Why would I buy it?
- Instant performance
- Spacious interior
Why would I avoid it?
- Pricing uncertain
- Charging duration
Engine and Performance
The all-new Audi e-tron represents the driving experience of a new electric era. Here you will find two electric motors powering the SUV, free of emissions, and almost silently, with a system output of up to 300 kW (408bhp) and 664Nm of torque. The maximum drive torque is available within fractions of a second and provides enormous pulling power. In our tests the e-tron completed the 0-100kmph sprint in just 5.35 seconds.
The two motors are powered by a 95kWh battery that’s mounted beneath the passenger shell. You also have quattro all-wheel drive and under normal conditions, the e-tron uses its rear electric motor to drive itself and it’s only when the driver’s right foot demands more power than it can supply, the all-wheel drive redistributes torque to the front axle. The e-tron has a theoretical range of up to 400km on a full charge. Of course that depends on several factors such as driving style and traffic conditions. According to Audi, the car’s regeneration system accounts for up to 30 percent of the total range. Basically, every time the driver hits the brakes or gets off the accelerator, the e-tron regenerates power back into the battery. In both cases, the electric motors function as a generator and convert the kinetic energy of the e-tron into electric energy to leverage more charge into the battery. What’s interesting here is that the driver can adjust the extent of re-gen using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. In the highest re-gen setting, the e-tron will decelerate and come to a stop rapidly as soon as you get off the accelerator..
Talking about the performance, in typical EV fashion, the e-tron reacts instantly as soon as you push the throttle pedal, accelerating strongly compared to all other vehicles around you. With over 400bhp and 664Nm of instantaneous torque under your right foot, the e-tron is rapid and is easily capable of pinning you back in your seat under full-bore acceleration. As for the range, we covered nearly 200km during the test wherein we subjected the e-tron to both sedate and hard driving. By the end of it we had around 130km of range left, however, our conclusion on the actual range will have to wait until we carry out proper tests with some highway driving.
Ride quality and Handling
The adaptive suspension on the e-tron allows the driver to increase the ride height on the move. This not only reduces the chances of underbody scraping but also keeps the battery pack safe. As for the ride quality, the e-tron is just like any petrol/diesel luxury SUV when it comes to smothering the harshness in bumps and pot holes. There is no underlying stiffness to its ride and for something that weighs over 2.5 tonne, there isn’t much side to side movement over undulations either.
Dynamically the e-tron feels like a typical big Audi – everything from the steering feel to the body control is akin to that of a Q7. Sure, it cannot shift its mass around quite as fluidly as other full-size SUVs but for everyday driving, it’s not bad at all. This is largely down to the e-tron’s adaptive air suspension which does a great job of delivering an appropriately cushy ride in Comfort and safe, planted handling in Dynamic.
Comfort, Convenience and Features
The cabin is typically Audi which means everything you touch or operate has a quality feel to it, right down to the wiper/indicator stalks and controls for the wing mirrors. The overall interior look and appeal is headlined by the two large touchscreen displays - one for the infotainment system and the lower secondary unit houses the climate controls. Admittedly, the screens look brilliant, especially at night, but they are also big-time fingerprint magnets.
The e-tron’s dimensions are quite large which translates to an airy, comfortable cabin. The front seats are big and supportive and because the e-tron is so wide the seats are set at a good distance apart. Again, legroom and shoulder room at the back are plentiful and the rear bench is also equally supportive with good cushioning all around. What’s not so good are the relatively small windows which might make three abreast seating a little claustrophobic. Thankfully, the lack of a transmission tunnel liberates more legroom for the middle passenger but the knee room is still compromised thanks to the intruding climate control panel for the rear.
The India-spec e-tron 55 quattro gets panoramic sunroof, Matrix LED headlamps, soft-closing doors, Audi’s virtual cockpit (digital instrument cluster), ambient lighting, wireless charging, 16-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, four-zone climate control and a heads-up display. In some markets the e-tron also gets virtual mirrors which are basically cameras instead of door mirrors projecting the visuals across dedicated screens on the front doors.
The e-tron also comes with a 22kW AC charger though what’s really handy is that Audi has put charging points on both sides of the e-tron. There’s an AC/DC port on the driver’s side and an AC port on the other side to make charging that much easier when you simply want to plug it either way to your household AC provision. When connected to the compact mobile charging system that comes standard with the car, the battery can be charged to 80 per cent in four and a half hours. Meanwhile, an 11kW AC home charger can fully charge the e-tron in eight and a half hours.
Whether you are looking for a luxury SUV or a straight up electric vehicle, the Audi e-tron makes for a great buy. It’s quicker than most SUVs in its class and it feels and drives like a conventional luxury vehicle which is probably the most impressive thing about it. Add in the comfortable road manners, solid build quality and a theoretical range of over 350km and it makes for a compelling electric car to live with. Now it’s up to Audi India and how well they price the e-tron and if the brand can undercut both then the e-tron is bound to shake up the luxury EV segment for others for sure.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi