Think ‘e-tron’, and you visualise something from the future. Something sci-fi that belongs in Cyberpunk or Star Wars, but when you lay your eyes on the new Audi e-tron, it does make you wonder. Audi, a manufacturer that can blow you away with their designs, has chosen the safe and sensible route for their first all-electric SUV in India. I mean, a stark contrast is another all-electric SUV that you probably saw a few pages ago, the Jaguar I-Pace. That looks like it is styled to stand out and be ogled at. This? Well, it’s for the mature audience who care more about function than form.
That said, it isn’t a bad looking SUV by any means. First off, it is very much an Audi, and you will know that from the moon. The huge grille with the four rings and the sharp theme is very typical of modern Audis. Of course, there is no engine, so the grille is not needed, but there are sleek slats in it to channel air and help cool the motor. Then you have the headlamps, which are, again, typical Audi. However, they are the MATRIX LEDs that offer incredibly illumination and look quite cutting edge as well. Something that stands out on the e-tron is the four LED DRLs. Lower down, the bumper isn’t laden with creases and lines and follows the subtle theme. Air ducts in the bumpers look cool but are also crucial in helping the air flow onto the brakes and around the car for better efficiency.
A glace at the profile, and the first noticeable bit is the charging port on both sides of the e-tron. So no need for shuffling just to line it up close to the charger. It is also powered, which means you just have to press a button, and the lid opens up. It seems like a minor feature but adds to the overall premium appeal. The wheels, too, are nice and funky and look proportionate to the overall dimensions. The 20-inch wheels give a peek at the orange brake calipers, which, to be honest, is a nice touch.
Now, you might have seen the e-tron internationally in a bit more rugged look thanks to the black cladding, but in India, you get body-coloured panels as standard. However, should you wish to get the black cladding, you can request the same. On the sides, there is also a black panel that is mainly for aesthetics, but it also acts as a marker for where the battery pack is located. Not sure why you’d need it, but it’ll be a good indicator in our flooded city roads.
The side profile of the e-tron is sort of a cross between an estate and an SUV. It isn’t too boxy like a tall SUV, but it isn’t too low and sloping like an estate, either. Dimensionally, too, it wedges between the Q5 and the Q7, and that means there is plenty of road presence. The rear is arguably the best angle to look at the e-tron. The long LED light bar that stretches across the car’s width gives it a touch of modernity and looks very good, especially in the dark. Then is the badging, which says ‘55 quattro’, which means the fabled ‘quattro’ tech is present in this as well, albeit in a slightly different avatar.
Step inside the e-tron, and it is no surprise. The interior layout and design are like any other Audi, and while that isn’t a bad thing at all, you do miss the special feel you’d expect from an EV. That said, in here, you will get your money’s worth. The cabin feels plush, the materials used are high quality, and overall, as a luxury SUV, it ticks all the right boxes. Dual-touchscreens, virtual cockpit, heads-up display, panoramic sunroof, wireless charging, Bang and Olufson sound system, 360-degree parking camera, I mean the works. What’s exclusive to the e-tron, though, is a new type of shifter. There isn’t a traditional gear lever to get the car going anymore, but a cool-looking switch that you need to nudge with your thumb. It takes a moment to get used to but is quite futuristic. And then the plethora of information on the screens and the virtual cockpit. Everything you’d want to know about your battery tech, the car settings is all crammed in there.
Then you have the comfort of the broad and well-cushioned seats, so you can easily spend the entire charge in them and still come out fresh. Power adjust with memory function and a good amount of variation to the driving position as well.
Move into the rear, though, and the space on offer will please you. There is plenty of legroom, a good amount of headroom and thanks to the panoramic sunroof, the sense of space is also plenty. You also get sunblinds in the rear and four-zone climate control, which means the two passengers in the back have their own temperature control. I say two passengers in the rear because even though there is no transmission tunnel and you have a virtually flat floor in the rear, the centre console protrudes quite a fair bit behind, which will be a hurdle for the middle passenger.
However, how the e-tron performs is where the result lies. Powered by two motors on each axel, the e-tron gets a 95kWh battery pack dishing out 402bhp and 664Nm. Now, of course, all that torque is instantly available, and thanks to quattro, the e-tron is no slouch, but it isn’t as exciting as the Jaguar I-Pace or even the Mercedes-Benz EQC. Don’t get me wrong, it will give you that giddy feel if you stomp on the accelerator, but it won’t make you grin like an idiot. For those off-the-line moments at traffic stops, it will do the job just fine. The quattro on the e-tron is not the traditional setup but an ‘e-quattro’ system as nerdy as a NASA spaceship. The bottom line is that it feels like driving a conventional Audi SUV with the traditional quattro. Plenty of grip, superb confidence on the corners and a composed drive overall. You can also play around with the drive select and change the characteristics from Eco to Comfort to Dynamic, but in essence, it remains a no-nonsense, sophisticated luxury SUV.
Then is the range, which at full charge will show around 400km and that I think is plenty for what it is. Audi claims it will do between 389km to 484km, but that, of course, is in ideal conditions and in our country, that is hardly the case. What is a plus is that you also have the option of buying a 22kW AC charger should you not want to make do with the 11kW one that comes as standard. Charging times, as a result, will be much shorter, with 0-80% taking just 4.5 hours and on DC charge, it will do 0-80% in just under two hours. The regen of the battery is also decent, and you can control it for up to three settings using the paddles behind the steering wheel.
But, the other main reason to gush over the e-tron is the refinement and the ride quality. The adaptive air suspension perfectly flattens out any inconsistencies on the road and makes for a silent and supple ride. From the rear seats especially, which is where most owners would be, it is an extremely impressive SUV. No EV whine, road noise and wind noise contained extremely well, and a hugely comfortable ride means the e-tron is a serious contender for buyers who want a chauffeur-driven EV.
Sure it might not have the performance and ‘look at me’ flash of the Jag, or the rich interior of the EQC, but what it has, is a laundry list of checkboxes that have been ticked. Pricing is expected to be competitive to its main rivals, which means the e-tron, like its peers, will command eight-figures. But to be honest, it doesn’t set a foot wrong in terms of engineering and what it is as a product. Sharp, smart and to the point.