Make: Audi
Model: E-Tron
Variant: S
Engine/Transmission: Lithium-ion battery (370kw/973Nm)
Range: about 400km
Price: $147980 plus on road costs (about $180000 on the road, depending on the state)

First Impressions:

The E-Tron is Audi’s response to demand for a zero emission luxury SUV. And it’s a bloody good effort. You will often hear people say that “you’re just paying for the badge”. What an absolute load of bollocks! What you are paying for is engineering and quality that runs deep, real deep. The E-Tron is the sort of car that feels great at first and then just gets better and better the more you use it.

The E-Tron is not a cheap car, at just under $200k on-road, but if your budget stretches this far, you will find yourself behind the wheel of an accomplished family size set of wheels that is really a bit of a jack of all trades. It’s stupid fast when you need it to be, handles wonderfully, provides a composed ride (although ‘comfort’ mode is uncomfortably rolly) and can fit a family of four and all their gear easily.

A fair criticism of all European brands is that very long term ownership (or buying one with a few years under it’s belt) can be a financially risky proposition. With the E-Tron, you are reminded that it is the first owner who is, of course, Audi’s primary consideration. On top of the unlimited kilometre five year warranty, Audi gives you six years of servicing, six years of roadside assistance and six years of a Chargefox public charging subscription. Sign me up for a six year lease!

Tech inside:

In addition to the expected adaptive cruise control, the E-Tron sports a really effective Stop&Go system – my favourite feature, making commuting in traffic almost pleasurable. Autonomous braking works up to 250kph! The 360 degree camera is crystal clear. The LED Matrix headlights are epic. You start to see the quality that you have paid for. The E-Tron really is a car that gets better and better the more you spend time with it. The reason for this is that the more time you spend in the car the more you see that the tech actually works as it should. For many lesser brands, this is often not the given that you would expect!

Most impressive:

Perhaps ironically for an EV, the E-Tron S is a superb Grand Tourer and encourages you to drive far, far further than the 400 odd kilometre range allows. Of course, the complimentary six years of free fast-charging through the Chargefox network sweetens the deal. There are now enough service points that you can easily plan a trip, albeit with lots of extended stops and sometimes long waits, up and down the East Coast. A home charger is included and will recharge a flat E-tron overnight. A bit more coin will see a 22Kw home charge station cut that time in half.

Not so impressive:

At the end of the day, the only problem with the E-Tron is the same problem that all luxury electric vehicles have – they’re really expensive for what you get. Audi’s hugely accomplished Q8, for example, provides a similar driving experience and leaves enough change in your pocket to buy a cheap little EV for around town duties, like a Hyundai Kona EV – a great little car in its own right. This also gets around the complications of taking your luxury EV ‘up the Coast’ for the weekend – surely the whole point of buying such a great driving car.

Speaking of driving for the sake of driving, I always have high expectations for Audi’s S and RS models. In this regard, the E-Tron S on test disappoints a little. It’s crazy fast, mind you, with a 0-100kph in the mid 4s and 1000Nm of torque available from its three engines, but there is a degree of finesse that is missing from, say an S4 or S6 Audi. Of course, the reason is weight. The E-Tron and its batteries need a serious serving of Man Shake if it is to accomplish the composure and speed of turn-in that you have come to expect from AudiSport.

On a test drive:

Creating a cross-shopping list for the E-Tron is not easy. A base model Porsche Taycan 4S has to make the cut and is a similar take on the roomy Lux EV. So too is a fully loaded Tesla Model X. But you know an Audi RS4 Avant is about the same money, right???