First Drive

First Drive: Audi E-tron S

The story:
This is the first ‘S’ branded electric vehicle from Audi, a model boasting over 500hp designed to prove that excitement and electrification are not mutually exclusive.
Category:Large SUV
Key rival:Tesla Model X
MPG:Range: 221 miles
On sale:Now

The e-tron S is the performance flagship of Audi’s electric SUV range, and a car designed to show that electric cars can be as fun as they are sensible.

More than 500hp is a good place to start on that route, with Audi claiming that the first electric car to wear its S moniker for performance models is also the first volume production car to use three electric motors.

Two of those power the e-tron S in regular driving, giving it 435hp and a 5.1-second 0-62mph time. The third one kicks in to give an eight-second burst of additional power, chopping more than half a second off an already really rather rapid acceleration time.

The e-tron comes in regular SUV form (as driven here), which is likely to account for more than three-quarters of sales into the fleet sector, or the more coupe-like Sportback shape for an additional £1700 over the £87,000 starting price.

This S version has a 221-mile range, or 223 for the more aerodynamic Sportback. It’s capable of taking a charge at up to 150kW, which, if you can find one, will take the car from 5%-80% charged in around half an hour.

First Drive - March 2021 - Audi E-Tron S - Image 7As well as being ferociously fast and responsive, the e-tron S is also more agile than might be expected of a large SUV, and while the ride is solid and sporting, it’s certainly not harsh.

The cabin, already lovely in a regular e-tron, also benefits from a few extra touches, including the S sports front seats.

The S is actually 46mm wider than the standard e-tron, due to the flared wheelarches that form part of the performance version’s visual enhancements, including the chrome door mirrors, bespoke side sills and appealing 21-inch alloy wheels. The overall effect is a meaner and more rapid-looking SUV.

Audi expects half of the e-tron S demand to come from senior executives taking advantage of the huge BiK savings that come with an electric vehicle, which means around 300 going into the corporate sector this year. It will be a huge year for Audi’s electric models with first the e-tron GT grand tourer and then the volume Q4 small SUV coming during 2021.

paul barker

The verdict

Incredibly rapid and more engaging and driveable than might be expected from a high-powered electric SUV. Audi can consider the point proven about electric and entertainment not being mutually exclusive.