Is this EV a cut above the mainstream rivals whose sales Audi is hoping to eat into?
Mark Tisshaw
23 October 2021

Why we’re running it: Can Audi, through this new electric family crossover, retain its premium appeal in the EV age?

Month 1 - Specs

Life with an Audi Q4 E-tron: Month 1

Welcoming the Q4 E-tron to the fleet - 15 September 2021

We’ve heard of many watershed moments for the mass adoption of electric cars, but for the UK’s third-biggest-selling brand’s second-best-selling model to be a family crossover with a range in excess of 300 miles feels perhaps the most significant of all.

In its first full year on sale in 2022, the new Audi Q4 E-tron is expected to be the German car maker’s top seller behind only the A3. That means ahead of the A1, A4, Q2, Q3 and Q5 – all models that you might expect to be higher up the sales charts.

The Q4 follows the larger E-tron/E-tron Sportback and E-tron GT as Audi’s third dedicated electric car and, with those sales predictions, marks a coming of age for the technology at a brand that will have sold its last combustion-engined car by 2032.

Unlike the more bespoke models before it, the Q4 E-tron doesn’t deviate from Audi’s typical A/Q naming strategy. So as its moniker suggests, it has a Q3-sized footprint with the more rakish bodystyle that even-numbered Audi Q models adopt. Unlike the Q3, or indeed any other A or Q Audi to date, it will be electric-only, with no hybrid or combustion-engined variants.

Our companion for the next few months is a mid-range 40 model, with a 201bhp rear-mounted electric motor (what odds would you have got a few years ago on BMW’s mainstream family hatchback offering front drive and Audi’s rear drive?), powered by a battery that has a usable capacity of 77kWh and gives a claimed range of 316 miles. Below the 40 sits the entry-level 35, which uses a 168bhp electric motor and a smaller (52kWh) battery and above it a range-topping 50, which features the larger battery and gains an extra motor at the front to give it four-wheel drive and a combined 295bhp.

In terms of specification, our choice, Sport, sits below S line and Vorsprung but is still well equipped. As standard, the car comes with 19in alloy wheels, front sports seats, tri-zone air conditioning, a 10.1in touchscreen running Audi’s MMI infotainment system and a fully digital instrument dashboard.

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Our car’s £44,990 base price is soon pushed above £50,000 with a whole host of options, including Navarra Blue metallic paint, matrix LED headlights, the Technology Pack (including the impressive augmented-reality head-up display) and 20in five-spoke alloys.

At £52,685 all in, our car costs a good £10,000 more than similarly positioned more mainstream rivals, such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the Q4 E-tron’s Skoda Enyaq iV and Volkswagen ID 4 cousins.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room: the three-and-a-half stars scored by the Q4 E-tron in its recent Autocar road test, where it was marked down for failing to fully distinguish itself from the Volkswagen Group cars with which it shares its MEB EV architecture.

While impressively refined, practical and efficient, the Q4 E-tron’s premium credentials were let down by looks, proportions and cabin build quality one wouldn’t typically expect of an Audi. While perhaps okay for the Enyaq iV and ID 4, the Audi’s premium positioning and pricing can rightly be held against it.

Digging more deeply, at which point is a premium brand and model no longer premium when what it offers is in fact mainstream and sells in such high volumes? Despite its mega sales success of recent years, Audi (and this is true of BMW and Mercedes-Benz too) has successfully managed to keep its premium aura and appeal with the quality feel and execution of its cars. Is the Q4 E-tron, which at face value doesn’t really stand apart from its more mainstream peers, the car that bursts the premium bubble?

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It will be fascinating to see over an extended ownership period the hidden depths of high-quality appeal that this Audi EV (surely) has to offer. That’s all to come, though. As for first impressions, I would agree that the interior feels a bit plasticky in places once you get past the initial wow factor of all the glossy screens, yet on the move the Q4 E-tron is as quiet and refined a family car as they come. It’s not one to set the pulse racing, but rather soothe and cosset those on board.

I would expect the issue of range to be a footnote to this long-term test, at least in all but the coldest months, as a figure well in excess of 300 miles is entirely achievable. I can’t think of any journey I’ve done in the past couple of years that would have given me range anxiety in a Q4 E-tron.

Perhaps those early high points are premium qualities in itself: the Q4 E-tron seems a car that leaves you nothing to worry about, removing the fears that prevent some from switching to electric motoring. Once it has allayed those fears, can the Q4 E-tron offer enough elsewhere to leave a lasting special feeling, and justify the extra cost of a smaller premium car that has so much in common with its peers? That and lots more will be revealed in the months to come.

Second Opinion

The Q4 doesn’t seem a comfortable fit for Audi, whether you’re a modern convert to the brand attracted by strong design or remember when these cars really did represent ‘progress through technology’. For me, Audi needed to do more than just present a refined, practical, usable family EV to really stand out. Let’s see if Mark finds hidden depths.

Matt Saunders

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Audi Q4 E-tron 450 Sport specification

Specs: Price New £44,990 Price as tested £52,685 Options Technology Pack £1200, Matrix LED headlights £1075, Assistance Package Plus £1000, suspension with damper control £950, 20in 5-Y-spoke graphite alloy wheels £660, Safety Package Plus £650, Navarra Blue metallic paint £575, privacy glass £375, Function Package £325, flat-top-and-bottom twin-spoke leather steering wheel with paddles £285, Ambient Lighting Pack £250, inlay in aluminium convergence £225, acoustic glazing for front doors £215

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Test Data: Engine 1x asynchronous electric Power 201bhp Torque 229lb ft Kerb weight 2050kg Top speed 99mph 0-62mph 8.5sec Range 316 miles Maximum charge rate 125kW CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Comments
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JHart001 28 October 2021

Sorry but Mark Tisshaw must surely be a full on Audi fan at heart - getting early excuses in for the interior quality (or lack thereof) and making the ~300 mile range, firstly into "well in excess of 300... " and then to try and make that range sound like such a strong point.  To go as far as effectively saying one has not made a journey of over 300 miles in over 2 years surely brings any findings that may follow into serious question.  This is a lightly disguised "advertorial" and Steve Sutcliffe would be horrified.

whalley 23 October 2021

Surely the real price comparison ends up favouring the Audi. To decide whether the premium is worth it, you need the three cars (Audi, VW, Skoda) in as near the same spec as possible. This will add more to the Skoda cost just to get it into the base Audi territory. At any given level, this puts all three pretty close in price terms. Mid £40,000s. At that level, a few thousand more for the Audi starts to look cheap, given the likely residuals on the brand. It's a much smaller % than exists at present with ICE cars, (although that gap is only ever going to close going forward). 

Having driven Audis (TT & A5) for the last 22 years I have to say the thing that attracted me and kept me loyal was the quality of the interior. The original TT in particular was special in its day. Something that made the car nice to sit in even when it wasn't moving. My concern is that in each generation since, Audi has made only marginal progress whereas its competitors have made the great strides necessary to catch up. Skoda too has closed the gap, more than keeping pace with its own brand competitors. As cars otherwise, I do not believe Audis did or do stand out in any way so this USP on interiors is an important thing to maintain. The whole thing smacks of Ford when the beancounters controlled the designers before the car guys saved them again. Cheaper interiors may save a few millions but if it destroys the brand cache that will lose them a few billion (just like the emmissions scandal did).

Hundredth.Idiot 23 October 2021

According to Bjorn's range tests this will do the claimed range of 316 miles....at a steady 56mph, in summer, on dry roads. If it really does have 77kph usable (which I'm not sure it does), and if you drive it from 100-0%, which you won't.

At a more normal 75mph, using 90% of the available battery, the range is more like 190 miles. Add rain and/or and you're closer to 160 miles.

In fairness it's similar to a Model 3 LR (which I have and love), so it's "competitive", but you will be disappointed if you expect to drive for more than 2.5 hours between recharging stops on a motorway journey in any electric car.