An EV in HD.
My wife thoughtfully summed up the Audi e-tron on our return from a weekend skiing at Mt Ruapehu: “The best thing about this EV isn’t the EV bit.”
The e-tron’s luxury and tech puts it firmly in the “premium SUV” segment. However, it never feels over the top. It’s quick and confident on the roads, but it’s no sports car. It has a luxuriously comfortable interior filled with intuitive controls and delightful features (such as a wrist rest for the main touchscreen). It easily accommodated our family of four and ski gear. It’s a pleasure to drive, with all the driver aids you could imagine that work as well as you’d expect in a $157,000 car. It’s a very, very nice Audi, just one powered by batteries and electric motors.
One optional driver aid worth highlighting is the “virtual exterior mirrors”, where the rear-view mirrors are replaced by high-definition cameras. “Gimmick!” sprung to mind. That was until I drove out of Ohakune on a frosty morning and, rather than struggling to see through icy windows, I had a clear view behind me in the door-mounted displays. Then, driving in the rain at night, the “virtual mirrors” provided an exceptionally clear image with no dazzle from following car headlights. Cameras replacing mirrors aren’t EV-specific, but an example of the e-tron being a special car, and an EV.
Where the Audi isn’t special is efficiency. Over my test route, I used 27kWh/100km (similar to the Jaguar iPace and a long way from the 13kWh/100km used by the Hyundai Kona). The e-tron is a heavy SUV, so despite the 95kWh of Li-ion batteries packed under the floor, it doesn’t go far (I got about 300km). It takes a long time to charge too (going from 30% charge to 80% on the 50kW fast-charging network took about an hour). However, it is capable of charging at three times that speed, when our roadside chargers catch up.
In many respects, such as driver aids and recharging speed potential, you could say this is a car a little ahead of its time, but it’s also one I’d happily take ownership of right now.
For a modern car, having an automatic high beam is nothing special – many models will dip headlights when they sense a car approaching. However, I thought the adaptive high beam in the e-tron hit the next level.
In most cars, the headlights, whether manually or automatically adjusted, are either on high beam or dipped. But in the e-tron, it isn’t just a simple on/off flip. Sensors in the car not only “see” cars ahead, they predict upcoming bends in the road. The brightness of its multi-segment LED headlights can then be graduated to light as much of the road ahead as possible, without dazzling other drivers. For example, as a car appears around a bend, the headlights closest to the car noticeably dim first, followed by those further away. The high and low beams creating a moving pattern – a dark “hole” that follows the oncoming cars.
The mini light show playing out on the road ahead transformed a wearying after-dark journey along SH1 from Ohakune to Wellington. I didn’t need to manually adjust the headlights once in several hours.
Price: $157,000 (50 Advanced Quattro $134,900, 55 Quattro $148,500)
CO₂ emissions: 0gCO₂/km
Battery: 95kW (83.6kW usable)
AC Charging: Up to 7.2kW
DC (fast) charging: Type 2 connector, up to 150kW
Range (claimed): up to 417km (WLTP standard)
Motors: Two electric motors generating 265kW power (300kW boost) and 561Nm torque (664Nm boost). “Quattro” all-wheel-drive and adaptive air suspension
The e-tron was loaned to the writer by Audi NZ.