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First Drive

First Drive: Audi E-Tron

The story:
Audi has finally launched its first full electric vehicle, and the E-Tron SUV starts an avalanche, with four more Audi EVs coming to the UK by the end of next year.
Category:Premium SUV
Key rival:Tesla Model X
Audi E-Tron 55 Quattro
Price:£71,520 (before Govt. grant)
MPG:241-mile range
On sale:Now


Audi’s assault on the electric vehicle sector is off and running with the arrival of the E-Tron, an SUV around the size of the Q8 that sits between the Q5 and Q7 in a line-up that doesn’t make complete numerical sense.

But there’s plenty that does add up about this new arrival, which offers a range of 227 or 241 miles depending on trim level and therefore wheel size. The numbers are believable, too, going by the predicted range remaining after having covered a variety of road types on a lengthy test route.

First Drive-May 2019-Audi E-Tron-Image 3The entry car costs £71,520 before the £3,500 Government plug-in car grant for full electric vehicles, while the higher Launch Edition trim is £82,270, with extra kit including bigger wheels (21 inches instead of the standard car’s 20 inches), hence the slightly reduced efficiency, as well as premium equipment including cameras to replace the door mirrors (see panel, p25), and pre-heating of the cabin, seats and front and rear windows via the MyAudi app.

Both models share the same 95kWh battery that offers 408hp for a 0-62mph time of 5.7sec, with 48hp of that available for short bursts as a boost function.

The E-Tron’s figures stack up close to its two SUV EV rivals – Tesla’s Model X and the Jaguar I-Pace, although both have a slightly longer range (280 and 258 miles respectively) and can get to 62mph in less than five seconds. But the Audi has the Jaguar beaten for interior space and practicality, while it’s £15,000 cheaper than the Tesla, so it’s certainly competitive.

First Drive-May 2019-Audi E-Tron-Image 11The cabin is at Audi’s normal levels of excellence, save for a couple of surprisingly scratchy bits of harder plastic, but otherwise it’s at the highest quality end of the scale. All cars get Audi’s excellent virtual cockpit dashboard display, as well as the latest MMI dual touchscreen system for controlling the car’s functions via a 10.1-inch upper display and an 8.6-inch lower screen, featuring haptic touch tech that gives a click of feedback when you press the screen. It looks great, but isn’t always the easiest to use when driving because you can’t feel your way to a button so have to take eyes off the road. It’s also not long before grubby fingerprints make themselves known. Boot space of 600 litres is good, and is complemented by a 60-litre cubby under the bonnet where the engine would normally be.

On the road, the E-Tron is very rapid, thanks to the surge of instant response that comes from an electric vehicle, while it also rides well, despite the large wheels, is composed when pushed faster through bends and the steering has a good weight to it. The E-Tron’s performance off the line and on twisty roads is all the more impressive when you realise the kerbweight is a shade under 2.5 tonnes.

It’s not cheap, but the tax incentives are increasingly enticing for company users at a time where Government is refusing to be clear on future taxation, so plug-in cars are the best way to mitigate future rises. And the E-Tron does all the sensible things well – it’s a high-class premium electric vehicle.

Paul Barker

The verdict

The E-Tron looks good and offers performance, practicality and a good real-world range. It’s another good step on the road to electric vehicles becoming mainstream.