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.
But where, then, does Audi’s most innovative product arguably since the Ur-Quattro of 1980 truly sit within this incipient but important class? Just how revolutionary does it feel out on the road, and can it offer the usability and refinement to justify a £70,000 asking price, or perhaps even driving enjoyment where many would still least expect to find it? Let’s find out.
Price £71,520 Power 403bhp Torque 490lb ft 0-60mph 5.4sec 30-70mph in fourth na Fuel economy 2.3mpkWh CO2 emissions 0g/km 70-0mph 45.0m
The E-tron range at a glance
The E-tron launches with a solitary powertrain option consisting of an electric motor on each axle, both of which are fed by a 95kWh lithium ion battery pack that sits within the wheelbase.
Audi has yet to announce any further models in the line-up, though in line with its recent change in nomenclature, one might reasonably expect a cheaper E-tron ‘45’ to become available in the future, with less power, a smaller battery pack and a shorter driving range.