At its core is an electric driveline with two asynchronous motors – one sitting up front with 181bhp and the other at the rear with 221bhp– connected by an electronic ‘prop shaft’ that eschews a conventional mechanical connection for a wiring loom. Together, the two motors provide four-wheel drive and deliver up to 402bhp and 487lb ft, although this is only available in Boost mode, which also gives the new Audi a claimed 0-62mph time of 5.7sec. Top speed is limited to 124mph.
In Normal mode power and torque are reduced by 13% and 18% respectively, to 350bhp and 414lb ft, to increase the range, although this is still enough for a 0-62mph time of 6.4sec. Energy is supplied by a liquid-cooled 95kWh lithium ion battery mounted low in the floor. Overall, the battery weighs 700kg – a good chunk of the car’s 2490kg kerb weight.
The battery can be charged using a 150kW fast charger, with which Audi claims a charging time of just 30 minutes up to an energy capacity of 80%. For home charging there is a standard 11kW charger, which charges the battery in 8.5 hours.
How does the E-tron perform on the road?
The first impression when you drive the E-tron is its on-road quietness. Even by the standards of modern-day electric cars, it is super-refined.
There’s a faint, distant whine from the electric motors at each end of the cabin, and tyre noise is superbly isolated at town speeds. It is an agreeably soothing car to drive.
It’s a quick one, too. A simple nudge of the accelerator releases sufficient muscle to propel the E-tron from standstill with highly responsive and vigorous performance. Along with the strong step-off qualities delivered by its electric drivetrain, there’s also a feeling of huge flexibility when the opportunity presents itself to tap into the full extent of the Boost mode’s reserves of power and torque. The resulting acceleration is very spirited indeed and, thanks to the single-speed transmission, wonderfully linear all the way up to typical motorway speeds.
Aerodynamic work has netted the E-tron a claimed drag co-efficient of 0.27, making for excellent wind refinement at higher speeds. Combined with the near-silent qualities of the driveline and lightly weighted steering, it is extremely relaxing to drive over long distances.
However, don’t think the new Audi is the same one-dimensional driving proposition as many earlier electric cars: it also delivers the consistencies of body control and grip to make it quite an entertaining drive.
Audi has succeeded in keeping the centre of gravity low enough to ensure sudden changes in direction do not upset momentum to any large degree. It is engagingly fluid over winding roads and generates a good deal of corning speed. Its four-wheel-drive system even indulges a spot of oversteer when the ESP is deactivated, making the E-tron more fun than it really has any right to be.
The inclusion of air springs as standard produces a nicely controlled ride. There’s a characteristic firmness, as you’d expect given its weight, but the impact absorption and rebound characteristics are such that it swallows all but the biggest bumps without undue harshness. The ride height can be adjusted, with Efficiency mode dropping the springs by 27mm and Off-road mode raising them by 52mm.
Audi’s sophisticated energy regeneration control system allows you to tailor the amount of retardation dependent on the driving conditions and road, from a free-wheeling mode with no regeneration at all to maximum regeneration that pulls you up with a truly meaningful 0.3g of braking force on a trailing throttle.