Audi’s electric crossover is out to make waves with asymmetrical, three-motor drive

The electric car is taking some time to win over a car-buying general public that remains as sceptical about it in some quarters as it is evangelical in others – but as the technology develops, it is making headway.

We’re now seeing them as effective, reasonably priced, full-sized family cars; as desirable superminis and compact crossovers; and as luxury saloons. And while plenty have for quite a few years been performance cars of a kind, we’re also now starting to see a few convincing examples of the EV as driver’s car.

Like the regular E-tron, the E-tron S has a charging port on both front wings, but only the one on the driver’s side offers CCS rapid charge compatibility at up to 150kW.

This week’s road test subject undoubtedly defines itself as such. With the E-tron S quattro, Audi is using its ‘S’ fast-car model identifier on an EV for the first time. It was nearly 30 years ago that Ingolstadt first used ‘S’ as a special model prefix, on the 100-based S4. It has since been adopted, in prolific quantities, by four-wheel-drive performance versions of cars as different as the A1 supermini, TT coupé and Q7 SUV.

This Audi ‘S express’ has enough outright torque to put even the mighty RS Q8 in the shade, though – and it also uses electric motors in a way unlike any electric car of its type. Fully independent and asymmetrical, motor-per-corner torque vectoring has long promised to be the trump card that electric cars might use to convince keen drivers that electric motoring could be for them.

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Until now, it’s been a card that the mass-produced, relatively attainable electric car had still to play, appearing only on super-exotic battery-powered options like the Rimac Concept One, Mercedes-AMG SLS Electric Drive and forthcoming Lotus Evija.

The mould-breaking three-motor layout of the E-tron S quattro changes all that. But to what effect?

The Audi E-tron line-up at a glance

The new S quattro becomes the top-level version in a range of three Audi E-tron models whose list prices span almost £30,000. If you want a swoopier-looking Sportback variant, the premium on the S quattro model is £1700.

The S version is a de-facto trim level in itself, but lesser models come in Technik, Sport, S line, Black Edition and Vorsprung trims.