Audi E-tron Sportback long-term test: report 5

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 by sea in Folkestone

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 2880 List price £80,675 Target Price £75,678 Price as tested £84,795 Test range 230 miles Official range 247 miles

31 August 2021 – Network issues

Like Marmite, musicals and Manchester United, electric cars tend to generate deep-seated feelings, one way or another. However, during the last couple of weeks I’ve had more of a love-hate relationship with my Audi E-tron Sportback. Or to be specific, I’ve loved the car, but been driven mad by parts of the charging network it relies on.

Before this period, most of my journeys had been short enough for me to get to where I was going and back again with plenty of miles in reserve. And while I can’t charge the E-tron at home, because I live in a flat, I’ve come to know which of the public units in my area can be relied upon – and which are best avoided.

LT Audi E-tron Sportback arriving at WWT Slimbridge

With my daughter on her school holidays, though, and our plans to go abroad scuppered by you-know-what, we decided to take a series of UK trips instead. And while none of them involved mega miles, together they left us needing several top-ups in unfamiliar locations, most of which brought problems.

The closest we came to actually running out of electricity was while returning from Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire. We stopped at motorway services with 60 miles-worth of power to spare, only to find one of the Ecotricity units at the site occupied and the other out of order.

LT Audi E-tron Sportback plugged into Ecotricity motorway charger

No matter, we thought – we’ll just go on to the next services. Except, before we got to those, we came to a stretch of the M4 that was closed due to an accident, and were diverted off to country roads.

I’ll admit, this got the nerves jangling, but we weren't panicking just yet. No, that moment came when we arrived at the 50kW BP Pulse unit that the E-tron’s sat-nav had reported a few miles ahead, only to find that it wouldn't read any of our credit cards and we couldn't get through to anyone on the helpline.

LT Audi E-tron Sportback - plugging it in

My wife then got on the internet and found that by heading away from home again we’d come to a slower, 25kW Pod Point unit in a Lidl car park. And while the range readout suggested we’d make it with only a handful of miles left – too close for comfort – I’ve learned to trust the E-tron on such matters.

Sure enough, by taking things easy we were able to get there with 10 miles still on the readout. But, frustratingly, this charging oasis turned out to be a mirage as well; a Jaguar I-Pace was plugged into the charger, despite apparently having a full battery, and when we asked the supermarket staff if they could put out an announcement asking the driver to move it, they said it was common for locals to leave cars plugged in overnight.

LT Audi E-tron Sportback with five miles of charge left

Our final throw of the dice was to go to a Tesco with 7kW Pod Point chargers, which we reached with five miles to spare and which were mercifully working and available. A full recharge here would have taken 18 hours, but instead we got the range back up to 20 miles – just enough to make it to a 50kW Instavolt charger, which we used to restore the battery to 80% capacity in an hour and a half.

A journey that should have taken less than three hours from start to finish actually took seven. And yet as frustrating as this was, I’ve got to admit we arrived home feeling remarkably fresh, thanks to the fantastic comfort and refinement that the E-tron offers. It just needs a charging network worthy of it.

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

Read more on our long-term Audi E-tron Sportback >>

Read about more long-term test cars >>

Also consider