Despite the fact that electric cars are growing in popularity each-and-every day, they can still feel like a very alien concept to most people. That’s why, when Leicester Audi reached out to our content team and asked if they’d like to spend an evening with one, they couldn’t have said yes faster.
Wondering how good Audi’s first electric SUV is? Let’s find out.
As electric cars go, Audi’s e-tron is quite an interesting one; it’s a car that doesn’t seek to break new styling boundaries by looking like a spaceship from the year 2099 (not that we have anything against that). Instead, it’s actually quite refreshing to see an electric car that stays true to the stunning design language Audi have presented as of late and doesn’t shout about being electric. In the world of Audi, this is called ‘concept clarity’.
That’s not to say that the e-tron is a boring thing to look at, because it really isn't; it's a stunning looking thing. Hard lines and fairly wide arches give the e-tron a very sporty stance whilst some interesting use of the lights and rear light bar work to add some wow and drama – more on that later. One thing that we especially like is the fact that Audi have left the traditional front grille in situ (subtly painted black on our car), once again promoting the fact that the Audi e-tron just wants to fit in and has no motive to shout about its presence or powertrain.
That’s where Audi have deployed a bit of magic. Unlike many cars that we’ve featured in the past, the Audi e-tron doesn’t go out of its way to make itself known; thanks to the electric powertrain, it even gets everywhere in near complete silence. Despite that, it still draws more attention than a lot of the cars in its category, turning heads and noticeably stirring conversation everywhere it goes without even trying. If that’s not evidence of a great car, we don’t know what is.
Part of the magic that makes the Audi e-tron stand out is undoubtedly the technology that the brand have deployed across the car. One of the most dramatic of these elements has to be the aforementioned lights that put on a show every time you unlock the car; an action that causes red light to flow from the centre of the rear light bar and then cascade down the rear light units, almost like lava flowing through a tube. It’s a simple yet stunning display that adds theatre to the car without the need for dancing doors and loud music.
The same subtle and refined ethos that Audi have applied to the exterior of e-tron can also be felt through the way that the car drives. Where the thought of driving an electric car can at first be a tad daunting, the Audi e-tron feels familiar and accessible; there’s nothing complicated, no scary modes or displays, anyone could jump into the e-tron and drive. That’s a really good thing.
On the move, it actually feels no different to any car with a combustion engine, the only differences being the removal of any engine or road noise and a noticeably smoother drive than cars of a similar size. It’s those elements that make the e-tron a relaxing place to be, even when you decide to do a photoshoot in the centre of Leicester at rush hour – bad planning on our part.
As with all electric cars, the other thing that sets the e-tron apart from conventionally powered cars is its ability to offer you all of its 300kW (490lb ft of torque and 402hp in old money) the instant you press down on the accelerator. That very healthy chunk of power comes from duel motors – one on each axle – that gather their energy from a 95kWh lithium-ion battery, situated low in the car to offer a better centre-of-gravity.
Now, the important thing that everyone wants to know: range. Fully charged, Audi say that e-tron will cover a range of 237 miles, something that they’ve tested in a plethora of conditions during five million kilometres of prototype driving. That range is genuinely sufficient for almost any normal drive that you can think of, helping to dull down that dreaded feeling of – here comes that phrase – range anxiety.
Ensuring convenience on longer drives, e-tron is equipped with the ability to accept 150kW DC fast charging, meaning that it’ll charge to 80% in as little as 30 minutes. With the deployment of fast chargers across the UK ever accelerating, this basically means that, on longer drives, you’ll have just enough time to nip to the loo and grab a coffee with an unfeasibly long name whilst your car is on charge.
That’s if you even need to stop. You see, when driving e-tron, you actually find that the range figure is more of a guide; depending on how hard you drive and the mode that you’re in, you can quite easily begin to gain miles through regenerative braking and the car’s clever ability to decouple the front motor or automatically adjust ride height for aerodynamic gain.
Thanks to the low centre-of-gravity, e-tron handles very well despite its size and weight, benefitting from a clever Quattro four-wheel drive system that can predictively send grip where needed when things get wet or icy. It’s worth mentioning that, due to the power on offer and the way that e-tron drives, it never actually feels as big as it is.
Dressed in Mythos black and equipped with 21” 15 spoke design alloy wheels, the e-tron that we spent the evening with also equipped with an option that has a lot of people curious: Virtual Door Mirrors. This intriguing bit of technology sees traditional wing mirrors replaced by rear-facing cameras that feed video to two small screens situated on the inside of each door.
At first, the new technology does feel pretty alien but you quickly adjust. The interior screens that display the video feeds are incredibly clear, with the driver’s mirror offering full control of the mirrors through touch controls. They’re an interesting bit of tech, offering increased control and safety whilst also benefitting the driver and passengers in terms of driving environment.
The latter point is actually quite an interesting one; when you remove a noisy combustion engine, every other sound made by the myriad of parts making up a car suddenly become obvious. Arguably one of the most prevalent is always wind noise, so fitting thinner stalks as appose to large blocks of wing mirror seriously reduces wind noise.
It’s another element that works to make the cabin of the Audi e-tron a fantastically relaxed and enjoyable place to be. The small stalks also help to increase the car’s range.
The cabin itself is a haven of technology and luxury materials – featuring a total of five screens upfront (when you include the virtual door mirrors). The first of these screens is the Virtual cockpit that sits behind the steering wheel and feeds the driver all of the relevant info they could ever need.
The display is free of clutter and over-the-top graphs or power data, meaning that it remains clear, precise and easy to read at all times.
A further two screens can be found in the centre console: the highest one offering access to the car’s infotainment system and the one below giving control of the interior environment - heated seats, climate control and such. As with the virtual cockpit screen, everything is clear and easy to use and never bombards you with loads of information that you don’t need.
All-in-all, the Audi e-tron is a fantastic car that uses subtle styling and simple (yet advanced) technology to make electric cars accessible to even those that have never driven one. When Audi set out on their e-tron project, their aim was to create a premium electric car that was special but still felt familiar and that's exactly what they've achieved. For that, we applaud them.
You can find the exact Mythos Black e-tron that we drove here. We’d like to thank Leicester Audi for letting us experience one of their e-trons and, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge into electric power, we’d recommend that you give one a go. Interested? Contact your nearest Sytner Audi dealership here.