Audi SUV’s are de Riguer in Cheshire where we’re based, so it’s been no surprise to see plenty of Audi’s first electric car, the e-tron SUV on my local roads recently. From the outside, it looks well, like an Audi SUV, large, imposing & unmistakably an Audi. Look a little closer though & you’ll see that this Audi is different. Read on to find out more.
The e-tron is offered in five specs. Teaching, Sport, S-Line, Black Edition & Vorsprung, with a choice of two batteries. A 50 quattro, with a 71kWh battery & 313PS, or the more powerful 55 quattro, which comes with a 95kWh battery & 408PS. Apart from the extra power, the 55 has a claimed range of 249 miles, whilst the 50 will only take you on a journey of 194 miles.
Engine & performance
We were testing the e-tron 55 quattro. It’s powered by batteries coupled to two electric motors that combined together offer 408PS. With one motor located on the front & one on the rear axle, the e-tron is in effect, 4WD.
Despite the battery weighing in at 700kg, in S mode, the e-tron will go from 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds & then on to a top speed of 124mph. For day to day driving, it’s sensible to utilise the E driving mode which reduces the power offered to 306PS, with a still not too shabby 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds. The addition of regenerative brakes help recharge the battery every time you lift your foot off the accelerator.
The 50 quattro takes approximately 7 hours using an AC public 11 kW charger, or 10.5 hours at home using a AC 7.2kWh charger like our own Rolec,http://www.rolecserv.com/home-charging to charge to full from zero. The larger battery in the 55 quattro is slower, with times of 9 hours on an 11kWh public charger or 14 hours at home on a 7kWh charger. The charging flap pops out when you push a button which is neat.
If you download the Audi App to your smartphone, you will be able to take advantage of pre-conditioning your e-tron. For example, if you sign up to one of the electricity providers discounted night time charging plans, such as Octopus Go, you will benefit from a 12.30 – 04.30 am charging rate of just 5p kWh, when the daytime rate is around 13p kWh. Plug in at a service station or dedicated charging station & this can be as much as 22p kWh, so the benefits of this kind of price plan are crystal clear.
What does this mean in costs ?
We tested the 55 quattro, with a range of 249 miles. So, charging from zero to full at home on a day time rate of 13p kWh, would cost you about £13 – £15 to charge your e-tron, which means a saving of at least £15 versus a petrol car going the same distance. In reality, there won’t be many instances when your e-tron is empty, so by topping up at night at 5p a kWh, you could in theory charge your e-tron up for just £5 , saving you £25 to travel 249 miles over the equivalent petrol SUV.
Specification & equipment
The entry level e-tron, the 50 quattro Technik retails at £62,025, so you get plenty of standard goodies on all of the model range. Technik features 20″ alloys, LED headlights, Audi Virtual Cockpit with MMI Navigation & 2-zone electronic climate control, including remote preconditioning. Next up Sport, adds front sport seats & an Audi phone box with wireless charging. S-Line is next,& comes with 21″ alloys, Matrix LED headlights, adaptive sport air suspension & S-Line exterior styling with privacy glass. Step up to Black Edition & you get 21″ gloss Anthracite black Audi Sport alloys, a black styling pack, which consists of front grille, window surrounds & trim strips on front & rear bumpers in black, plus a 3-spoke flat-bottomed steering wheel. And select the range topping Vorsprung & you’ll enjoy 22″ matt titanium finish Audi Sport alloy wheels, Digital Matrix Lights, sport seats with diamond stitching & a Bang & Olufsen Sound System.
The high-tech infotainment system features three super-high-resolution screens as standard. Every Audi e-tron comes with a 10.1″ central infotainment screen which responds to pinch & swipe just like a smartphone. There are some easy to use Home buttons located along the side, allowing easy access to the SatNav, DAB radio & Bluetooth connectivity. Apple CarPlay is offered, so we utilised this & it’s a simple process to connect via USB or wirelessly as well. Our test car featured Audi’s phone charger located in front of the centre arm rest. It features a clever clip that hold your phone in place whilst on the move.
There’s no MMI control between the front seats though & although the home screen offers up large, finger-friendly squares as options, they are, despite having haptic feedback, slow to respond. You really have to push them to get a response which can be frustrating. In theory, you can us your finger to write an address for the sat-nav on the screen, but we didn’t try this.
Whilst the dashboard top, steering wheel, centre binnacle & seats are beautifully finished, Audi are guilty of using some cheap plastics lower down. The seat & centre console sides, glove box door & door pockets are disappointing for a £75,000 car.
Up front, there’s acres of passenger room. Storage comes from two large door pockets, large enough take a litre bottle of water. The centre console features space under the armrest & an open area which contained the phone charger. There’s room in this area too, for your wallet, keys & two cup holders. In the rear, three adults will find it comfortable. Although the seats are not adjustable, you won’t have too may complaints. Decent sized door pockets & separate climate controls also feature.
The e-tron has a 605-litre boot, with some tethers for holding down your luggage, hooks for keeping your shopping upright & a couple of smaller storage areas. There’s also some space under the boot floor large enough for a rucksack or gym bag.
As we discovered, you can fold the back seats into the floor by pulling a couple of levers located at the front of the boot. The resulting flat floor & boot opening offering up 1,755 litres, made it easy to slide my latest purchase, a gravel bike in, no problem at all.
The bonnet conceals a closing frunk, that’s large enough to store your charging cables in. The only downside is that you can only access this with the bonnet lever, which of course is inconveniently located low down on the driver’s side of the car. Each tom ewe charge up, we found this process tiresome & defaulted to storing the cable in the boot.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start driving, is how heavy the e-tron feels. It does after all weigh in at 2,565kg, some 300kg more than the Jaguar I-Pace. It actually took us a day or two to get used to the weight, especially the time it takes to stop at higher speeds. By day three we had it conquered. There’s only one gear, & with paddles mounted on the steering wheel controlling the level of regenerative braking, you soon get used to utilising this. All you do is pull on the left paddle & the motors are used to help slow the car down more quickly, whilst recharging the battery. If you pull the right paddle, this lessons the regen.
Unsurprisingly, this is not a car for winding country roads. The e-tron’s a comfort focused car & the air-suspension is set up to take you bump-free around town, or in a straight line on the motorway. We tried it out on the local Cheshire country lanes & its tall sides means that it rocks & rolls around corners, always wanting to take the shortest route. Far better to enjoy the straight-line, silent enjoyment, of pulling away from lights that comes with the instant shove offered by the e-tron’s two electric motors. If you want an SUV EV with sports car handling, the I-Pace does that brilliantly.
Real world range
We’re pleased to report that even if driven at motorway speeds, the e-tron offered us a range of 200 miles, so about 80% of what Audi claim. This was actually a lot better than we have experienced recently in the Tesla Model 3 or Polestar 2, which only gave us 65% of the claimed range.
Should I get one ?
With 1% BIK, company car drivers who are currently driving a large petrol or diesel SUV, with likely BIK rates of 35% -38%, should definitely consider switching when their lease ends. And, Audi have recently added an e-tron Sportback & an e-tron GT saloon, a sexier looking beast, to the e-tron range. And with a smaller Q4 e-tron arriving shortly, there will soon be a cheaper option.
After the initial surprise of just how heavy the e-tron is, our week developed into acceptance, that if you want maximum comfort coupled to tremendous practicality in your SUV, then the electric e-tron is brilliant ! Add in the obvious BIK savings – £3000 a year for a 40% tax payer over a petrol or diesel like for like lease – the far lower cost to charge up your e-tron than to fill up your Q5 or Q7 at a petrol station & of course the zero emissions offered & it’s hard to ignore.
On the downside, it won’t hurtle around corners like a Lotus kit-car & Audi have scrimped a bit on the finish, but otherwise, if you’re lucky enough to be in the position, the e-tron offer’s a compelling argument for one to be your next company car.