What is it?
The Q4 E-tron couldn’t have arrived at a better time for Audi. Backed by government incentives the world over, electric car sales – and efforts to establish suitable charging network infrastructure – are at an all-time high.
First revealed in concept car form at the 2019 Geneva motor show, the Q4 E-tron is a compact crossover-style SUV based on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB (Modularen Elektrik Baukasten, or Modular Electric Toolkit) platform, created specifically for EVs. The car's development has been carried out with that of the recently introduced Volkswagen ID 4, Skoda Enyaq and Cupra Born – and it's produced alongside the ID 4 at a Volkswagen factory in Zwickau, Germany.
Together with their platform, all four share common powertrains as well as other key architectural elements.
The similarities are reflected in the proportions of the exterior, most notably the relative shortness of the bonnet and the way the A-pillars are set forward in a bid to maximise interior space. It gives the high-riding Q4 E-tron a unique look within the Audi line-up.
As with the more conventional combustion-engined Audi Q3, buyers get to choose between two different bodystyles: an SUV with a sloping tailgate and the more coupé-like Sportback model, with a flatter liftback-style tailgate, driven here.
There is no mistaking the Q4 E-tron’s origins. Up front, there’s a bold blanked-off single-frame grille with Audi’s signature four rings. The overall styling holds true to the earlier concept, with prominent side feature lines above large wheel arches and the lower part of the door intended to add structure to the otherwise smooth flanks, while a sizeable spoiler above the tailgate helps to smooth airflow across the heavily curved roof. Audi claims a class-leading drag co-efficient of 0.26.
It's inside where the new Audi immediately impresses. The cabin is very contemporary, both in look and feel. It is also higher on perceived quality than any of its Volkswagen Group siblings. The front seats are set well back, because of the heavy rake of the windscreen, and the pedals are positioned relatively high due to a flat floor. However, there’s a large range of longitudinal and height adjustment, allowing you to quickly strike a comfortable driving position behind the hexagonal-shaped multifunction steering wheel.
There is a large expanse of dashboard, but its materials are all very agreeable. As is the clarity of the two digital displays – a 10.25in unit for the instruments and a standard 10.1in (optionally 11.6in) centrally mounted unit for the MMI infotainment system, which features Hey Audi conversational voice recognition. Buyers can choose between three visual set-ups: Standard, Virtual and Virtual Plus.
The Q4 E-tron is also the first Audi model to feature an augmented reality head-up display. Similar to that available on the ID 4, it reflects information, including navigation commands, on to the windscreen in two separate fields and with a varying depth of field.
It’s a versatile driving environment and there are many cubbyholes, including large bottle holders in each of the doors. The space-efficient potential of the MEB platform also combines with a relatively long, 2764mm wheelbase to provide impressive accommodation, particularly in the rear, where the Q4 E-tron offers greater leg room than either of its key rivals, the BMW iX3 and Mercedes-Benz EQA, which both use adapted platforms from their combustion-engined siblings.