As its first all-electric production model, the Audi e-tron represents something of a landmark for the German brand.
It joins an increasingly competitive electric SUV market pioneered by the Tesla Model X but now also containing the impressive Jaguar I-Pace. With further rivalry on the horizon in the shape of the Mercedes EQC, the e-tron needs to stand out.
In some ways, standing out isn’t an e-tron speciality. To look at, the electric Audi seems closely related to its conventionally powered Audi Q5 and bigger Audi Q7 SUV stablemates, with a similarly expressive ‘singleframe’ front grille and a full-width LED lighting bar at the back that salutes the luxurious Audi A7. And, although very nearly as big as the Q7, the e-tron doesn’t look enormous on the road.
At first, the e-tron will be offered in this SUV form alone, with a coupe-style Sportback expected to follow later, along with an e-tron GT saloon with a rather lower profile.
The SUV package provided by the first e-tron model will be welcomed by families – it might not offer the seven seats that conventional SUVs of this size can boast, but there’s plenty of room inside for five adults, and a pretty generous boot.
Those less concerned by the practicalities of family life, meanwhile, might prefer to concentrate on the e-tron’s superb interior design, which borrows heavily from Audi’s flagship A8 saloon.
The e-tron isn’t short on pace, either, with 0-62mph passing in under six seconds, thanks to a ‘boost’ function that allows its 355bhp twin electric motor setup to produce 402bhp in short eight second bursts.
However, despite carefully managed weight distribution, a wealth of driving modes and a clever air suspension system with adaptive damping, the e-tron isn’t a particularly rewarding machine to hussle along a challenging back road.
Although the novelty of its rapid acceleration may soon wear off, the car’s near 250-mile electric range is a far more practical virtue that could allow the e-tron to fit neatly into the daily routines of all but the most determined commuters.
What’s more, its compatibility with 150kW fast chargers will doubtless prove a boon when the UK’s charging infrastructure evolves to make such technology widespread – on the continent, existing 150kW chargers are claimed give an 80% battery charge in a little over half an hour.
The e-tron’s range comes courtesy of a 95kWh battery, and there’s no smaller, lower cost battery option offered. You can choose from any of three trim levels, though – standard e-tron, Launch Edition and Launch Edition 1, with only 30 of the latter being offered to UK buyers. Every model has LED lights all round, 20-inch alloy wheels and electrically-adjustable, heated leather seats. Usefully, there’s a charging port on both sides of the car.
While the Audi e-tron’s battery range is eclipsed by that of lighter, less expensive rivals – such as the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric – it’s a very impressive all-rounder nonetheless. Its approachable, familiar nature will doubtless appeal to Audi fans who are looking to make the switch to zero-emissions electric motoring. It’s a capable alternative to the I-Pace that offers Audi’s classy blend of technology and style in place of the Jaguar’s more sporty nature, and many families will find it slots seamlessly into their daily routine.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Some rivals can beat the e-tron’s 248-mile range, but none can match its fast-charging capability
Engines, drive & performance
Very fast in a straight line, but heavy Audi e-tron is untidy in corners
Interior & comfort
Stunning e-tron interior design combines with uncanny quietness to luxurious effect
Practicality & boot spaceAudi e-tron SUV offers loads of interior space and plenty of luggage room
Reliability & safety
Loads of safety tech, but Audi e-tron reliability is yet unproven