There’s a marked sense of disconnection between the size of the E-tron and its weight, this being an SUV that’s lower rising than most mid-sized options but that weighs a few hundred kilos more than most large ones. You can blame all 700kg of battery for that.

Still, it’s not something you are likely to detect in the way the car performs – and, provided the roads you drive on are fairly smooth – neither is it something that adversely affects the E-tron’s handling. Our test car rode on the standard 20in alloy wheels, and had a lateral grip level that felt more than ample, without quite giving the car a directional responsiveness or adhesiveness that you would call exciting.

Simon Davis

Simon Davis

Road tester
It’s not distinctive styling or entertaining dynamics that marks out the E-tron from other EVs, but its rolling refinement and serene driving environment on smooth roads

It might get slightly closer to a pseudo-sporting mark on Audi’s optional 21s – but surveying the broader dynamic picture, most testers said they would be reluctant to trade any of the car’s rolling refinement for a sharper edge to the handling.

The electric all-wheel-drive system is cracked up to deliver plenty of rear-biased torque and super-fast vectoring properties – but in practice you don’t really perceive either. The car’s most striking handling quality is sure-footedness. Hurry it through a bend and you get a bit less body roll than expected, but still plenty of it, and a fairly gentle turn-in thanks to a medium-paced steering rack.

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Then there’s an assured level of mid-corner purchase; a decent picture of front contact patch loading through the steering as you accelerate beyond the apex; and handling balance that never quite promises to become neutral under power but that doesn’t cause the car to head for the weeds either, therefore allowing you to carry speed easily and keep the car pointed where you intend all the while.

Throw an uneven surface into the mix and the E-tron’s understated sense of handling poise deteriorates, its air suspension plainly struggling a bit to contain its mass and maintain some suspension dexterity over mid-corner bumps. Still, for a car of this size and weight, the Audi does a creditable job of feeling wieldy, secure and precise.

If the Millbrook Hill Route were flatter, the E-tron would have emerged from it having given a slightly more convincing account of its dynamic capacities. The car has a fairly strong grip level and laudable lateral body control, both of which aren’t commonly found on two-and-a-half tonne cars. It doesn’t exactly feel keen to turn in, but is still surprisingly precise and nicely stable and obedient mid-corner with it.

There’s enough grip to be quite generous with the torque of those electric motors once you’re beyond the apex of a corner, too. The tuning of the E-tron’s air suspension and adaptive dampers doesn’t keep vertical body movement nearly as tidily controlled as roll, however, and once the car’s considerable mass is disturbed, it is rarely checked with much subtlety. But the car’s stability and traction control systems work well, and aren’t intrusive even under hard driving.

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

The E-tron could accurately be described as the first electric car that fully realises the potential of zero-emissions powertrain technology to take the noise out of a luxury cabin, and to put an abiding sense of calm and wellness in its place.

The likes of Tesla and Jaguar have made some progress on that score already – but only when you drive the E-tron do you realise how much untapped progress they left on the table. The car isn’t quite Rolls-Royce quiet, but the fact that, at 70mph, its motorway cabin noise level is closer to that of a Phantom than to a Tesla Model X tells you plenty. Wind noise is particularly well suppressed (and this on a test car that still has standard conventional exterior mirrors), and road noise is likewise kept to a minimum.

And so, thanks to Audi’s wider engineering attention to detail, those attracted to a luxury EV for the relaxing influence it might have on their daily motoring should certainly be pleased with what they find. The car’s comfort level, like its handling composure, is at its best on smooth surfaces.

Try to maintain the sort of pace you can easily adopt on a dual carriageway on a more testing cross-country road and the E-tron finally reveals the mass it’s been concealing, as it runs short on vertical body control without much invitation, and makes occupants a bit uneasy with head toss at times. Standard seats that seem a little bit flat don’t help to contain your backside as much as they might here, although they’re nonetheless comfortable – and betterbolstered sports seats are an option.

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