Review: 2019 Audi e-tron

11th December 2018
Andrew English

Now this should be something special, or at least that's what Audi told us in myriad pre-launch reveals, prototype test drives in far-flung continents and technical briefings for the new e-tron battery-electric Audi. We flew to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to find out...


While vanguard cars such as the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf have gained some recognition of the benefits of silent running, super-cheap running costs and maximum torque at zero revs performance of battery electric cars, it is the luxury SUV crossover which has proved the battle ground for the premium car makers' move into this market. Think four-wheel-drive, lithium-ion batteries in the floor, a futuristic appearance and a high-riding stance. So E-tron's rivals include Jaguar's sparkling £63,495 I-Pace, Tesla's weird but pioneering £82,995 Model X and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz EQC which will sell in the mid £60,000s.

Audi says that e-tron is part of a 10-strong wave of Belgian-built, battery-electric Audis, which will all be on sale by 2025. It goes on sale in the UK in March priced at £82,240 for the special launch edition with an uprated spec including cameras and door screens in place of door mirrors. There are also 30 Edition 1 versions with an even higher spec, although £71,490 will get you into a normal version minus the Government grant of £3,500.

E-tron is loosely based on the company's MLB big-car platform but the structure around the floor mounted 432-cell, 700kg, 95kWh lithium-ion battery pack is all new. The twin motor, 4x4 system looks similar to rivals, too, though the smaller front motor means the e-tron favours its rear wheels. Audi calls it Quattro, but this electric drive system is actually much simpler than the legendary mechanical system used in the eponymous Eighties road and rally cars. There's a 184PS (181bhp)/309Nm (208lb ft) asynchronous motor in the front and a similar 224PS (221bhp)/355Nm (262lb ft) motor in the rear, with the control electronics under the bonnet. Peak power is 414PS (408bhp) at 13,300rpm (though it gives its 664Nm (490lb ft) peak torque at virtually zero revolutions) but you only get that for ten seconds before the system reduces the power to 365PS (360bhp), which is further reduced after 60 seconds.


The result is a top speed of 124mph, 0-62mph in 5.7sec and a range in the new more realistic WLTP test of 248 miles. Tail pipe emissions are zero, but the electricity used to recharge has an environmental cost. If you calculate the well-to-wheels emissions using average total UK grid CO2 contributions of 367g/kWh, then the e-tron has a CO2 contribution of 87g/km.

Recharging takes 12 hours on a 32-amp household wall box and Audi is claiming a first with 150kW recharger capability, which will give an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes. These chargers will come from the Ionity group of VW Group brands including Porsche, plus Ford, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and while they don't exist at the moment, the group is promising 400 150kW chargers across Europe by 2020, though strangely Britain isn't mentioned.

The cabin is well appointed and beautifully made, but not that much different from conventional Audis. Seats are squashy and comfortable and there's plenty of room for three across the back seat. There are generous amounts of storage space, although the centre console is an open-sided box which spills its contents on corners. The 605-litre boot is generous and can be extended to 1,755 litres if you fold the rear seat backs onto the cushions. The facia uses Audi's digital Virtual Dashboard, which can be configured in a wide variety of ways. The old MMI driver interface has been superseded by a touch-pad system, which is fiddly and inferior in every way. The camera-based door mirrors were first seen on Volkswagen's XL-1, and take some getting used to; the door-mounted display screens are neither bright enough nor high enough, so city manoeuvring is nerve-wracking.

We drove out of the capital on the country's well-maintained motorways and set up the adaptive cruise and semi-autonomous driving systems (£1,950 as an option pack) at the legal speed of just under 100mph. The e-tron's soft springing and gentle damping gave an almost unreal quality to the journey, divorced from the road, with little wind noise or tyre roar and only a finger resting on the steering wheel to ensure the autonomous driving systems remained active – it's certainly a highly refined piece of kit.


Out at the country's borders, we reached the ascent of the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, which lies on the border of the Emirates' border with Oman. Just over seven miles in length, with 60 corners, the pass rises up to 1,220 metres above sea level and without an onward road from the summit it really is a driver's paradise. Not in the e-tron though, which weighs 2.5 tonnes and felt it, with the nose pushing wide on the turns and the body heeling even with the air suspension set in its most sporting Dynamic mode. It's safe enough (even though the Goodyear tyres howled like a puppy with a foot on its paw), but there's no fun in it, where the Jaguar iPace is a genuinely entertaining drive. 

There was also a chance to drive off road on a specially prepared track, where the e-tron traversed chassis contorting obstacles with little problem, with terrific throttle accuracy which allows you to control the speed into hazards, though the traction control by braking is a crude device which can leave you stranded with one wheel spinning.  

So it's a great cruising car capable of swallowing miles between charges, with terrific driver systems such as the steering-wheel paddles, which introduce increased levels of regeneration braking, but dynamically it's a bit of a lummox. Perhaps the strangest thing is that in making the car look and behave almost exactly like conventional Audis, there's almost no sense of occasion in driving it or looking at it. We can debate all day whether battery electric is the basis of future transportation, but if it is and this is an example, the future's going to be efficient and refined, and the tiniest bit boring...

Stat Attack

Battery: 432-cell,  95kWh 700kg, lithium-ion battery mounted in floor

Motors: 224PS/355Nm front asynchronous electric motor and a 184PS/309Nm rear synchronous electric motor

Transmission: four-wheel drive with step down gearing from motors

Power/Torque: 408PS (402bhp) at 13,300rpm, 664Nm (490lb ft) for ten seconds

0-62mph: 5.7sec

Top speed: 124mph

Price: £82,240

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  • e-tron

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