Audi E-tron Sportback long-term test
Can you live with a fully electric car if you can't charge at home? We've been finding out with the help of the Audi E-tron Sportback...
The car Audi E-tron Sportback 55 quattro 96kWh S line Run by Steve Huntingford, editor
Why it's here We wanted 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 5208 List price £80,675 Target Price £76,677 Price as tested £84,795 Test range 197-240 miles Official range 247 miles Dealer price now £73,163 Private price now £65,034 Trade-in price now £64,350
22 February 2022 – Final charge to the finish line
Around 60% of people in this country have off-street parking, and those who don’t drive are over-represented at the properties that do without it. However, it’s still estimated that almost 30% of UK motorists would be unable to charge an electric car at home, which is potentially a problem, given that we’re now fewer years away from new petrol and diesel models being banned than we are from Manchester United’s last Premier League title.
So, how easy is it to run an electric car when you’re reliant on the public charging network? Well, that’s what I’ve been finding out during 10 months living with my Audi E-tron Sportback. And to be clear, when I say I couldn’t top it up at home, I mean that in absolute terms; yes, I have access to a private car park, but I don’t have a designated space, there’s no charging infrastructure and it would take the mother of all extension cables to reach one of the three-pin sockets in my flat.
True, the What Car? office does have two wallboxes, which are fast enough to replenish my E-tron’s 95kWh battery over the course of a working day. However, I was unable to regularly use these, because for most of my time with the car, Covid restrictions meant I was actually working from home.
Fortunately, I quickly learnt which public chargers in my area could be relied upon to a) be working, b) not have long queues, and c) dispense energy fast enough for my needs. It was only on long drives when I had to charge in unfamiliar surroundings that I almost came unstuck on a couple of occasions; the lowest the E-tron’s range readout ever got was five miles, on a journey where I had to visit four different locations before I found a charger that wasn’t occupied or out of order.
It’s safe to say, then, that trips in an electric car require more planning than those in a petrol or diesel equivalent. However, the E-tron did help with this, because its range readout proved very accurate on all types of road (and in all weather conditions), so I never found myself worrying that I’d have to make an unscheduled stop.
This is in sharp contrast to many other electric cars that I’ve driven, which seem to lose a couple of miles of range for every mile you cover on the motorway. And although the 240 miles that my E-tron managed in the summer months (and 197 miles in winter) is nothing special by modern standards, I reckon having a clear idea of when you’ll need to stop is much more helpful in removing range anxiety than just being able to go a few extra miles.
The superb refinement also helped keep me relaxed. It’s often assumed that all electric cars are quiet, but in reality the lack of engine noise makes you more aware of any wind and road roar. And yet you still hear very little of either in the E-tron Sportback.
It’s worth noting that the second part of the car’s name purely relates to the sleek looks; it’s no sportier to drive than a regular Audi E-tron. However, I was never left wanting in terms of performance, and while some rivals are significantly more agile, body lean is pretty well controlled if you switch the standard air suspension to its Dynamic setting.
Accurate steering also helps instil confidence, as do brakes that are 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 put some charge back into the battery).
Comfort is another E-tron strength; it does a great job of soaking up impacts from bumps and potholes in town, while also delivering a well controlled high-speed ride so your passengers are unlikely to get car sick. And speaking of passengers, even six-foot friends who hitched a lift had no complaints about the amount of space in the back, despite the Sportback’s plunging roofline.
Add in an interior that offers similar wow factor to a Tesla’s, while feeling much more solidly built, and it’s really just those problems with the public charging infrastructure that leave me sounding a note of caution to anyone considering an E-tron Sportback. Personally, I’d argue that they’re not a deal-breaker, but if the car hadn’t been so good, my verdict might have been different.
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