Audi E-tron long-term test: report 1

We're among the first to find out how Audi's new electric luxury SUV performs in daily use. Is it a Tesla beater?...

Audi E-tron long term

The car Audi e-tron 55 quattro Run by Allan Muir, managing editor

Why it’s here To see whether Audi has succeeded in raising the bar for electric vehicles with its advanced Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X rival

Needs to Pamper its occupants as thoroughly as any regular luxury SUV and be able to cover virtually any distance without undue recharging concerns

Mileage 687 List price £71,520 (before £3500 gov't grant) Target Price £71,520 Price as tested £78,245 Options fitted Tour Pack (£1950), Advanced Key (£850), four-zone deluxe automatic climate control (£825), Glacier White metallic paint (£750), acoustic side window glazing (£525), rear side airbags and illuminated seatbelt buckles (£475), privacy glass (£475), aluminium roof rails (£425), Audi Music Interface, rear (£175), Audi Beam (£150), Storage and Luggage Pack (£125) Test range 200 miles Official range 241 miles

31 May 2019 – An exciting day as the E-tron arrives

The puzzled looks on the faces of passers-by are already a common sight. What they can see is yet another big Audi SUV. But what they can hear is… virtually nothing. The usual clamour of an engine – often diesel – is conspicuous by its absence as this imposing SUV glides past, and people notice, around town at least. As Audi’s first fully electric vehicle (EV), the Audi e-tron is at once reassuringly familiar and quite different from any previous model from the German brand.

Audi E-tron long term

Audi’s inaugural foray into the fast-growing EV market takes the form of a £70,000-plus, five-seat luxury SUV to take on the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X, as well as the just-launched Mercedes-Benz EQC. At 4.9 metres long, it’s closer in size to the Q7 – one of Audi’s conventional luxury SUVs – than the smaller Q5 and shares some of its underpinnings with the former, including standard adaptive air suspension, although it’s lower and sleeker than both.

Two electric motors – one on each axle to give four-wheel drive – produce solid peaks of 402bhp and 490lb ft of torque, giving the E-tron forceful, Bentley-like acceleration (0-62mph in 5.7sec in boost mode), despite the fact that the car weighs two and a half tonnes. The motors receive energy from a whopping 95kWh battery pack that yields an official WLTP range of 241 miles, compared with the I-Pace’s 292 miles and the recently updated Model X Long Range’s 315 miles.

Audi E-tron long term

We’ve already put the E-tron through our Real Range test and found that it can cover 196 miles between charges in real-world driving. That’s not bad, and I’m confident that I can improve on that figure by 20 or 30 miles, but it still means the E-tron is unlikely to go as far on a charge as any of its rivals, or indeed the much cheaper Kia e-Niro, our 2019 Car of the Year.

Recharging the battery pack isn’t a quick job, either, even though the E-tron can handle a charging rate of up to 150kW – among the fastest currently possible. An 80% top-up using a 50kW rapid charger – now readily available at most motorway services – will take about 90 minutes, while a 7kW home wallbox will do the job in 13-14 hours. The best-case scenario is a 30-minute wait if I use one of the latest high-power public chargers, although they’re still few and far between in the UK, while the other extreme is well over 30 hours if I plug in at home, via a three-pin plug or the weedy 3kW wallbox (all I was allowed) that I had installed in my garage last year. Those times will come down, of course, if I plug the car in for a top-up well before the battery is fully depleted, as most EV drivers do.

Audi E-tron long term

My E-tron isn’t the fully loaded Launch Edition, but even the regular one is classy and luxurious inside, with a configurable digital instrument panel and a pair of sharp, responsive central touchscreens for the infotainment and secondary functions such as the climate control. Although the interior is very high-tech, it’s remarkably close to what you’d find in any other recent high-end Audi, so there’s nothing too intimidating about it. Having said that, I haven’t seen a gear selector like the E-tron’s before; it’s a smooth, flat slab of metal that you operate with your fingertips and thumb.

Surprisingly, you have to add the £1950 Tour Pack (as we’ve done) to get extra driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, traffic sign recognition and other collision avoidance systems. Our car has conventional door mirrors rather than the optional camera-based alternatives (sadly) and differs slightly from UK spec in that it has, as individual options, an Advanced Key for high-security keyless entry (normally part of the £1895 Comfort and Sound Pack) and super-clear Audi Beam LED puddle lights (otherwise available only on the Launch Edition).

Audi E-tron long term

Despite the question mark over its efficiency, the Audi e-tron is such an interesting and significant car that I feel lucky to be running one. I can already say with confidence that it’s one of the smoothest, quietest and plushest-riding cars I’ve ever driven. And if I’m going to run a luxury SUV, I’m glad it’s an electric one that doesn’t put out any CO2 or pollutants and will save me a fortune in fuel bills. The inauspicious range might not matter when all of the E-tron’s other qualities are taken into account. This isn’t just any electric car, after all. It’s an electric Audi.

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