Is this EV a cut above the mainstream rivals whose sales Audi is hoping to eat into?

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

Month 3 - Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with an Audi Q4 E-tron: Month 3

Trips require planning but no plan survives contact with the vet - 1 December 2021

The family Ford Fiesta was all ready to be packed up to travel 200 miles to the north Norfolk Airbnb we had booked for a few days away when my partner asked why we weren’t going in my work car, like we always do. It’s electric, was my reasoning. Which was fairly flimsy reasoning, given that I had spent the past few weeks answering the first question most people asked me when they saw my latest Autocar fleet test car was the new electric Audi Q4 E-tron with “about 300 miles”.

With such a range, why wouldn’t we take it? So we did. It was still early autumn at the time, with mild weather, so the 300-mile range figure could be relied on.

Past experience tells me to knock off about 40% of an electric car’s range in winter, and with a dog on board for the long journey and no desire to make it any longer by leaving ourselves at the mercy of the public charging network, it’s not a journey that I would take on by the time you read this. Yet back in mid-September, I couldn’t foresee any jeopardy.

Until the dog decided to lose a whole nail and needed to see the vet at the precise early Saturday time we had planned to set off at to beat the traffic. So the three-and-a-half-hour-or-so journey quickly became a five-hour one, as the M4 and A1(M)’s closure exposed us to more of the M25 and godforsaken M11 than one’s stress levels would ever want.

Smooth, quiet electric power and one-pedal driving with maximum regenerative braking made stop-start traffic about as tolerable as it ever could be, and it also helped the range, because we weren’t draining power driving at fast motorway speeds. And so it was that we reached our destination with 25% battery remaining – an indicated 80 miles. The only range anxiety had come from one’s bladder as we crept slowly, teasingly towards the services in the height of the M11 traffic.

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I have a wallbox charger at home, but no such facility was available in the driveway of our rental. So the Q4’s three-pin plug was called into action, running securely into the house, and it trickled the battery up to about 75% battery from an overnight charge. We had a three-night stay booked and didn’t plan to head too far from our base in Nelson’s County, given the wonderful beaches and local landscapes. So we would simply get the trickle charger back on every night (once a battery charge reaches 80%, it slows right down for the remainder, something a three-pin charger magnifies), and we left a few days later with 99% battery for a much less eventful drive home.

We returned home after an almost traffic-free run, averaging just over 50mph, with a 10% range. Again, no anxiety, as I knew it would make it.

When the family holiday becomes in reach of an electric car, suddenly their usefulness increases yet again. The usual caveats remain: plan ahead, know the range limits and don’t overly rely on charging on the way but instead focus on charging at either end. That still doesn’t make them for everyone or every scenario, of course, but to me it felt somewhat of a game-changer for electric cars and how I can use them.

Love it:

Range You can see why many car makers are settling on 300-plus miles for their EVs. It breaks a big psychological barrier.

Loathe it:

Too few service areas Not the Q4’s fault, but when you’re bursting, you don’t half notice how poorly gapped services are on the M25 and the motorways it links to.

Mileage: 3911

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One pedal is enough - 10 November 2021

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Sliding the Q4’s gear selector from ‘D’ into ‘B’ brings the regenerative braking into play so strongly that you hardly ever need to move your right foot across. I’ve become so used to this that the first time in a long while I had to use a brake pedal in anger was at 150mph at the end of a runway in a Rolls-Royce Ghost, which felt weird for so many reasons...

Mileage: 3773

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Life with an Audi Q4 E-tron: Month 2

back it up, back it in - 27 October 2021

The past two electrified cars I’ve ran on these pages have sited their charging points either on the nose or front wing, so reversing into a space to charge has not been an option. Thankfully, the Q4’s is at the rear, where a fuel filler flap would be, so I can back into spaces and charge. A minor thing, but in the real world it makes a huge difference.

Mileage: 3001

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People are getting clued-up on EVs and are inspired by this one - 6 October 2021

When, like you and I, dear reader, you’re the car person in any peer network, people come looking for car-buying advice. And they do so usually having already made up their mind on what they want – or having just bought the car and simply wanting validation.

Remember to remain polite and keep smiling in these scenarios. “What do you think of the Peugeot 308 CC, then?” “Have you bought one?” “Yes.” “Great car...” That’s how it usually goes.

But what I’m finding with people who you wouldn’t call car lovers or enthusiasts is that they already seem far better educated about and aware of not only electric cars but also the related technology. They’re making good decisions and know the pitfalls and limitations as well as the advantages and suitability for some but not all car buyers, and the “Yeah, but will it get me from London to Edinburgh?” default question has gone away as they realise that they’ve never driven from London to Edinburgh without stopping, and probably never will. (And, as ever, if that’s you, buy a diesel!)

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This building of knowledge of electric cars seems to have happened quite quickly. When I was running EVs only a year or two ago, people who ask what I drive simply wanted to know “what are those electric cars like?”. Now the questions are more on the power outputs of various home chargers, which has the best app to support them and which energy supplier offers the cheapest overnight charging tariff.

And, in the early days of running the Audi Q4 E-tron, I’ve never experienced so many people knowing so much about such a new car – particularly (and respectfully) one that doesn’t set your trousers on fire and isn’t especially pioneering.

“I really like that. That’s my next car,” said a friend after seeing me with the Q4 E-tron for the first time. Essentially, that the car was an Audi and electric was all it needed to win him over and, given his motoring history and how keen he is to go electric, I wasn’t surprised.

Then someone else I know – a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV owner, pretty much only for tax reasons – said that the Q4 E-tron was their dream car as soon as I mentioned that I was running one.

And continuing a theme, someone who was going green for the first time cancelled the plug-in hybrid they had on order when they started looking into the Q4 E-tron and I suggested that for their annual trip to the Lake District they rent a big diesel, because the EV option is better suited to the 99.9% of other journeys they do.

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So even though I questioned in the introductory report if the Q4 E-tron did anything better than its more mainstream rivals (Ford Mustang Mach-E, Skoda Enyaq iV, Volkswagen ID 4 et al) to truly deserve its premium pricing and positioning, it doesn’t seem to be putting off those in the market.

Perhaps that’s a reflection of just how strong the Audi brand has become, that it can make something so rational and practical and still be considered a premium, desirable product.

Love it:

Range Credit to Audi: we’re seeing 300 miles between charges, even with exterior temperatures in the teens. Winter will be the real test, though.

Loathe it:

Glossed over Car makers, please stop putting gloss black plastic in interiors. It’s a magnet for grime and reminds me how grubby human hands are.

Mileage: 2522

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Why not round? - 22 September 2021

When I saw the £285 flat-bottomed and flat-topped wheel option on our Q4, I had to send quartic wheel ‘fan’ Matt Prior a picture. “There should be a law against it,” he said. “With round wheels, the rim’s always where you expect it.” He’s right. The weird shape is the thing that’s taken the most time to get used to. Operating everything else is a doddle.

Mileage: 2400

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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.

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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.

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.

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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?

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.

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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

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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Join the debate

Add a comment…
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 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.

Whynot UK1 7 January 2022

Well said.