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Ingolstadt enters volume-selling family EV market with an unconventional crossover

Watching as the cars we all know, and the companies behind them, switch from reciprocating pistons to electric motors over the coming years will probably feel strange and unsettling at times.

As the market’s landscape is made anew, very few of those familiar, bankable automotive-market truths that we’ve always taken for granted are likely to remain fixed. This week, another one bites the dust as Audi branches out into the business end of the market for electric cars for the very first time.

Unconventional premium-car proportions include a short bonnet, which is another way in which this EV is made to look quite puny in profile. A long cabin is practical, of course, but does it make the car look more desirable?

The Q4 E-tron – Ingolstadt’s third all-electric model following the larger E-tron SUV of 2018 and the E-tron GT four-door sports car that was introduced in the UK earlier this year – becomes Audi’s first-ever volume-selling, rear-wheel-drive car. The firm, whose association with front-wheel drive extends back to the 1930s and which famously branched out to develop quattro four-wheel drive in the 1980s, has only ever made rear-driven derivatives of the R8 supercar before.

Its refusal to follow the classic mechanical type of its luxury-level rivals with its regular passenger cars has, at times over the decades, bordered on pig-headedness. Now, with so much that’s new and unfamiliar about its first affordable EV, perhaps Audi is hoping that we won’t notice as one of the technical principals that it has always clung to falls by the wayside – or perhaps that we won’t care.

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This is, after all, Ingolstadt’s new electric era. The firm will launch its last combustion-engined car within four years, and by 2032 will have built its very last. From here on out, we should expect most of its model introductions to be EVs – and this week’s road test subject provides our first taste of what they might be like.

The Q4 line-up at a glance

Unlike Audi’s petrol and diesel models, the Q4 E-tron’s range is relatively simple, with just three powertrain options. Using the MEB platform means that, uncharacteristically for Audis, all cars are essentially rear-wheel drive.

Only the most powerful version adds a smaller front motor for quattro all-wheel drive under peak throttle. Both the 40 and 50 models have a 77kWh battery, while the base 35 gets a smaller, 52kWh version.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Audi Q4 E-tron

First drives