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REVIEW: The Audi E-tron is an electric car in regular clothes

Audi E-tron 55 Quattro doesn’t shout about its status

13 July 2022 - 11:38
t’s easy to mistake the Audi E-tron SUV for a Q5.
t’s easy to mistake the Audi E-tron SUV for a Q5.
Image: Supplied

It’s been a while since electric cars looked like electric cars. When early innovators such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 first hit the streets you could tell simply by looking at them that their fuel tanks had been swapped for battery packs.

In trying to make them stand out and overstate the obvious, the designers had turned these machines into caricatures of themselves. Thankfully, this is now the exception rather than the rule with modern EVs such as the Audi E-tron 55 Quattro looking virtually identical to their internal combustion siblings. Even my neighbour who fancies himself as a bit of a petrolhead thought it was a Q5.

Cut away that shapely sheet metal, however, and you will discover this four-ringed crossover SUV is home to a huge 95kWh battery pack mounted as low down in the chassis as possible (great for that centre of gravity and interior packaging).

This gargantuan assemblage of lithium-ion cells is used to power two asynchronous motors — one on the front axle and one at the rear — that collectively produce 265kW of power. When the overboost function kicks in this is momentarily raised to 300kW while peak torque measures in at a hearty 664Nm.

These are fairly impressive figures and as they are delivered immediately without any of the associated lag you might experience in something such as a petrol or diesel powered Q5, acceleration is rapid to say the least.

Interior quality is top notch, with a suitably digitised execution.
Interior quality is top notch, with a suitably digitised execution.
Image: Phuti Mpyane

Audi claims a 0-100km/h sprint of 5.7 seconds and in reality this feels about bang on target. Maximum speed is apparently governed to 200km/h, but in the limited period I had the E-tron in my possession I got nowhere near this as I spent all my time navigating the ever-congested streets of Joburg.

And in this environment the E-tron truly excels. It’s so quiet and refined and easy going that a great percentage of one’s usual rush hour angst melts away. Comfortable too. Riding on standard adaptive air suspension that can be set to differing ride heights and various degrees of suppleness, this electric machine shrugs off the crappy bitumen that plagues our decaying suburbs.

Another cool E-tron feature is its regenerative braking system that offers three levels of bite ranging from everyday-mild to ultra-aggressive. Almost mimicking the “steps” you’d experience rowing up and down a traditional transmission, these stages are actuated by tapping paddles in front of the steering wheel. It’s a welcome addition and one that adds a bit more interaction to the otherwise anodyne electric car driving experience.

My one major gripe, however, is how hefty the E-tron is. Thanks to that huge battery pack this Audi tips the scales north of the 2.5-tonne mark, which is about 500kg more than a diesel powered SQ5 Sportback.

You feel it under braking and you especially feel it through corners — particularly when you are carrying a fair amount of speed into them. All electric cars of this ilk are chunky monkeys, but some, like the Jaguar I-Pace, seem to do a superior job at disguising their kerb weight whereas the Audi always feels somewhat hamstrung by it and even more so when you really start turning up the wick.

Enjoy it at more sedate speeds, however, and the E-tron drives with all the effortless poise and polish you would expect from a luxury Audi SUV. Albeit one powered by electricity instead of liquidised dinosaur bones. Not that you’d be able to pick this up from looking at it, of course.

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