really encourage being hustled through fast corners. The light-footed vitality of the EQC and I-Pace is missing. The three-year warranty is well behind the best, too.

Still, six years’ compliment­ary charging and servicing is included, along with a home-station for a handy six-hour full recharge, so maybe this Audi’s more for the head than the heart.

Ultimately, though super competent and even truly compelling, the e-tron doesn’t quite progress forward enough from its older rivals. In the rapidly evolving EV scene, the COTY criteria demands that – a year on – at least some boundaries be busted.

“Excellent, but doesn’t move the segment forward by any margin” ALEX INWOOD

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 ??  ?? All judges agreed the virtual mirrors were unintuitiv­e and gimmicky, despite the slight drag reduction
All judges agreed the virtual mirrors were unintuitiv­e and gimmicky, despite the slight drag reduction
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