A fleeting glance reveals a purposeful face dominated by a large, hexagonal single-frame grille, and an expansive light strip across its rear end – both design features we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on Audi’s existing models. The more reserved mode adopted here will surely be motivated by a desire to coax more conservatively minded buyers into the all-electric SUV; a more outlandish one, though, might have given the E-tron more distinctive presence on the road.
That said, the E-tron’s form played a crucial part in allowing Audi’s aerodynamics engineers to achieve their targets. The car’s shape – combined with a completely flat underbody, trick alloys, a controllable cool-air inlet in the front grille and optional camera-based wing mirrors – sees the E-tron’s drag coefficient drop as low as 0.27. The Jaguar I-Pace manages a figure of 0.29 by comparison.
This all sits on an adapted version of the Volkswagen Group’s MLB Evo platform. At 4.9 metres long, the E-tron lies between the larger Q7 and smaller Q5 in terms of size, but at just 1.6m tall it’s lower than both.
The layout of its electric powertrain makes for familiar reading. Two slightly differently packaged and powered electric motors, one at each axle and each driving through a slightly differently geared epicyclic transmission with a fixed ratio, combine to form the E-tron’s all-wheel-drive system. A 95kWh ‘skateboard’ battery sits in between the axles and beneath the floor.
Combined, the motors develop 355bhp and 414lb ft – but switch to Boost mode and these figures temporarily rise to 403bhp and 490lb ft. Under WLTP test conditions, this set-up allows for a claimed range of more than 241 miles – some way short of the Jaguar’s 292-mile theoretical range and less, even, than Mercedes’ rival, the EQC. Audi says that up to 30% of this range is a product of the car’s energy recuperation system, however, which harvests kinetic energy when the driver lifts off the throttle or presses the brake pedal via a segment-first ‘by-wire’ braking system.