Audi E-tron Sportback long-term test: report 1

Can you live with a fully electric car if you can't charge at home? We're finding out with the help of the Audi E-tron Sportback...

LT Audi E-tron Sportback front cornering

The car Audi E-tron Sportback 55 quattro 96kWh S line Run by Steve Huntingford, editor

Why it's here We want to see if Audi's electric coupé SUV feels worthy of its £80k price tag and fits into everyday life

Needs to Deliver a wow factor befitting its price, and not be compromised by its mode of propulsion or sleek looks

Mileage 1060 List price £80,675 Target Price £76,977 Price as tested £84,795 Test range 210 miles Official range 247 miles Options fitted Comfort & Sound Pack (£1895), panoramic glass sunroof (£1475) and Antigua Blue metallic paint (£750)

7 June 2021 – Going electric

From breaking the sound barrier to reaching the summit of Everest, history is replete with examples of people doing things that were once thought to be impossible. And now I’m having a crack myself, albeit at a far more down-to-earth level (both literally and metaphorically).

You see, while I like electric cars because they’re generally quiet, fast and cheap to run, I’ve always said that there’s no way I could fit one into my life because I live in a flat and therefore can’t charge at home.

Indeed, the fact that we don’t all have front drives or the time to make special trips just to find somewhere to plug in has long struck me as the biggest barrier to electric cars being universally adopted.

LT Audi E-tron Sportback - standing with it while it's charging

However, then I tried the halfway house solution – living with a plug-in hybrid. Without going out of my way, I was able to top up the (admittedly small) battery often enough to average more than 70mpg. For the first time I started to think that maybe the barriers weren’t as big as I’d assumed, and ultimately it's led me to try going fully electric after all.

Specifically, I’ve opted for an Audi E-tron Sportback, which is based on the brand’s regular E-tron electric SUV, but features the sort of dramatically curved roofline that was once the preserve of coupés.

The downside of the Sportback's design is that you get less rear head room and boot space, but in reality there’s still plenty of both. Meanwhile, the £1700 premium you pay for its sleeker looks is worth every penny, at least to my eyes.

LT Audi E-tron Sportback with regular E-tron

The entry point to E-tron Sportback ownership is the 50 quattro model, which gets from 0-62mph in 6.2sec and has a 71kWh battery that gives it an official range of 190 miles. At the other extreme, you have the S, which hits 62mph in 4.5sec and delivers 225 miles of range thanks to a 96kWh battery.

We’ve always said that the mid-level 55 quattro represents the sweet spot, though, and that's the one I’ve gone for. With a 0-62mph time of 5.7sec, it sacrifices a bit of performance compared with the S to extract a few more miles from the 96kWh battery (a total of 247, to be precise).

I’ve also picked our favoured S line trim, which includes a sporty bodykit, 21in wheels, adjustable air suspension, heated and electrically adjustable front seats, and fine Nappa leather upholstery.

LT Audi E-tron Sportback with panoramic sunroof open

In fact, it’s so well equipped that I only ticked two options: the panoramic glass sunroof (£1475) and the Comfort & Sound Pack (£1895), which brings a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, additional ambient interior lighting and a 360-degree camera.

So, how am I finding living with a fully electric car when my only way of topping up the battery is the public network? Well, I got an early shock (not literally) when I found out just how slow the charging units closest to my flat are; who has two and a half days to leave their car parked up?

And while some of the faster chargers that I’ve found by spreading my net a little wider are brilliant, just requiring you to plug in and swipe your credit card, others force you to download an unintuitive app or (most ridiculously of all) apply for a special access key.

LT Audi E-tron Sportback - behind the wheel

On the other hand, the car itself has been consistently impressive. It’s one of the quietest cruisers I’ve ever driven, the interior feels properly special and the Comfort suspension setting lives up to its name.

True, some rival models are more agile, but switching to Dynamic mode for twistier stretches of road keeps body lean pretty well controlled. What’s more, the steering is precise and the brakes reassuringly consistent – something that’s far from a given in electric cars due to them juggling regular friction brakes and regenerative braking (effectively using the electric motors as dynamos to charge the battery).

So far, then, it’s been a case of enjoying electric motoring despite some frustrations with charging. But will that remain the case when I start using the car for longer trips, will things get easier once I’ve got all the apps, or will running an electric car without being able to top up at home ultimately prove too big a mountain to climb?

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read our full Audi E-tron Sportback review >>

Read about more long-term test cars >>

Buy a new car with What Car?

Like the sound of the Audi E-tron Sportback?

If so, make sure you visit our New Car Buying section, because we could potentially save you thousands, thanks to our network of What Car? approved dealers.

They use our Target Price discounts as the basis for their savings. Target Price is the price we think you should pay based on research by our team of mystery shoppers.

Also consider