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2019 Audi E-Tron 55 quattro – Car Review – the future of Audi

As the ads say “Electric has gone Audi”. The E-Tron is Audi’s first purpose-built electric SUV. And it’s quite an impressive thing, as Fred found out at the New Zealand Launch. But how would it fare as a daily driver? And how would it compare to the Jaguar I-Pace? We drove one for a week to find out.


The Range

There are two specs available – the 55 quattro, priced at $148,500 and the Advanced 55 quattro tested here, at $157,000.

The spec for both cars includes a 95 kWh battery pack, giving a maximum quoted range of 417km. There’s 265kW of power and a huge 561Nm of torque, which combined with the quattro four-wheel drive system can launch the 2500+ kilo weight of the E-Tron to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds, or 5.7 if you slot it into Sport mode.


There’s ESC, ABS, EBD, alarm with interior surveillance, driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, collision avoidance assist and turn assist, lane change assist, high beam assist, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and side mirrors, LED headlights, dual-zone aircon, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, Virtual Cockpit, keyless entry and start, heated, electric front seats with memory for driver seat, graphite grey inlays, satnav, twin leather upholstery.

The Advanced model adds rear side airbags, a 360-degree camera system, front cross traffic assist, head-up display, brushed aluminium inlays, gloss black buttons (rather than matt black), comfort front centre armrest, and Milano leather upholstery.

Our test car had the $5,800 Technology and Comfort Package, which adds ambient lighting, Matrix LED headlights, virtual mirrors, electric steering column adjust, comfort stationary aircon, door entrance LED projector lights, and the storage package.

There are plenty of other extras you can add if you want, which you can check out on Audi New Zealand’s website.

Colours available are white, two blacks, two greys, silver, beige, with Catalunya Red and Galaxy Blue being the only actual colours. Saying that, this is a car that suits the subdued, sensible shades.


First Impressions

Our review car was finished in Typhoon Grey Metallic, with gloss black details, and much as we like to criticise grey cars here at DriveLife, I have to say it looks great. Dark Grey does suit the chunky, solid-looking design of the E-Tron. It looks like a big Audi SUV, but unlike some it doesn’t feel the need to scream “I’m an EV!” in your face. There are small E-Tron badges on the front wings and that’s about it. Similarly with the multi-spoke 20” wheels – they look good but Audi haven’t made them look all eco-car crazy or add carbon fibre blades. I like it.

Obvious details that stand out to the more car-enthusiastic amongst us are the gloss black virtual mirror cameras replacing traditional mirrors, and of course the lack of exhausts poking out of the rear. I like the big red rear strip that lights up in a continuous line when braking, and of course sequential LED indicators, which always look cool and futuristic to me.


The Inside

Climbing into the driver’s seat of the E-Tron, the first thing you notice is the screens in the doors for the virtual mirrors. Set into the front top corner of the door trim, they are pretty eye-catching as an unusual feature. They are optional, as part of the $58,00 Technology and Comfort package. More on these later.

The interior is very much Audi, but with more screens than we’ve seen before in previous models, apart from the Q8. The driver’s main display is the latest version of Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit system which we’ve seen in several other models. It’s clear, bright and smooth, nicely laid out and configurable. The main centre display is a 10.1” touch screen which is used for the menus, stereo, 360-degree camera system and satnav. Underneath that there’s an 8.6” touch screen, which controls the aircon, heated seats, and other car systems, and can be set to default to one of several options as well as having a space to add favourite radio stations, contacts or controls. The lower screen has haptic feedback and needs to be pressed harder than the usual touch screen, giving a noticeable click as you do so. It feels a bit strange at first but you soon get used to it.

The centre console has neat foldable cup holders as well as a vertical slot with a wireless phone charger. There are USB and standard 12-volt power sockets as well.

Below that in the centre is the on/off button and gear shifter. The shifter is a bit different with a large hand rest and forward/back lever on the driver’s side. Like the haptic screen it’s a bit strange at first but It soon feels normal to use.

The seats are comfortable and look great in grey leather with a diamond pattern switched into the centres, matching the contrasting stitching on the cash and other trims. They’re heated, and electrically adjusted, with two memories for the driver’s seat. Rear seats are also comfortable and there’s a generous amount of leg room. Rear passengers also get their own climate vents, and four-zone climate is available as an option. The rear seats are 40/20/40 split and can be folded flat to expand the already generous 660-litre boot space up to a pretty huge 1725 litres.

One little feature I really liked is that the seatbelt sockets are all illuminated, making it really easy to find them in the dark.

The boot is well kitted out – there are side compartments with nets, tie-down loops, hooks, and an extra storage bin under the floor next to the pop-out space-saver spare tyre. At the back you get an electric tailgate which can be operated using the remote, door button, or a switch in the driver’s door. As well as the boot there’s an extra storage compartment under the bonnet with enough space to store the charging cables, with some room to spare. This is a nice neat solution as a lot of EVs have them in a bag in the boot, which takes up luggage space.


The Drive

Moving from a petrol car to an EV is always a bit of an adjustment for me. Sit in the car, press the start button and the screens all light up, sometimes there’s a little click or two, and the car is ready to go. It soon starts to feel normal of course, but while I’m getting used to it I almost wait for something else to happen, some noise.

The first job in any press car is of course phone pairing. In the E-Tron it was quick and seamless, and the car always re-connected quickly and resumed my music as you’d expect. This may seem basic but in some cars it can be an irritating experience. The stereo is very good, with a decent amount of bass, and clear sound.

Next – adjust the mirrors. Oh hang on, this car has virtual mirrors, so this will be a new experience. Adjusting them is easy – they are touch screens, so just slide the image to where you want and click save. Then click the icon to switch to the passenger side and repeat. All good so far! As you might expect, it takes a little adjustment to train yourself to look at the screens inside the doors rather than the position of the camera outside. It soon becomes habit to use the screens, and they are very clear, in both day and night conditions. They also have blind-spot warning integrated into them, so if a car is there, the mirror has a yellow border.

But I do have some issues with them. They can be distracting: a screen updating  in the corner of your eye is different to a normal mirror. If your passenger has a bag on their lap or is holding a phone, or puts their leg up a bit, it can completely block the driver’s view of that mirror because it’s lower than a normal mirror. And my biggest issue was a technical glitch where the driver’s side mirror dimmed into night mode in bright sunlight, making it unusable. Turning the car off and back on didn’t fix it, but when I next used the car a few hours later it was fixed. I can’t help feeling that virtual mirrors are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, almost tech for the sake of it, though Audi claim the reduction in wind resistance can add 5km to the total range.

Enough about mirrors, how does it drive? Well for a start it’s quiet, very quiet. Sound deadening is excellent and even on rougher road surfaces with those 20” wheels, it’s a very pleasant and relaxing place to be. It’s also pretty quick off the line, especially considering it weighs over 2.5 tons. 0-100 takes 6.6 seconds in normal mode or 5.7 in sport/boost mode thanks partly to the twin motor’s 265kW of power, but more so the 561Nm or torque, (664 in Sport mode). But when you do launch it, you can really feel that mass and inertia building. Good job the brakes are also excellent, and you can feel smug as you slow down and re-gain range.

The E-Tron has quite a different feel to the similarly-priced Jaguar I-Pace. The Jag feels less weighty, more sporty and has more of that addictive straight-line oomph. The Audi is a bigger, heavier and less powerful car for a start, but they have quite different characters.

The Audi feels big, solid, and gives a feeling of presence on the road. It’s fast but unlike the Jag I didn’t feel the urge to use the full power all of the time. I guess like its looks it feels more understated, more, well, ordinary I guess. And I mean this in a good way. It’s not showing off, not making the EV performance its party-piece, it’s just a good car to drive.

There are plenty of smart features to assist your driving, like smart cruise and lane assist, which work very well, with nice smooth acceleration and deceleration. But I had a couple of issues with these in morning stop/start traffic. On two occasions the car made a noise then all of the smart systems turned themselves off “due to local environmental conditions” and after 10-15 minutes allowed me to use them again. It wasn’t clear to me what had caused this and of course they are assists, not autonomous driving, but these are systems you have to be able to trust or they won’t be used.

The E-Tron had a couple of other glitchy things too – as with many cars the driver’s seat moves backwards when the car is switched off, to allow easy egress and entry. But it didn’t always remember to move forward again next time, so I had to keep adjusting my seat. And finally the boot tried to close itself on my head for no apparent reason – twice – it started beeping then motoring shut. The second time if I hadn’t stopped it with my hand it would have closed on my daughter. This is definitely a safety concern.

I feel like I’m going on a bit about the issues I had with the car, but they were unexpected on a new car, especially at this price level. That said, Fred had a different E-Tron on test a couple of weeks later and had no issues, so I may just have been unlucky with what I experienced.

It drives nicely, is comfortable and spacious, and has lots of nice features. But what about that old chestnut of EV ownership – range anxiety? Audi’s stated maximum range is just over 400km, which in normal use for me is probably about 9 days. I had the car for just over a week, and I did make a couple of longer trips, but I decided not to charge it at home. This was mainly because it’s awkward for me to park the car anywhere near a socket. Obviously if I owned an EV I would have a charge point installed to make this a simpler option. So it was public charge points for me. I found that once the range was under about 70km I started to feel a bit nervous even though I only had another 20km or so to travel that day, so I headed to the nearest charging point to my office after checking on the Charge Net app that it was available.

The charger is on Featherston Street in central Wellington in a small and quite tight side street. When I got there, not only was there a car blocking the street entrance but there was a local restaurant delivery driver’s car parked in the EV space. I persuaded the blocking driver to move so I could get to the next space and wait for the driver to return, chatting to a few passers by who were interested in the E-Tron. Finally after about ten minutes the delivery driver came back and the charge point was clear. I was met with a rude response when I pointed out that his 1990s Toyota Starlet wasn’t supposed to be in an EV charge space. But finally I could charge! Audi New Zealand had kindly provided a tag to activate the charger and pay for the electricity. I plugged in the E-Tron, scanned my tag and made sure the dash read charging, then walked back to the office to wait the 1 hour and 5 minutes the car said it needed.

What I didn’t realise is I had accepted the default of charging the car to 80%, so after about 40 minutes it stopped charging, so I rushed back to the car to move it, not wanting to hog the charger. This was my first time charging an EV so there were a few glitches, but I had a much smoother experience the second time I charged the E-Tron before returning it to Audi.


The Competition

Brand / ModelBattery /kWhPower kW/NmRange km0-100km/h, secondsBoot Capacity, litresPrice Highest to Lowest
Tesla Model X Long Range75270 / 4415054.6NA$156,500
Tesla Model S Long Range75270 / 4415903.7840$146,500
Audi E-tron 55 Quattro95300 / 6644176.6660$157,400
Jaguar I-Pace SE EV40090294 / 9694504.5656$154,000
BMW I3s42135 / 2702606.9260$85,900
Hyundai Kona EV Elite64150 / 3954497.9361$79,990
VW e-Golf28100 / 2902209.6380$68.490
KIA Niro EV40100 / 3952899.8451$67,990
Hyundai Ioniq EV Elite2888 / 2952006.9350$65,990


The pros and cons

ProsCons
Luxurious interior
Spacious
Fast
So quiet
Looks great
Virtual mirrors
Electrical glitches

What we think

The E-Tron isn’t Audi’s first EV, but it’s the first one launched as EV-only. And they’ve done a good job. It’s spacious, very pleasant to be inside, has some impressive technology, though some of the optional features seem to be there more for the sake of technology than practicality.

It has enough performance to satisfy, good range, and is very quiet and relaxing to drive, so longer trips should be great, broken up by breaks for reasonable charging times.

I don’t usually like to say too much about problems but our car had several issues, and that is a bit of a concern. That said this is a new model and I’m sure Audi will be on top of this.


Rating – Chevron rating (4 out of 5)

2019 Audi E-Tron 55 quattro Advanced

Vehicle TypeLarge SUV EV
Starting Price $148,500
Tested Price $162,800 ($157,000 + $5,800 Technology and Comfort Package)
EngineTwin electric motors
Power kW / Torque Nm265/561 (664 in boost mode)
TransmissionTwo-stage planetary gearbox with single gear
0 – 100 kph, seconds6.6 (5.7 in boost mode)
Spare WheelPop-out space saver spare
Kerb Weight, Kg2490
Length x Width x Height, mm4901 x 1935 x 1629
Cargo Capacity, litres660 seats up1725 seats folded
Battery Capacity95 kWh (84 useable)Range up to 417km
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined –  26.4 kWh / 100kmReal World Test – Combined –  28.9 kWh / 100km
Towing750 kg unbraked1800 kg braked
Turning circle12.2mSmall: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty8 year battery warranty
ANCAP RatingNot yet tested
Euro NCAP 5 stars

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