It’s almost tragic that we’re talking about new electric vehicles today as if they aren’t exciting or huge leaps forward, but that’s seemingly the approach from many – not here. I see the Audi e-tron as a revolution in electric cars, but you need to look at the electric technology to understand as I will do here in my review.
What is it?
This is Audi’s first fully electric vehicle. Many many years in the planning, the Audi e-tron is not just a whole new drivetrain for Audi, it’s a well thought out step into an emerging new market segment.
No, it’s not the first EV (for us that was now six years ago in the Model S), in fact, we’re past the point of listing the EVs that came before it, however, the presence of many makes and models should not discount the advance that this is in motoring.
Plus, it feels very much like Audi has taken its own approach to the EV in many ways, and in reality they’ve come in at a time when the market is barely maturing, but could at best be described as a toddler learning to put together more than one word.
Audi’s e-tron comes in two shapes, the SUV and the Sportback, both the same in every way except for that swooping rear roofline which looks a stunner on the Sportback.
The e-tron also comes in two variants within those models, the e-tron 50 and e-tron 55, with a 71 kWh battery and 95kWh battery respectively.
How is the Audi e-tron different to other EVs?
I really do think it’s critical to dive under the hood here, and look at more than just range, handling and performance.
What Audi has done with the e-tron is look at the most critical element of the Electric Car and enhance it, do it better.
My observations break that down into two primary areas. Serviceability and Chargeability.
When it comes to the physical battery unit, each is made up of several individual battery cells each linked together to form that total 71 or 95kWh energy storage.
But if there’s a problem with the battery, Audi can diagnose the area of fault and replace that part of the battery. Instead of replacing the whole unit, they replace the part of the unit at fault. That’s brilliant.
They stand by the battery with an eight year warranty, so you probably don’t ever need to know this.
As for charging, this is also critical and technical. When using a rapid or ultra fast charger, (six years of which is included in the price), your car will ramp up to 150kW charging speed in a little under a minute, and it will maintain that rate of charge until the car is at 80% battery capacity.
From there it ramps down slowly until you hit 100%. Other cars will peak at 150kW or whatever they are capable of, but they slowly taper off to 80% at a lower rate and then down again at to lower rates until 100%.
This means you essentially get longer at the fastest rate of charge.
All possible because of the advanced cooling on-board – this regulates the temperature of the battery throughout that process.
Perhaps critically also, the car can warm the battery too – so those changes in range thanks to extremes of temperature are less stark with the Audi e-tron.
Oh and while I think of it, the gear shifter (Forward and Reverse) is nifty and unique. The shape is familiar, but the choice of gear is the flick of a thumb. Nice.
What is the range of the Audi e-tron?
On the Audi e-tron 50 you’ll get a touch over 300km range, including all that comes from regeneration.
When you choose the e-tron 55 variant, that jumps to 400km.
This includes advanced regeneration as all good EVs do, but I will say the regenerative options in the car are a bit strange compared to others like the Ioniq or Tesla in that any use of the paddles is to essentially slow the car time after time, not choose your level of re-gen (like the Ioniq).
I dug deep into the settings to find the manual mode here, so it was set at a higher rate for more prolonged periods.
How does it drive?
Like an Audi. I drove 300km in an Audi down to Canberra, then drove 300km back in the Audi e-tron. Trust me, the e-tron drives like an Audi.
The good news is it drives like a sporty one:) Think SQ5 but electric. Blast off the line, grip and stability through the corners, yet it may even feel better in places due to that low centre of gravity.
You whirr along with a Jetson’s like sound powering you on, that’s strange at first, but it’s refreshing ongoing.
It’s also quiet. Road noise is not quite as well dampened as the Mercedes EQC in my view, but it’s totally fine as long as you have the radio on!
I’ll leave the rest to experts, but I think you’d be a nark to question any part of the ride or handling of this car.
Virtual mirrors on the Audi e-tron – gimmick or great?
Yeah, so this is a tricky one. The Audi e-tron has optional Virtual Mirrors. A first for Australia.
I love the idea.
They were on the “First edition” I drove, and they come in one of the option packs for the car. Basically, it’s a $2500 option give or take.
Personally, I’d leave them on if optioned, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to add them.
And that’s because I’m a nerd and love showing off tech.
Otherwise, they are strange, perhaps distracting and offer little overall value. Yeah there is an aerodynamic benefit, but I’d be blown away if you noticed the range difference with and without.
They still poke out a long way, and the screen is further in and down than you’re used to looking – so it would take a while to get used it.
I would get used to it, but it would be a strange few weeks.
Should you buy an Audi e-tron?
That’s a really rough call. I really really love the EQC, and price wise, they aren’t far off the mark. The battery and charging benefits of the Audi are I think superior with a faster charging time and charging capacity. But if you drove both, you might waiver toward the Mercedes. I think it has a touch more premium feel about it.
However, I think Audi do the best overall interior. All the tech combined along with the angles of design, it’s a better look, so I might just lean toward Audi.
Bottom line – yes. Yes you should buy the Audi e-tron if you love the look, love the brand and have the cash.