Audi’s new E-Tron Sportback 50 has a smaller battery with a friendlier price tag and almost identical performance, plus all the range a Singaporean driver could need
Electric car = smartphone, so to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out/fear of mobility outage) get the device with the biggest battery available, right?
If you’re like me, you’re probably struggling with the childhood memories of toys that ran on AA batteries and ran out of juice in what seemed like seconds. In that context, C- or D-cells were always bigger and better.
But Audi’s new iteration of its E-Tron battery electric vehicle (BEV), the Sportback 50, shows it’s all about right(size) over might.
The first E-Tron here was the regular SUV model, the E-Tron 55. With Audi now shifting to a more general numbering system for its models you can guess that ‘50’ means a lesser variant, like how an Audi A5 Sportback has a 2.0 quattro and less expensive 2.0 front-wheel drive model. Meanwhile ‘Sportback’ denotes the slinkier model with a sexier roofline – like the Q3 SUV and Q3 Sportback.
That means there will be a total of four models in the E-Tron SUV range (the forthcoming E-Tron GT flagship is a different car altogether), with the E-Tron 55 Sportback to follow shortly.
|E-Tron 50||S$322,960||308hp |
|E-Tron 50 Sportback||S$333,461||308hp |
|E-Tron 55||S$362,901||402hp |
|E-Tron 55 Sportback||TBA||402hp |
|95kWh||Identical to E-Tron 55||378km|
But like gasoline engines before this, the ‘right-sizing’ of the battery is a thing too, since they constitute the single largest and heaviest component of a BEV. Mazda for example, says we can even get by with sub-50kWh batteries, at least in the non-lux segment.
So the E-Tron Sportback 50 has a smaller 71.2kWh battery, less output from both of its electric motors – you’ll notice in the torque figures there is no overboost feature – and also the maximum fast charge rate dips from 150kW to 120kW.
You’d think that a power and torque difference of this magnitude (almost 100hp and around 120Nm) would be immediately noticeable, but it’s really not. Why? We rated the E-Tron 55 for its refinement and usability, rather than its brute speed, and as long as you’re going at a moderate pace or less, there’s almost no difference between the two, unless you’re blasting on the highway and want to overtake at 120km/h-plus.
In the Sportback 50 you glide along with only a gentle unearthly hum (mostly to warn pedestrians) accompanying. To enjoy this level of refinement with an internal combustion engine, you’d need an A8 or more. This car came with optional 21-inch wheels, but as with the E-Tron 55, it rides very well for a tall, heavy vehicle.
If you’re not going at a moderate pace, the still-massive 540Nm of torque gets you to illegal territory very quickly. The electric machine’s response to a hard prod of the pedal is immediate and unrelenting, and with the 50 having the a low-slung battery sled, plus the air suspension/adaptive damper setup as the 55, it handles very well and is even a tiny bit more chuckable than the 55.
That’s because this car is a good 120kg lighter than the 55 SUV. While the sheer mass (it’s still 2.3-tonnes) blunts that weight saving a little, it helps most that the 50 is quite an efficient BEV.
From a full charge and over four days’ of driving, we covered 270km. Given our end score (21.5kWh/100km) and the amount of charge left, we could have covered a theoretical total of 330km on one charge, so if anything, Audi slightly underquotes the possible range here.
In other words, you would still need a charging point – a private, home charger is best – but with the average Singaporean commute of 48km, you could go almost an entire week on one charge.
The caveat here is that besides photoshoots and inefficient behaviour, we covered the distance with plenty of highway work (around 60 percent) and managed to avoid jams, though there were significant short trips around town. But like the 55, it seems the 50 Sportback is a naturally efficient vehicle. One help is the E-Tron’s built-in ‘auto regeneration’ feature, which bumps up the braking/regeneration if it detects slow traffic in front of you.
So if the 50 makes more sense in Singapore, what about the ‘Sportback’ bit? We’re going to say the regular SUV is easier to handle in the day-to-day, but given the proclivity for coupe-SUVs here we’re sure you just skipped this paragraph entirely.
The front end isn’t as much of a departure, but the raked windscreen is a clue, while the elegant slope of the car’s rear is a dead giveaway that it’s a Sportback, and to top things off there is of course, a taillight-bar.
This particular car has extras that make it look like the not-in-Singapore-yet E-Tron S. That’s down to the S Line exterior package (S$7,882), which adds a body kit. There’s also the S Line interior (S$6,785) which adds sport seats, a flat-bottomed sport steering wheel with perforated leather, illuminated door sill elements, S Line floor mats, and a black microfibre headliner interior.
The price for looks is a bit less headroom and a boot that shrinks from 660-litres to 615-litres, though in practice it really won’t impinge on your lifestyle unless you carry bulky items a lot. We moan about coupe-SUVs being hard to drive and park, because of their tiny rear windows, but honestly the reverse camera system (360-degree view, virtual ‘exterior’ look from the screen) is so good it makes no difference these days.
The rest of the interior is familiar Audi, as seen in the E-Tron 55 and numerous other big Audis (A6, A7, A8) with screen galore and clean design, but also fingerprints and reflections. One evolution here is that more Audis, including this, support wireless Apple CarPlay which will be a boon to fruit fans, though Android users have to wait a while more.
So, which E-Tron to buy if you are feeling the electromagnetic attraction? We say, the 50, whether in Sportback form or normal SUV guise is the one to get. The two are identical, styling aside, and for the practical reasons just described.
More importantly, the price difference between a 50 and 55 is a considerable S$40,000, and when you consider that the E-Tron’s most direct rival, the Jaguar I-Pace, is only available in 400hp/90kWh model for S$376,999 with COE, the 50 makes even more sense. At S$333k with COE, the Sportback 50 still isn’t cheap of course, but it is significantly cheaper, and if you don’t want the coupe-styling, the regular E-Tron 50 is another S$11k less dear.
The Audi E-Tron Sportback 50 amply proves that less battery doesn’t mean less capability, and if you don’t need uber-long range (you literally can’t now anyway), a smaller battery pack, going from AA to AAA makes the grade.
|Electric Motor||308hp, 540Nm|
|Battery||Lithium ion, 71.2kWh|
|Charge Time / Type||7 hours / Wallbox 11kW|
|Fast Charge Type / Time||120kW DC / 35 mins|
|Quoted Maximum Range||315km|
|VES Band||A1/ -S$15,000|
|Price||S$333,461 with COE and VES (w/o S Line kit shown here)|
|Verdict||Less battery doesn’t mean less capable, and the Sportback look helps inject excitement|