Audi’s penchant for tech and people-pleasing shines in its brand new, top-shelf EV, the e-tron 55 Quattro
In these times of marketing-gurus- cum-thought leaders, we’ve all heard someone tout something along the lines of “reducing pain points leads to success”. Currently, pain points are the anchor of every debate around electric vehicles in Australia – range anxiety, charging costs, unfamiliar feel or design, lack of choice, etc. So when launching the e-tron in Australia, Audi must have looked to this playbook, aiming to make the transition to EV as pain-free as possible.
Sitting smugly between the SQ5 and SQ7 in both size and power output is the Audi 55 Quattro Sportsback, (currently) the most powerful of the two e-tron SUV variants in the Australian market. The 55 Quattro brags a 265kW (or 300kW in low-regen, sport mode-like “boost mode”) output, produced by a water- cooled 95kW battery, and a range capability of over 400km. In this instance, the “Quattro” alludes to the e-Tron’s snappy all-wheel-drive electric drivetrain system, which features an independent motor per axle that relies mostly on cleverly calibrated software to ensure all-weather confidence – as is expected of the fabled nameplate.
The e-tron comes with a free six-year subscription to the Chargefox network, which is expanding its network of 100% renewable energy-powered ultra-rapid 350kW chargers. Handy, because the e-tron is the fastest charging EV in Australia, with a capability that we found actually peaked at 154kW of charge and went from 30 per cent to 100 per cent in 28 minutes. For context, the similarly-priced current Tesla Model X has a DC fast-charge capability of 120kW. So if you do pass one of these super-plugs, 30 minutes of emails or social media scrolling will get you from zero to 80 per cent, or 45 minutes to 100 per cent.
On the other hand, Audi and JetCharge’s 11kW AC home-charging solution will fully charge a flat e-tron in eight and a half hours. As a pleasing nod to real-world ergonomics, the e-tron has AC charging ports on each side of the car, making garage logistics easier. It’s worth putting all this into context, because with over 400km of range and a very easy-to-use navigation system, combined with the Chargefox phone app, actually hitting 0% is an unlikely real- world scenario for most.
Like its Mercedes-Benz EQC rival, the e-tron normalises regenerative braking via the wheel-mounted shift paddles – this feature acts in the same way you’d upshift (boost) and downshift (re-gen), but is perhaps just as effective as a comfort for those intimidated by the new technology. Our car was fitted with the much-hyped camera-as-side-mirrors (a $3500 extra or standard on the First Edition), which do take some getting used to within the first few days, mostly due to the flat angle of the display. However, image quality is brilliant. The camera mirrors aren’t just a party trick; they help reduce drag and wind noise. Of course, low drag = more range, so aerodynamics has been a critical focus for Audi. With the virtual mirror option, combined with the other aero-trickery all over this SUV, such as the fully-lined underbody, as-standard adaptive air suspension and wheel design, the Germans claim a coefficient figure of 0.27 or, a saving of 500kg.
Aiming to capture the eco-curiosity of consumers who would normally gravitate towards family SUVs, the e-tron’s aesthetics fall in line with Ingolstadt’s signature cabin design, and tech-wise, utilises its latest-generation UX system. When viewed under the same lens as its Q-badged siblings, it is truly hard to fault the e-tron. It is by no means a small thing, coming in at 2.5-tonne – but it is a pleasure to drive and be driven in. The e-tron hides its weight well under instant power and torque and has mastered its lack-of-an-engine road noise management. But it doesn’t bend any laws of physics. Hard braking and particularly spirited driving involving a lot of steering inputs, even in the 300kW “boost mode” with the suspension dropped, and the e-tron’s well-engineered Spanx will slip. And look, if that’s your MO, perhaps its best to wait for the e-tron GT to arrive, because if this is the entrée to what Audi has up its electric sleeve, then the mainwill be worth waiting for. Otherwise, in a market flooded with large, premium SUVs, there are certainly few as compelling as this one.