Audi has launched four new ELECTRIC VEHICLES in South Africa, and we took one – the AUDI E-TRON 55 – ON A WEEK-LONG ROAD TRIP along the GARDEN ROUTE.
Electric vehicles represent something of a tricky point of departure for traditional car brands. For a newbie like Tesla it’s easy – there’s no existing DNA, so you can basically design whatever you want. But if you’re like Audi, and you already have a range of cars that’ve been imbued with essential Audiness over many decades, you have three basic options: 1) Create a radical new design language – the way BMW did with the i3, i8 and now the iX ranges. 2) Make no sudden moves and just replace the engine with an electric motor – like the e-Golf. 3) Find a middle path and come up with a look that’s still clearly an Audi, but is different enough from its internal-combustioned siblings in a future-forward kind of way.
Audi has gone for option 3, and I think we can agree that it’s mission accomplished for this new all-electric
SUV. It’s a beautifully sleek design that hides its size well. Good-looking and functional, the e-tron has attractive proportions and a relatively low roofline married to powerfully muscular flanks, large wheels and short overhangs that are right out of the Audi playbook. And make no mistake: in terms of exterior and interior dimensions, this e-tron is a proper SUV.
Employing these roomy dimensions, we packed the e-tron for a week-long road trip from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay and back. The reason was twofold: to have a bit of a holiday; and to get a real-world sense of what it’s like to take an EV on an actual road trip, where you need to plan charging stops along the way.
With an official range of 369km to 440km on a fully charged battery, no-one’s going to experience any range anxiety using the e-tron as a daily driver. And, as it turns out, you needn’t worry about road trips either, with the ever-increasing network of fast-chargers dotted around
AUDI E-TRON 55 SPECS BATTERY: 95KWH • POWER: 300KW • TORQUE: 664NM
the country at filling stations, malls and dealerships – especially along the Garden Route
It was these I made use of during our 1 200km trip, and it took between 40 and 50 minutes to top up the e-tron’s batteries to 90%. (That last 10% seems to take disproportionately long, so I tended to unplug at the 90% mark.) The car’s own satnav locates the charging stations for you, and Grid Cars also has a great real-time website that not only maps out all the charging stations in SA but can also show you whether they’re currently being used.
With a modicum of planning, we coincided each charge with a breakfast or coffee stop, so there wasn’t really any waiting around. And those 90% charges were registering about 330km of range – a figure I would regularly extend by at least 10% by keeping my cruising speed between 110 and 115km/h and harvesting additional charge through the e-tron’s regenerative braking system.
The car returned the favour too. The absence of engine noise and my natural inclination to want to conserve battery levels made for a surprisingly relaxed and peaceful drive. The factored-in stops to refuel both driver and vehicle removed that “hurry up and get there” feeling that tends to creep into a holiday journey. And while there were huge dollops of torque on tap to embarrass most other cars on the road and make overtaking a breeze, I rarely felt the need to school my fellow road users. As a result, our road trip was less hurried, less stressful and infinitely more enjoyable. It was relatively cheap too, with the charges amounting to a total of R1 295 for the entire trip.
If I had any lingering doubts that the car’s future was emblazoned with the letters E and V, a week with the Audi e-tron 55 quietly dismissed them. audi.co.za | gridcars.net
0-100KM/H: 5.7SEC • RANGE: 369KM-440KM • PRICE: R1 990 000-R2 045 000