It took Audi around two years to figure out how to get the Audi E-Tron quattro to Australia after its European launch. A litany of WLTP compliance hold ups meant new models like the E-Tron quattro would be delayed for local consumption.
But, it’s here now and we finally had the chance to get behind the wheel of the 2021 Audi E-Tron 50 quattro, which sits at the bottom of the electric SUV range.
It’s part of the reason this feels more like a normal Audi that’s been turned into an electric vehicle, as opposed to an electric vehicle built to sit on its own platform.
The Audi E-Tron range kicks off from $137,700 before on-road costs for the entry-level Audi E-Tron 50 quattro tested here. It then tops out at $146,100 before on-roads for the top-specification Audi E-Tron 55 quattro.
There’s a sleeker Sportback version also available, which costs an additional $11,000 and is available in both 50 quattro and 55 quattro trim levels.
The purchase price includes six years of free charging on the Chargefox network, along with a free 11kW home charger (installation is a cost borne by the owner).
There are eight colours available with all but solid black costing an additional $2300.
On the outside you’ll find 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail lights with LED daytime running lights, a power tailgate, adaptive air suspension, dual external charge ports (both offer AC charging and one offers DC charging), adaptive cruise control, a 360 degree camera system, and front and rear parking sensors.
Inside the cabin there’s heated seats for the first row, leather trim, wireless phone charging, electric seat adjustment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wireless), automatic wipers and headlights, and keyless entry and start.
For a more comprehensive breakdown of the standard inclusions and features, check out our 2021 Audi E-Tron pricing and specs story.
The Audi E-Tron quattro scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was tested.
That included a 91 per cent adult occupant safety rating, an 88 per cent child occupant safety rating, a 71 per cent vulnerable road user protection rating and a 78 per cent safety assist score.
Standard safety features include low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and an exit assistant.
You can read more about the Audi E-Tron crash test results on the ANCAP website.
Audi’s aim with the E-Tron was to make it look and feel just like any other Audi. And on that front they’ve achieved success.
The cabin feels just like any other Audi and avoids the science experiment look some carmakers go for when it comes to electric vehicles.
That means a sleek high-topped dashboard that integrates air vents and then cascades down to the main 10.1-inch infotainment screen, with an additional 8.8-inch screen beneath it for climate controls.
Ahead of the driver is Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, a high-resolution display housing the speedometer, tachometer, navigation and trip computer views.
Both of the central screens feature haptic feedback to help with confirmation of inputs and further inputs can be issued through the voice recognition system. It’s also capable of interacting with your phone’s cloud-based voice recognition for more complex commands.
Speaking of smartphone mirroring, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but only CarPlay is wireless. There’s a chance this Android Auto will be upgraded to include wireless connectivity down the track – our understanding is the required hardware is already there.
There’s adequate storage throughout the cabin, but we found it strange the centre section between the driver and front passenger offered no cover to hide items left in the car.
While most things inside the Audi E-Tron look familiar, the gear lever may not. Instead of using a shifter similar to other Audi models, it instead uses a handle with a switch that moves between Reverse, Neutral and Drive, with the Park function located as a button on the side.
Leg- and headroom in the first row is excellent, while in the second row adults will fit comfortably even if seated behind a taller front occupant. There’s adequate toe room and headroom, and sufficient room to fit two adults comfortably side-by-side.
In terms of cabin connectivity, two USB-A ports are located in the centre console, along with a wireless phone charger. A SIM card slot and an SD card slot sit adjacent to the USB ports, while in the second row there’s two additional USB ports for passengers.
Cargo capacity comes in at 660 litres with the second row in place or 1725 litres with the second row folded flat. Beneath the cargo floor is a space saver spare tyre. We found the boot lip to be quite high, which made it tricky to load larger items in without needing to swing them into place.
In terms of fit and finish, the interior feels excellent and feels premium enough to match the circa-$140,000 price tag.
Given it’s not on a dedicated electric car platform, the Audi E-Tron quattro looks and feels like a converted combustion-engined vehicle when you look under the bonnet. There’s a storage area for an occasional use charger, but for the most part it’s easy to see where a petrol or diesel engine could slot in.
In saying that, the E-Tron quattro uses a twin-motor setup (one motor on the front axle and one on the rear) to provide that quattro all-wheel drive experience.
It offers a combined power output of 230kW of power and 540Nm of torque in ’50’ guise. It offers a claimed 0-100km/h acceleration time of 6.8 seconds.
The front axle uses a 110kW electric motor, while the rear uses a 130kW motor. Torque can be varied between the axles depending on throttle load conditions and the drive mode selected.
Energy is sourced from a 71kWh battery pack with 64.7kWh of usable capacity. In terms of charging, both sides of the vehicle offer AC charging behind a motorised flap. AC charging is available as single- and three-phase at a capacity up to 11kW over three phase.
DC charging is available up to 120kW. AC and DC charging comes in the form of Type 2 and CCS Type 2 combo plugs respectively.
Audi claims an average energy consumption of 21.6kWh/100km on the WLTP cycle for a driving range of 347km. During testing we achieved a figure of 28.3kWh/100km, which resulted in a real world driving range of around 270km.
Much like every other electric vehicle on the market, the Audi E-Tron is dead silent when it’s operating.
But, while most electric vehicles have more pronounced road noise, the Audi e-tron is incredibly well insulated. It results in next to no road or wind noise on coarse chip roads – it’s a really pleasant place to spend time.
Although Audi doesn’t have first mover advantage on electric vehicles, it does have decades of engineering experience, especially when it comes to refinement and luxury vehicles. That translates to the on-road experience too.
The ride on air suspension, even with 20-inch alloy wheels, is sublime. It soaks up road imperfections with ease and makes for a properly premium driving experience. Depending on the drive mode, the car will vary its ride height to suit – all the way from a raised ‘allroad’ setting, to a lowered ‘dynamic’ setting.
Just like a regular Audi, each drive mode setting adjusts the suspension/damping, steering weight and throttle response.
Audi has gone down a different path when it comes to power regeneration, though. Most electric vehicles will recoup energy each time the throttle is released and plumb that energy back into the battery pack. It not only preserves brake pads, but it also captures energy that would otherwise be lost as heat via friction.
In the Audi E-Tron, when you release the throttle the vehicle coasts with no deceleration (outside of rolling resistance and drag). The driver can manually use paddle shifters to switch between two levels of regeneration with the maximum level achieving a deceleration of 0.3g.
The vehicle then further regenerates energy when the brake is pressed until it reaches a maximum rate, at which point the mechanical brakes take over.
And unlike Tesla vehicles and the Nissan Leaf, the E-Tron can’t come to a complete stop using regeneration alone. The driver needs to take over as the vehicle rolls to a stop.
A final automatic regeneration mode uses GPS data to determine when the vehicle is approaching an intersection or area where a complete stop is required. We tested this out and it worked sometimes, while others it didn’t and it required manual intervention.
In terms of throttle response, Audi has tuned the E-Tron to gradually ramp up torque delivery instead of a delivering a solid hit each time the throttle is pressed. This is important because while it’s fun to feel like you’re on a rollercoaster in some of the faster EVs, it can become nauseating over time.
The torque delivery is smooth and doesn’t feel neck-breaking until you switch over to dynamic mode and start toying with the throttle. At that point it feels far more rollercoaster-like.
On that note, handling in dynamic mode is impressive. It hunkers down to the ground to lower the centre of gravity even further and feels sporty despite its 2610kg tare mass.
While our test car didn’t come with them, the Audi E-Tron quattro can be optioned with digital wing mirrors that project an image from the side of the car into an LCD panel attached to the door.
It’s a $3500 option that improves aerodynamics and makes this car feel like a bit more of a tech marvel.
Unlike Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, which offer new car warranties of five and four years respectively, Audi still only offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
While the new car warranty is only three years, the battery pack is covered by an eight-year, 160,000km warranty.
The upshot, though, is the Audi e-tron quattro range comes with six years of free servicing and six years of free public charging, which is commendable.
Servicing is required every 30,000km or 24 months, whichever comes first.
There’s no denying the Audi E-Tron quattro is a looker. Well, styling is subjective, but it turned a stack of heads during the couple of weeks we had it.
It has the advantage of looking like most other Audi SUV models rather than a wild science project, which is another plus.
But where it falls down is that it feels like an electric car that started life as an internal combustion car. At 2600kg+ in base trim, the E-Tron is inefficient compared to other modern EVs and ultimately a real-world driving range of around 270km doesn’t cut it for a vehicle this expensive.
It presents a battery low warning with 100km of driving range remaining, which is not far off the 50 per cent indicator on the battery status.
The smarter play here, if you have your heart set on an E-Tron quattro, is the higher-spec 55 quattro which has more driving range. But it simply puts a band aid on the problem by making the battery bigger, which increases tare mass to a little over 2700kg.
The Audi E-Tron feels like it’s almost there. It’s likely to sway some Audi buyers that want a familiar-feeling vehicle with an electric drivetrain. But from a technology and range standpoint, it’s left for dead by vehicles like the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X.
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