Audi’s futuristic new electric SUV
Want a new car that won't cost you a cent outside of rego and insurance for six years?
Audi's first electric vehicle, the e-Tron, could do the trick.
The five-seat SUV comes with six years of free servicing and all public charging costs covered. There is a big catch, though: You'll pay plenty up front.
As with all EVs, the e-Tron - the start of an electric family that will include a smaller SUV and sporty four-door - costs a lot more than a regular SUV.
The 50 variant starts at $150,000 and is available as a regular SUV or sleeker "Sportback" shape, which costs an extra $11,000 and has less headroom and boot space.
An Audi Q5 with similar performance is about half the price, albeit with less space and equipment.
The step to the 55 - with a bigger battery and more power - adds about $10,000.
There's not much missing from the equipment list. It includes leather, dual-zone ventilation, smart key, 360-degree camera, auto emergency braking, blind-spot warning and doors that delay opening to save hitting a car or cyclist.
The Sportback adds a head-up display and sports seats.
All three models get a trio of digital screens, including a customisable instrument cluster and dual infotainment screens for navigation, audio, ventilation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
A Premium Plus pack adds Bang & Olufsen sound, quad-zone air and 21-inch wheels (up from 20s), among other trinkets. A First Edition, available only on the 55, has more gear and a price edging closer to $190,000.
As with rival electric SUVs, acceleration is swift.
The e-Tron 50 zips to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds, a near-instant surge on tap at any prod of the throttle. A larger motor at the rear means most of its 230kW/540Nm peak drives the rear wheels for a sportier feel. Paddles on the steering wheel can adjust the level of recharging provided when slowing.
Sport mode gives more of a jolt when accelerating.
In the 55 model outputs peak at 300kW and 664Nm, lowering the 0-100km/h dash to 5.7 seconds. It's brisk, albeit without challenging Tesla in the performance stakes. A faster e-Tron S arrives next year.
Based on our drive in mainly country areas, each will comfortably cover 250km on a charge, the 55 upwards of 350km (less if you're towing the 1800kg limit).
An 80 per cent charge - about 300km of range - takes as little as 30 minutes.
A full charge using the 11kW portable charger (with wall hanger) takes six hours in the 50 and 8.5 hours in the 55.
There's some interesting tech on the e-Tron. A dimpled undercarriage inspired by golf balls helps smooth air flow, while optional "virtual mirrors" replace glass with slimmer cameras on stalks. Those cameras are linked to triangular screens built into the doors, providing clearer visibility in rainy weather or at night, while reducing drag to add a few kilometres to range.
They're further away from your peripheral vision, though, so they're tricky to use, especially as you can't widen your field of view by leaning closer.
Elsewhere the e-Tron is surprisingly normal, its sliding gear selector the most obvious difference from other Audis.
There's even a space saver spare under the high-ish boot floor, as well as a 60-litre cavity under the bonnet.
Riding on air suspension it's suitably plush and controlled. It's a little fidgety around town, but rises to the occasion at speed.
With up to 700kg of batteries lining its floor the e-Tron is heavy, weighing roughly 2.5 tonnes. It disguises its weight well, though, with powerful and progressive braking and well-tied down suspension that reduces the typical SUV lean when cornering.
Loads of grip makes for confident progress and there's little in the way of noise, aside from some mild electric whining.
The normality (virtual mirrors aside), the choice of models and all-inclusive cost makes the e-Tron's hefty price tag easier to digest.
Refreshingly normal EV tinged with electric driving excitement.
AUDI E-TRON VITALS
Price: From $150,000
Warranty/servicing: 3 yrs/unl'td km, free servicing for 6 yrs/unl'td km
Drivetrain: 2 electric motors, single speed, 230-300kW/540-664Nm
Safety: 5 stars (2019), 8 airbags, auto emergency braking, 360-degree camera, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, intersection assist, turn assist, exit warning
Range: 334-463km (govt figures) depending on model
Boot: 660 litres
Originally published as Audi's futuristic new electric SUV