A luxury EV with regular SUV styling, 400km of range, and is not a Tesla: Audi’s e-tron could be just the jolt electric vehicles need
Abu Dhabi, UAE
As far as electric vehicles (EVs) are concerned, it’s a shame that most people continue to think only of Tesla, especially when many of the big car manufacturers already have EVs in their product line-ups.
In Singapore, 2018 saw big changes to the EV scene here with the BMW i3s, Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Renault Zoe, and Tesla range now on sale.
Audi announced its e-tron SUV earlier this year in grand style in San Francisco, along with some details and plans for the EV in Singapore, and has also added a second car to the e-tron range, with the e-tron GT announced at the LA Motorshow.
Now, we love EVs as urban transports around the city environs of Singapore, where BEVs are truly in their element. But what about the next step, where they replace normal cars at long range and everything in-between?
Charging is the first order of business, and the e-tron boasts a half-hour charge time for a 80 percent top-up, though that’s only with a 150kW DC fast-charger, as found on Europe’s planned Ionity fast-charge network.
The car has a standard on-board charger (plug straight in, no box needed) that operates on household AC current at up 11kW, which translates to roughly a 8.5-hour charge time.
Certain markets will also have a 22kW plug-in charger available which has a 4.5-hour charge time. Audi says the options for owners to charge in Singapore are to-be-confirmed nearer to the car’s Q3 2019 launch date.
With a 95kWh Li-ion battery, Audi’s electric SUV boasts a range of over 400km (to put this in perspective, it’s about 250km from Singapore to Malacca, and 360km from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur), and that’s not quite the end of its talents either.
A trick recuperation system lets the e-tron recover energy in two ways, and accounts for up to 30 per cent of the electric SUV’s range.
The system sees the car’s electric motors function as generators to recover energy during coasting when you get off the accelerator pedal, as well as under braking. In fact, the brand tells us that simply braking from 100km/h will see the e-tron recuperate up to a maximum of 300Nm and 295hp – or more than 70 per cent of its operating energy input.
At up to 0.3g of braking (average, gradual braking manoeuvres), the braking recuperation is sorted out by the electric motors alone, but in sporty, hard braking or emergency situations that see more than 0.3g, the system will decide whether to decelerate each individual wheel using electric motors, physical wheel brake, or a combination of the two.
However, the brake pedal feel is always natural and possible to modulate during fast road drives, and you’ll never discern the transition between electric to hydraulic braking.
The degree of energy recovery can be manually toggled by the driver through three settings using the left steering wheel paddle. In the most aggressive of energy recovery settings on the e-tron, the aggressive drag torque lets you drive the car using just the accelerator pedal alone.
Cars like the e-tron are made to be palatable to the masses, and by that, we mean the masses that can afford it. This means the look, feel and drive of the car has to conform to the norms of a conventional ICE vehicle to slowly ease owners into the futuristic EVs (to come) that we see in sci-fi shows, or BMW boldly experiments with under its ‘i’ umbrella.
There’s good space for four adults and a child, as well as a 600-litres in the boot with a full complement of occupants and an additional 60-litres in the front trunk.
The cockpit is a familiar place to be in if you’re familiar with Audis, but there are little tech bits that should appeal to gadget fans.
The new MMI Touch Response with its dual touchscreens means buttons have almost been totally eliminated.
Instead of physical side mirrors, a seven-inch screen on each of the front doors projects the view of the sides and blind-spots via the optional virtual exterior mirrors.
It’s a cool touch and drops the coefficient of drag to 0.27Cd (from 0.28), but we’d have preferred these to be at eye-level, because checking them means you look to the side and down, which isn’t the most intuitive when you’re trying to make fast lane changes.
This is a 2.5-tonne machine (700kg is battery alone), but thanks to how quickly it gets going when you put your right foot down, you’ll never think of the weight when you drive it.
SUVs have long been popular for their lifestyle cachet as opposed to any true off-road prowess and the e-tron builds on this appeal, especially since its electric all-wheel-drive system can practically be regarded as the next evolution of Audi’s iconic quattro drivetrain.
The 402hp is generated by two electric motors, one driving each axle, and all-wheel drive is fully electric – there’s no centre differential or mechanical connection between the two – and very quick to react as well.
It is no hardcore off-roader, but never pretends to be either, even though it can be taken off the beaten path and be articulated over moderate gradients with little effort.
Amazingly, part of the test-route took us through a wonderfully winding road that let the e-tron strut its stuff.
What stuff? There’s a Boost mode in ‘S’ that unleashes a muscular 402hp and 664Nm for up to eight seconds, which will see the e-tron dispatch the 100km/h sprint from standstill in well under six seconds.
However, it was the amount of body control and throttle adjustability that came as a big surprise, since it was eminently chuckable and certainly didn’t drive like a car that weighs well over two-tonnes!
Adaptive air suspension, which is standard, probably helps with that, and as usual you can use Audi Drive Select to flick between drive modes at your whim.
‘e-tron’ refers to Audi’s new range of electric vehicles, but in this case, it refers to both the model and the range, which we envision can get confusing down the road.
However, Audi is going for the ur-quattro vibe with this naming gambit, and hopes this first e-tron model will be remembered as the progenitor of its species, just as the original Audi Quattro Coupe was for successive models.
The e-tron admirably blends a high-tech powertrain with the premium accoutrements and refinement that Audi is known for in this segment. Couple those to its spritely motoring experience and it’s a great first shot fired for this class. For such a grown-up looking car, the e-tron proves to be surprisingly wild-at-heart.
|Electric Motor||355hp (402hp boost), 561Nm (664Nm boost)|
|Battery||Lithium ion, 95kWh|
|Charge Time / Type||30mins (80%) / 150kW DC charge|
|Electric Range||417km (WLTP)|
|0-100km/h||6.6 seconds (5.7 seconds boost)|
|Top Speed||200km/h (electronically limited)|
|Efficiency||26.2-22.5 kWh/100km (WLTP)|
|VES/ CO2||TBA / 0g/km|
|Price / When||TBA / est. Q3 2019|