Road Tests

First Drive: Audi e-tron, the manufacturer’s first all-electric model

Time 9:59 am, May 30, 2019

What is it?

Audi has looked at a flourishing SUV market in a world that is taking electric vehicles seriously for the first time and made a very sensible decision to launch the e-tron. It’s the first of three new all-electric cars on their way by 2020, all of which will wear the e-tron name but with GT and Q4 added for those coming later this year.

What’s new?

This is the first time that Audi has sold a completely electric model. However, you shouldn’t feel bad if it didn’t jump out as anything other than another Audi SUV. While there are some subtle updates to the overall image, it does look very similar to other models in the Q range – and we don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

What’s under the bonnet?

This is all powered by two electric motors paired with Audi’s electric all-wheel-drive system. The e-tron 55 quattro uses Audi’s new and confusing naming system that brings electric, petrol and diesel powertrains under the same umbrella.

In this case, it means its electric motors produce 265kW of power – or 355bhp in old money – which will take the car to 60mph in 5.5 seconds. That’s not going to feel like the fastest Teslas on the market, but for a mid-sized SUV it’s still pretty quick off the mark.

The e-tron is also capable of charging to 80 per cent in 30 minutes from a fast charger, and at maximum capacity can last for up to 259 miles.

What’s it like to drive?

If I were to hand the keys for the e-tron to my mum, I’m not sure she’d notice it was an electric car. OK, she might detect the slight whirring noise that you wouldn’t get from anything other than an EV, but this could be the most convincing electric vehicle masquerading as a conventional car around.

Maybe this says more about the refinement of Audi’s standard engines, or it’s possible that the e-tron has arrived at the perfect time when driving an electric car really is, well, normal.

Power delivery is great, the ride is smooth – 
even at high motorway speeds – and the steering feels responsive.

We knew exactly how far we would be going on our test drive – around 20 miles within the initial range given – but my driving style didn’t change, I wasn’t worried about running out of charge, and we safely arrived back with more charge than expected.

How does it look?

The e-tron has been given some styling additions that update the car’s appearance compared with others in the Audi range and improve efficiency. From the front, it shares a similarly striking look to the latest Q8 model.

However, has this moved on far enough from the existing range of SUVs? Take out of the equation that this is an EV therefore most buyers expect some futuristic technology, and it just doesn’t feel as special as it should when older Q-model SUVs drive by with a very similar design.

What’s it like inside?

In fairness to the e-tron, if you go for the launch edition you’ll get the very special wing mirror cameras – or you can opt to replace your standard mirrors with these pod-like cameras.

These display what’s behind you on small OLED screens in the doors. To use them at first is a little jarring, but slowly your brain adjusts to what you’re seeing. Apart from this, high-quality and durable interior materials are used and you get the latest Audi dual-screen infotainment system.

What’s the spec like?

The price of the e-tron does start a little high at £70,805. You could buy a Q8 for £10,000 less, while an entry-level Jaguar I-Pace is even cheaper than that.

However, the e-tron is packed with some great standard equipment and arguably better space than either of those models. At entry level, it gets 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, air suspension, keyless entry, leather seats and parking cameras.

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What do the press think?

Autocar said: ‘Keen drivers may miss the I-Pace’s more pronounced athleticism, but as a classy, refined, practical, comfortable and sophisticated premium electric car, it could well be the e-tron that proves the more popular of the two.’

AutoExpress noted: ‘The styling might be plain to some and it does little to allay reservations that electric cars are too expensive, but doing without the weirdness of some rivals might prove to be a clever way of appealing to those still on the fence about EV ownership.’

What do we think?

The Audi e-tron has completely wowed us simply because it is so normal. For years, we’ve been testing electric cars with spaceship-like qualities, but Audi has taken the features of its fantastic SUV range and seamlessly added all-electric power. Paired with its impressive range and high-quality specifications, it’ll surely succeed in convincing more people to make the switch to electric driving.

Dave Brown's avatar

Dave, production editor on Car Dealer Magazine, is a journalist with more than 30 years' experience in the worlds of newspapers, magazines and public relations.

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