Even after a few minutes behind the wheel, it's easy to forget that the Audi e-tron is electric. The SUV is not outrageous or radical, but pedestrian friendly and effortless. Audi invented nothing new with the e-tron. The German carmaker put in a SUV a competent electric powertrain and created a fantastic vehicle that should appeal to buyers.
The Audi e-tron is the new standard for electric cars. Some EVs are bigger, faster, and have longer range, while others are smaller and more limited. The E-Tron sits in the middle. Priced at $ 74,800, the E-Tron is a great size with moderate range and faster charging than a Tesla Model X, Jaguar I-Pace or Chevy Bolt.
I spent a day in an Audi E-Tron driving hundreds of miles across Abu Dhabi's perfect asphalt, winding mountain roads and sand-covered desert passes. The e-tron does exactly what a buyer expects from a mid-sized Audi SUV. On the road, the E-Tron is eager and quiet as he is off the road, over rocks and through deep sand, sturdy and on foot.
Just as the 1
So many Audi e-trons are likely to spend their lives. While the vehicle has off-road capabilities, most will probably never find more than a flowerbed in a parking lot. Like most off-road vehicles, these electric vehicles are likely to be used as passenger conveyors to carry people to and from work and school. This task is comfortable and familiar, but there is so much more to Audi's first EV.
Lower the pedal of the e-tron and the mid-size SUV brings life to the ground. The new Audi electric AWD system provides the necessary traction to bring the vehicle forward. There are 400 horses available, and the torque is immediate and plentiful, even at highway speeds. Audi says the 0-60 time is 5.7 seconds and that's fast enough for most buyers.
The performance of the e-tron was demonstrated on a mountain road. The trip took about 20 minutes, but that was more than enough time to show the e-tron. As he walked the narrow streets, the E-Tron clung to the sidewalk and negotiated the winding road with determination. To be honest, the E-Tron is not a Pike's Peak racer. The body roll was comparable to other sports SUVs; it was not offensive, but noticeable. Speed control is tight, but there is a lack of informative feedback – a topic I discovered with the four-wheel drive system.
The E-Tron is heavy. At 5489 lbs it's 661 l heavier than the smaller Jaguar I-Pace and 68 lbs on the larger Tesla Model X 75D. This is imperceptible while driving, but it's worth mentioning. The battery and electric motors are located at the bottom of the vehicle, which probably contributes to a stable feel.
Audi has built a complex system for battery regeneration in the E-Tron, and it seems to work, as it is announced. At the beginning of my road trip in Abu Dhabi, the vehicle said it had a range of over 210 miles while the AC was driving at full power. During the highway ride, the range decreased exactly as announced. During the ride in the city, the regeneration mode recovered more than expected, slightly extending the range. On the lively 20 minutes of mountain roads, the system regained more than 10% of its range thanks to regaining braking force.
The US EPA has not released any official figures for the e-tron. and I have not spent enough time with the vehicle to give an average range. However, it is clear that the e-tron can easily exceed 200 miles for a fee and can go much further under certain driving conditions. And with the fastest charging system in its class, E-Tron batteries can be recharged faster than others – 80 percent in 30 minutes.
The E-Tron accepts up to 150 kW of charge. This allows the batteries to be replenished to 80 percent in 30 minutes. However, Audi does not have a network of chargers like Tesla. Instead, the automaker affiliated with Electrify America and the E-Tron owners will receive 1,000 kWh of electricity.
Compared to competitors, the E-Tron can charge faster than others. But only with certain chargers. Interestingly, the e-tron has charge ports on both sides of the vehicle.
The battery regeneration serves another purpose of the Audi brand: four-wheel drive. The ingenious system, which extends the range of the vehicle, also helps the vehicle to provide the appropriate performance for each wheel. Like traditional AWD platforms, the vehicle can keep up with rain, snow and sand. There was plenty of sand in the desert to try out the system.
I brought the E-Tron through sand drifts and through blind rock dunes. The electric AWD system has never been disappointed. Compared to traditional AWD, this platform seemed to respond much more subtly. As I climbed a dune where the logic realized the tires were spinning, I could not feel the tires spinning, but the vehicle kept climbing. When over two meters of sand drifting was braked over gravel, the vehicle drifted towards the squirrel species, but the tire passage was not felt by the pedals. This disconnection is a side effect of switching to electricity and is something that drivers have to get used to.
The e-tron's cabin is adorned with Audi's familiar materials and latest technology package. A large digital cluster is in front of the driver, while two screens are in the middle stack and are used for the infotainment system and climate control. This is the same system in the new Audi A6 and A7, and I find that the layout is much easier to use than the big screens in Tesla and a growing number of other vehicles. Radio above, climate below. It's a logical layout.
If necessary, the bottom screen is used for character input and there is a wide palm rest under the screen for the user to hold their hands. That makes a difference. Instead of using a shaky hand that hovers over a giant screen, users can put their wrists on this pad and easily enter an address.
There are strange concessions in this luxury SUV. The sun visors do not slide on their mounting bar to increase their range, and this feature was noticeably absent during my drive through the desert. The steering column has no power setting. A sunroof is not an option. For a vehicle with a starting price of $ 74,800, these features are missing.
I spent the day in a European version of the e-tron and was equipped with digital side mirrors. US buyers will not receive this option and that's good for me. I never got used to it. Instead of using a piece of glass for the side mirrors, there are cameras mounted on small, futuristic-looking stems. In the cabin are small LCD screens mounted under the window. This virtual mirror is not worth it. The screens are too small and have too low a resolution. The driver can not move his head to get a new perspective, as is possible with conventional mirrors. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer it when my mirrors are made of mirrors.
This e-tron SUV is essentially the self-titled album of the electric vehicle line from Audi. The roadmap from Audi is clear and with the E-Tron nameplate full of future models.
Next year Audi wants to release two more EV vehicles: the E-Tron Sportback, a sporty SUV, and the E-Tron GT, a sports car sedan developed with the help of Porsche . Audi is building a smaller e-tron vehicle for 2020.
Audi is building the e-tron brand on key innovations in charging the battery, both through regeneration and direct charging. At the moment the e-tron differs from his colleagues. It had the most modern regeneration system and the fastest loading time. As the batteries improve, these two platforms are well-equipped to use larger batteries.
Against the competitors
There are only a few electric vehicles on the market that make the competition for the Audi e-tron clear. The new Jaguar I-Pace is slightly below the E-Tron and has a similar range, but is smaller and charges slower. When buyers are ready to abandon Audi's e-tron off-road chops and luxury brand, the Chevy Bolt offers similar loading capacity, technology and range for much less. The Nissan Leaf is another low-cost option for those looking for an electric people mover.
Tesla is Audi's next rival. The Tesla Model X offers a larger SUV and a faster 0-60 time, but a slower recharge time. The base model X offers a similar price for $ 10,000 over the price of the e-tron and for more money, the Tesla can be configured for a longer period.
On a dragstrip, the $ 84,000 basic X model is much faster than the Audi e-tron, and the $ 140,000 model X model at 60 is almost as fast as the fastest Audi supercar. That does not mean that the Tesla is better than the E-Tron. During my day on the e-tron, either overtaking or picking up a traffic light, I found that the e-tron had plenty of acceleration – fast enough to thrill, albeit in a ridiculous, grueling manner ,
The Tesla Model X offers something that can not be found in the Audi e-tron: Recognition. A model X looks like nothing else on the road, where the Audi e-tron looks like a crossover. Compare the technology packages of both vehicles and Tesla's autopilot feature is self-propelled. The e-tron has only one lane assistant and one adaptive cruise control, far away from Tesla's system.
Questions about Tesla's future remain and could include smart buyers. Will the automaker keep its vehicles for life? Will Tesla can scale its mobile repair teams to match the number of vehicles shipped. The aspiring automaker is missing the huge dealer network of Audi and its parent company VW, which offers at least a variety of locations for the maintenance of vehicles in all errors.
Audi does not attempt to determine the vehicle's appearance by the powertrain. For the audience, it's hard to say that the E-Tron is electric in the same way as a Tesla or Toyota Prius. It's a different strategy than others, and Audi seems to be pushing for more of its electric vehicles.
The Audi e-tron is fantastic. For the foreseeable future, this is the electric vehicle that makes the most sense for most people. It's not radical The E-Tron is familiar. The E-Tron is plentiful and comfortable, while the cabin is equipped with the usual electronic requirements that buyers expect from the luxury brand.
The Audi e-Tron makes electric cars attractive to more buyers by removing variables. It looks and feels like its gasoline counterparts. Inside and outside it is normal. That's the point, and it works.