Audi has been talking up its newest arrival for the past five years, but does the final product match the hype? We find out.
Audi has been talking up its newest arrival for the past five years, but does the final product match the hype? We find out.

Tested: Audi’s shocking new SUV

Audi has just released a bolt of energy to recharge the electric car revolution. The German brand has just launched its first electric SUV - the e-tron - which is set to take the fight to established players such as Tesla.

Here are five things you need to know about the Audi e-tron.

The e-tron has been delayed multiple times.
The e-tron has been delayed multiple times.

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME COMING

Audi was one of the first major carmakers to unveil an electric concept vehicle. The e-tron concept car was unveiled at Frankfurt motor show in 2015 and promised more than 500km of range between charges. Five years later, the production version has finally reached our shores promising more than 400km of range for the most expensive 55 model. The 50 model we're driving has a claimed range "in excess of 300km". After a drive of almost 150km, most of which was spent in light traffic at low speeds, we reckon it does what it says on the box. Our car's battery was 90 per cent charged when we left the dealership and indicated 232km of range. We drove 143km and returned with 114km range. There is one caveat, though. The Audi uses more juice when you need the range the most. A short 10km burst on a freeway chewed up 20km of range. Our trip computer said we had averaged 23KWh of energy use per 100km and the battery capacity is 71kWh, so 300km-plus was achievable.

Electric cars use much more energy on the freeway than in traffic.
Electric cars use much more energy on the freeway than in traffic.

ACCELERATION IS LIVELY

Audi says the e-tron 50 will reach 100km/h from standstill in 6.8 seconds and the 55 will complete the task in 5.7 seconds. That's slower than Jaguar's claim for the I-Pace (4.8 seconds) and Mercedes-Benz's EQC (5.1 seconds) but it still feels lively off the mark and strong when asked to overtake, thanks to oodles of low-down torque. There is a slight delay when you plant the throttle but in-gear acceleration betters all but the sportiest of petrol and diesel-powered SUVs. It's an eerie sensation accelerating that quickly without the usual soundtrack of an engine, but the silence suits a luxury SUV.

Audi makes some of the best interiors in the business.
Audi makes some of the best interiors in the business.

THE CABIN OOZES LUXURY

The e-tron is guaranteed to make a strong first impression on the showroom floor. The high-quality materials and surface treatments combine well with a trio of hi-resolution screens to create a modern, hi-tech look and feel. There's no need for a chord to charge your phone or hook up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and there are four USB ports for other devices. Owners who like to brag can opt to have their side mirrors replaced with digital screens that are said to give a better view of the surrounding traffic. The satnav can plan your route taking into account vehicle range and the available charging stations on your journey.

The e-tron’s prices means it won’t sell in big numbers.
The e-tron’s prices means it won’t sell in big numbers.

WEIGHT IS AN ISSUE

The e-tron isn't much bigger than a Q5 outside but the 55 model weighs almost as much as a Toyota LandCruiser, thanks to the big bank of batteries under the floor. That's where the similarities end, though, as the e-tron disguises its weight well on the road. Its low centre of gravity means it doesn't lean like other SUVs through the corners, while the all-wheel-drive set up and massive tyres deliver physics-defying levels of grip. For an SUV, It's a hoot to drive.

PRICE IS A BIGGER ISSUE

Range anxiety is becoming less of a barrier to EV acceptance these days, but price remains becomes a major passion killer. The e-tron is a fantastic vehicle to drive and an amazing feat of engineering, but it is prohibitively expensive, even for a luxury car buyer. The 50 variant will cost roughly $150,000 on the road, or more than $160,000 with the sleeker Sportback body. If you want the extra performance and range of the 55 that's another $10,000. That puts it on par with the ballistic RS4 Avant, or about double the price of a similarly equipped Q5. At least Audi is giving buyers six years of free charging and servicing to soften the blow.

Originally published as Tested: Audi's shocking new SUV


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