The E-tron’s propulsive vital statistics wouldn’t have embarrassed a super-saloon a decade ago. That the car doesn’t quite perform like one has a lot to do with its weight; it’s considerably larger and heavier than the I-Pace we tested last year, and heavier even than the seven-seat Tesla Model X 90D we tested in 2017. And yet still it feels a long way from slow.
Audi gives you access to the combined 403bhp and 490lb ft that the car’s motors make in somewhat qualified terms: you need to use Boost mode, which is only available with the gearbox in ‘S’ and the accelerator pedal pushed past the kickdown switch – and only then for bursts of up to eight seconds. Comply with those conditions, though, and it will hit 60mph from rest in 5.4sec and 100mph in 13.7sec – making the car slower than both the aforementioned rivals, but giving up much more outright performance to the Jaguar than to the Tesla.
Tip-in throttle response isn’t quite as sharp as you find in some EVs, but it’s as good as perfect during roll-on acceleration. Single-speed gearing, meanwhile, makes the power delivery of the electric motors adopt that familiar, EV-typical character as part of which you get gradually less muscular responses to calls for acceleration as your prevailing speed increases. Nonetheless, having felt genuinely fast up to about 50mph, the E-tron produces a very urgent-feeling turn of pace even at motorway speeds, and keeps going strongly even into three figures.
The car’s battery regen settings are controllable through three manually selectable presets using the steering wheel shift paddles, as well as having an automatic setting that uses both navigation data and the car’s active safety system sensors to manage its propensity to coast or to recuperate as best suits what’s ahead of it. The automatic setting takes a bit of acclimatising to, but learn to trust it and you will find it makes the car behave close to exactly as you want it to, both on and off the throttle, with very few functional lapses.
The car’s wind and road noise isolation and its general rolling refinement are even more impressive. With electric motors that seem super-quiet and smooth even by EV standards, and very little wind intrusion to speak of even at long-distance pace, the car’s cabin is fully four decibels quieter at a 70mph cruise than a Tesla Model X, and two decibels quieter than a Jaguar I-Pace at the same speed.