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Audi E-Tron Review: Traditional Luxury Goes Electric


Audi e-tron in Mythos Black Metallic

Vehicle: 2019 Audi E-Tron 55 Quattro Technik

MSRP as tested: $107,000 CAD (before manufacturer rebates)

Specs: Dual Electric Motors @ 360 hp, 414 lb-ft torque (402 hp + 490 lb-ft in Sport boost)

Driving Range: 95.3 kwh battery @ 329 km (EPA estimate)

0-100kmh as tested: 6.6 seconds (5.7 seconds in Sport boost)


Despite being an excellent EV, the Audi E-Tron is built to appeal to high-end luxury car buyers rather than EV fanatics. People always seem to compare E-Tron with rivals such as the Tesla Model X, where it is often overshadowed by the latter's superior range and performance, but honestly that's not the point of this luxury SUV. Instead, its strengths lie in aspects that simply can't be conveyed through raw specs and numbers, by offering an ultra plush and quiet ride, a beautifully built interior, and an overall feeling of confidence and solidity on the road that simply feels a class above the rest.




Driving Impressions:

Audi has built the E-Tron to appeal to the masses, making for a more traditional-feeling drive when compared to other electric vehicles. Mash the pedal and the E-Tron gives you a graceful surge of power, rather than the violent shove of instant torque. Let off the accelerator pedal and the car coasts with only a hint of deceleration, rather than aggressively applying regenerative brakes to recuperate as much energy as possible. It even has a fake grille and paddle shifters (though to be fair the paddles control the amount of regen braking). That’s not to say the E-Tron forgoes all the typical EV traits, because Audi actually capitalizes on the electric motors’ smooth and quiet power delivery to enhance the soothing luxurious driving experience. The overall effect is a supremely solid luxury SUV that feels properly expensive to drive and won't feel foreign to current gas car owners, yet is far quieter and smoother than anything gas-powered vehicle in its class.


Behind the wheel of the Audi E-Tron 55

Beyond the benefits of an electric powertrain benefits, E-Tron also excels all the other comfort-related aspects, delivering a supple ride that is among the best of the best (even with our tester’s massive 21 inch wheels), as well as excellent road noise insulation that pairs with its lack of engine noise to create a cabin so quiet it's almost uncanny. Equally impressive is the well weighted confidence-inspiring steering, and because of the massive 1500 pound battery under the floor, E-Tron can corner respectably too with minimal body lean despite its weight and size. Though while it may be capable, its far from sporty with its luxurious isolated-from-the-road steering,and complete lack of road feedback.


360 horsepower might not sound like a ton of power for a 5700 pound luxury SUV, but thanks to boat loads of instant torque it feels more powerful than numbers would suggest. Effortless passing power is available at all times without having to wait for the transmission to catch up, and even at highway speeds, E-Tron delivers wave after wave of silent thrust well past 100km/h before the power curve dies down. If 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds isn’t quite quick enough for you, there is a Sport boost mode which ups the power for 8 seconds, allowing the car to do 0-100km/h in as little as 5.7 seconds. Not bad for a plush luxury SUV that weighs more than a full-size pickup truck.




Interior:

E-Tron's cabin at night w/ red ambient lighting

This gorgeous interior is definitely one of Audi's best. Not only is it visually stunning, built rock solid, and by far the quietest in its class, but it's also one of the best designed, seamlessly blending traditional luxury and robust materials with 3 high-tech screens. This is a futuristic cabin so you won't find any wood here; in its place is a combination of aluminium, leather, and alcantara. At night the ambient lighting looks breathtaking without feeling tacky, thanks to customizable mood lighting and subtle light strips accenting the aluminium trim and lining the doors, as well as the 'e-tron' logo on the dash glowing in matching colours. If we had one complaint about the aesthetics, it would be that dust and fingerprints always seem to accumulate on the centre screens no matter how careful you are, though thankfully at least it isn't as bad as its Q7/Q8 brothers which further the issue with their liberal use of piano black trim.


To current Audi fans the tech may seem familiar, as E-Tron uses the same general layout and dual capacitive screens + MMI infotainment system as found in newer and higher-end Audi models, as well as a slightly modified version of Virtual Cockpit. There is a bit of a learning curve with the climate controls housed in the lower centre screen, but overall the system does a good job of remaining simple and pretty user friendly, while housing all the onboard tech and feeling cutting-edge.


There are a few differences in here to make it feel just a tad more special than the rest of the lineup, most noticeably a fancy aluminium gear selector that pivots from under its housing, a hollowed-out centre console for additional storage space (thanks to the lack of a transmission tunnel), a sliding cover over the cupholders, and a unique upper-dash design containing a light-up E-Tron logo (see below). The Virtual Cockpit system also looks a bit sleeker than others, thanks to a borderless screen and custom graphics (including an exclusive melodic start-up chime + animation). We don’t get the fancy virtual side mirror cameras in North America thanks to regulations, but honestly I can’t imagine the lack of physical side mirrors being a huge advantage beyond acting as a neat party trick, and improving wind noise/aerodynamics efficiency ever so slightly.





Practicality:

Falling between the Q5 and the Q7 in size, the E-Tron is pretty roomy on the inside though can only seat up to 5. Up front the cabin feels appropriately snug yet wide enough to be comfortable, and the same is true for rear passengers. It's no where near as spacious or open-feeling as something like the Tesla Model X, but instead feels comfortably snug and isolated from the rest of the world, while still providing enough space for 5 reasonably-sized adults to comfortably relax.


Rear leg room is quite average for the class

The trunk is quite average for the segment at 28.5 cubic feet, and the E-Tron's low-riding adjustable air suspension compensates for its high load sill, which would otherwise make throwing heavier items in the back a pain.


Oh, and there's a front trunk too of course, though I can't imagine owners would be using it on a daily basis. To access it, you have to press a button on the inside, open the hood manually (gasp!), then open yet another floppy plastic lid, before revealing a tiny shallow plastic box nestled in the middle of a bunch of exposed electronics. A great place to store your charging cable and accessories, but not large enough for much else.

The e-tron's 28.5 cubic feet (600 litre) trunk



Exterior:


One thing's for sure, the E-Tron has a LOT more visual presence than the Q7, though whether it can match the Q8's sleek sporty design is up for debate. With a low wide stance and prominent rear haunches giving it a muscular look, it looks as substantial as it feels on the road. Up front, E-Tron gets a partially closed-off aluminium grille, flanked by a pair of sharp futuristic-looking headlights. The front fenders are home to bright orange 'e-tron' badges, under which hides a motorized door for the charging port. Capping off the rear is a sleek light bar that spans the width of a car, which works with the headlights to do a little greeting light show every time you lock/unlock the vehicle.





Range + Charging:

Despite its massive 95 kwh battery, E-Tron is officially rated at an underwhelming 329 km of range, partly because it only uses a conservative 83.6 kWh of its capacity for the purposes of battery longevity, and partly because E-Tron is among the heaviest cars on the road and isn't exactly super efficient... But much like the Porsche Taycan, and unlike many other EVs (I'm looking at you Tesla), 329 km actually means 329 km in the real world, so this should be more than enough for most people during everyday driving.


Come winter however, expect range to be reduced even further by about 50-80km. On the other hand when left parked in the heat, I noticed the car periodically (and noisily) powering on its fan to cool its massive battery, though battery drain from this is very minimal. The other issue is charging; while E-Tron is capable of charging at 150 kw speeds (meaning a 0-80% charge in about half an hour), finding a charger that can reliably support these charging speeds is a different story, especially if you plan on road tripping to smaller cities within Canada. Most of the 50 kw charging stations I found took nearly 90 minutes to fill up to 80%. I hate to say this but if frequent long road trips are in your agenda and you absolutely want an EV, the Tesla Model Y or X might be a better bet as of now, thanks to their superior range and reliable Supercharging network,


Audi e-tron's CCS charging port, capable of filling



Recommended Build: E-Tron 55 Quattro Technik ($98,000)

Canadian E-Trons come in 2 trim levels, starting at $90,000 for the already well equipped Progressive trim, and $98,000 for the Technik trim (adding a heads-up display, ventilated seats, rear sunshades, enhanced ambient lighting, soft close doors, the Bang & Olufsen® Premium 3D Sound System, and more). As befitting of a flagship, all models come nicely equipped even with zero options, with standard features such as adjustable air suspension, HD Matrix design LED lights, heated seats + steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, acoustic glass, Audi Virtual Cockpit + MMI system, and memory seats + mirrors.


Our Technik tester also added on all the available packages + upsized 21" wheels and orange brake calipers, coming in at a whopping $107,000 before taxes or fees, though honestly we could do without any of these add-ons. Also important to note, opting for the "4-spoke hands-off detection" steering wheel removes the heated steering wheel function; not ideal during the bitter cold Canadian months. The way we'd spec our E-Tron would be the Technik trim with no additional pricey options, and maybe adding on the Drivers Assistance Package if you really need adaptive cruise control + traffic sign recognition.

Special thanks to H.J. Pfaff Audi in Newmarket for making this possible! Check out their e-tron inventory at https://www.hjpfaffaudi.com/e-tron/

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