For Audi, the arrival of its very first fully electric series-production model can’t have come soon enough. And unusually, the urgency had relatively little to do with the launch diaries of rival manufacturers and more with the wider well-being of the company.
Jaguar and Mercedes might also recently have put luxurious electric mid-sized SUV models, rich in zeitgeist appeal, onto the road, but Audi has other concerns. Its role in the Volkswagen Group diesel emissions scandal inflicted a good degree of reputational damage on the brand, and alongside helping to meet strict future average CO2 emissions, cars such as this week’s road test subject will be essential in repairing that damage.
Over the next four years, Audi says it will put sustainability at the forefront of its product strategy, investing as much as €14 billion (£12.5bn) in electric mobility and autonomy. The E-tron, with electric motors made in Hungary, a battery pack from Poland and assembly in Belgium, is the car that kick-starts this revolution – and will, at least in the short term, define how the public perceives Audi as a maker of electric cars.
On paper the E-tron looks like a strong offering. Performance, range and price all look competitive in principle, while the E-tron’s charging capabilities are class-leading. Moreover, the designers have cautiously adapted the same instantly recognisable aesthetic that has driven the brand’s sales successes elsewhere.