BMW iX 2022 review
BMW’s first standalone electric vehicle since the fabulous but compromised i3 hatch has a lot riding on its broad shoulders. Can it pack a punch like the Tesla Model X?
Browse over 9,000 car reviews
Sales of electric vehicles are on the rise in Australia, but they still make up a very small percentage of the total market. What are popular though, are performance-focused SUVs, so the arrival of the Audi e-tron S manages to combine both elements.
This is the first all-electric S model in Australia and it's a signal of what's to come from the brand. In a few months time we'll have the RS e-tron GT hit showrooms as the first Audi Sport hero model without an engine.
But even so, the fact the e-tron S is an SUV, available in wagon and Sportback variants, should help make it an appealing new addition to the range.
|Audi E-Tron 2022: S Quattro|
The SUV is priced from $168,400 and the Sportback from $175,400 (both prices exclude on-road costs), which is a $19,500 and $15,500 premium, respectively over the e-tron 55 quattro SUV and Sportback.
It also means both cars copped a price rise between Audi's initial confirmation of the model in 2021, when it announced they would cost $165,600 (SUV) and $172,700 (Sportback).
Audi admits that price increase hasn't come through a specification change and is simply a result of increased costs caused by the global supply chain crisis.
Thankfully, both models are well equipped so you still feel like you're getting good value for money.
There are some cosmetic enhancements we'll get to in a moment (see the Design section) but both the SUV and Sportback come loaded with 21-inch alloy wheels, aluminium exterior finishes, four-zone climate control, ambient lighting, heated and power adjustable front seats, a sunroof, tinted glass, and S sport front seats trimmed in Valcona leather with diamond stitching.
There's also a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel plus Audi's increasingly common double-touchscreen to control all the entertainment and cooling, which comprises 10.1-inch and 8.6-inch screens.
A 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, digital radio and wireless smartphone charging are all standard, too.
Given the supply chain problems Audi has opted to keep the options list short, with only three main choices for buyers.
The first is the most obvious, the 'Virtual Exterior Mirrors' which are cameras mounted on aerodynamic supports with an OLED display on the inside of the door to replace side mirrors.
Unlike the 'regular' e-tron that includes them as part of a package, e-tron S buyers can simply add them on their own for an additional $3500. Audi says the uptake of these ground-breaking cameras has been 44 per cent across the e-tron range.
The other major option is the 'Sensory Package', which costs $9600 and adds 'Digital Matrix' LED headlights (available for the first time on an Audi in Australia), door entrance LED lights, soft close doors, Nappa leather trim on the dashboard, manual rear sunshades and heated rear outboard seats.
Finally, if you want faster portable charging, Audi is offering a 22kW AC charger for an additional $6900.
Interestingly, the e-tron S lines up very close to its petrol-powered equivalent, with the SQ7 TFSI starting at $164,400 and the SQ8 TFSI priced from $169,600. So, you're not paying a huge premium to make the switch to electric.
As alluded to earlier, there are some unique changes to the design of the e-tron S to separate it from the existing e-tron, visually and in terms of performance.
It starts at the front where there's an S-specific front bumper and grille, which blends into new wider wheel arches. These add 23mm in width on each side, increasing the road presence of the e-tron S and giving it a bigger footprint.
It also helps to flow air through and underneath the vehicle, with special vents on the front bumper and wheel arches to improve the aerodynamics for improved performance and range.
The larger wheel arches also accommodate the bigger 21-inch alloy wheels (with 22-inch rims available as an option). Behind the wheels there are new orange-painted brake calipers, another unique touch for the e-tron S models.
At the rear there's a new S-specific bumper and small roof-mounted spoiler, both of which help further improve aerodynamic efficiency. Audi claims it has a drag coefficient of 0.26.
These changes add up to a new model that has a distinctive look compared to the e-tron, which is in keeping with the rest of Audi's S models.
Obviously the e-tron S Sportback looks the sportier, more dynamic of the pair with its swooping roofline, which is why Audi expects it to become the best-seller in the range.
Aside from the design changes, the e-tron S it's the same space you'll find in the e-tron - both SUV and Sportback - because Audi has managed to package the larger rear motor set-up without compromising any interior space.
Stylistically, Audi has deliberately kept the e-tron within the wider family, so there aren't any gimmicks to the presentation to make you aware you're in an electric vehicle rather than a conventional model.
Audi has always excelled at interior design and the e-tron S is no exception, with a modern look and feel that's both luxurious and practical.
There's good room front and rear for passengers, with the SUV capable of taking four adults in comfort. The Sportback's sloping roofline does reduce rear headroom slightly, so factor that in if you intend on taking rear passengers on a regular basis.
Despite a larger rear motor unit, Audi has managed to retain the same boot space, with the SUV capable of taking 660 litres and the Sportback 615 litres; in another practicality compromise for the more stylish of the two models.
This is the heart of the changes that makes the e-tron S special, with Audi becoming the first brand to offer a tri-motor EV in Australia. While Tesla has attracted plenty of headlines with its tri-motor 'Plaid' powertrain, it's the German brand that has got cars into local showrooms first.
The new powertrain features a single motor on the front axle but a pair on the rear. Audi has packaged the two rear motors in the same housing, but each motor has a separate gearbox (one on each side) and separate power electronics.
Audi claims the three motors make 370kW and 973Nm at maximum boost (and 320kW/850Nm in normal circumstances), which is a major rise over the e-tron 55 quattro which makes 300kW/664Nm.
This new three-motor powertrain allows the e-tron S (both variants) to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, which may not be the headline-grabbing 2.0 second time of other EVs but its very rapid for what is a large, family-friendly SUV.
The battery is the same found in the 55 quattro, with 95kWh capacity, enough for a driving range of 413km in the SUV and 418km in the Sportback.
Each e-tron S comes with a six-year subscription to Chargefox included in the price, which allows owners access to one of Australia's largest public charging networks. Importantly, all 350kW 'ultra-rapid' chargers in the network are powered by renewable energy.
Those range claims above are on the NEDC, which is a shorter test cycle compared to WTLP, which means it typically produces a better number for the car company.
To Audi's credit they did provide us with an WLTP figure, but cautioned it was done using European models which feature smaller 20-inch wheels that can extend the range. The WLTP figures for the e-tron S are 364km and 370km for the SUV and Sportback respectively.
Our test drive took us from Canberra to Wagga Wagga via Cooma for a top-up at the fast chargers there. From a full charge at Cooma we covered approximately 270km before getting to Wagga Wagga and finished with approximately 50km of range left.
In theory that's only 320km of range in the SUV, but our drive was up and across the Snowy Mountains at a good pace, which is not typically what EVs are designed for but it did an admirable job of covering the distance.
Between the climb and descent the e-tron S battery averaged 27kWh of usage, which is a good return given the type of driving we were doing, so around town where there's more opportunity to use the regenerative braking to top up the battery there's no reason the e-tron S can't stretch the range closer to Audi's claims.
The standard e-tron scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2019 and structurally the e-tron S is the same so there's no reason to believe it would be any different.
The e-tron S mirrors the standard equipment of the regular model, which is a comprehensive list that includes eight airbags, 360-degree surround view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic assist, intersection assist, collision-avoidance assist, turn assist, exit warning and tyre-pressure monitoring.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Audi Australia recently introduced a standard five-year warranty for the vehicle, but for the e-tron S there's also an eight-year/160,000km warranty for the battery and a 12-year warranty for bodywork corrosion.
To sweeten the value equation, Audi includes the first six years of servicing in the purchase price, plus roadside assistance and the previously mentioned Chargefox subscription.
This is where the e-tron S really needs to shine because as an S model it should be a more exciting, engaging drive than the regular e-tron.
Fortunately for Audi, the e-tron S shone during our test drive, showing off a punchy powertrain and well-sorted chassis that makes for a dynamic experience.
Even in the standard setting the 320kW/850Nm feels quick, but knock the gear selector into the sport setting and you unleash the full 370kW/973Nm of performance from the three motors for seriously rapid acceleration anytime you step on the accelerator.
But straight line performance is only part of the equation, because to be a genuine Audi S model it needs to excel when cornering.
To this end Audi has developed what it calls electronic torque vectoring, which uses the separate gearboxes on the rear motors to send power to the individual rear wheels, if needed when cornering, to help the car turn.
Effectively, this replaces the multiple differentials Audi uses on its petrol- and diesel-powered quattro models, with this clever rear motor set-up combining with the single front motor for all-wheel traction.
Another nice feature of the e-tron S is steering wheel-mounted paddles that allow you to adjust the regenerative braking on the move.
While it may sound like a gimmick, these paddles save you having to dig through a menu on the centre screen which allow you to tailor the regen on the fly.
So, for example, if you're driving to work and the traffic is slow moving you can tap it up to try and recover extra energy, but if it starts moving or you turn onto a motorway a quick tap on the paddle means you can cruise along without slowing anytime you lift off the accelerator.
The biggest drag on the performance of the e-tron S is undoubtedly the weight, with the SUV tipping the scales at 2580kg. You can feel that weight when you're slowing for corners and in the bends, as the adaptive air suspension labours to keep all that mass steady on the road.
Thankfully the tyres provide consistent grip and the steering is well sorted so once you adjust to the weight the e-tron S is fun to drive.
As far as sporty SUVs go, the e-tron S is a good option regardless of its powertrain. While not as sporty as a sedan, the e-tron S feels like it would have little trouble keeping up with Audi's similar S models such as the SQ7 and SQ8 on a twisty mountain road.
But when you factor in its very quick, quiet and efficient tri-motor powertrain the e-tron S becomes quite appealing. While we didn't get any time to drive it around the urban environment to assess its real-world range, certainly its ability to tackle some of the best driving roads in the country marks the e-tron S as a worthwhile addition to the Audi range.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel, accommodation and meals provided.
|50 Quattro||—, Electric, 1 SP||$137,100||2022 Audi E-Tron 2022 50 Quattro Pricing and Specs|
|55 Quattro||—, Electric, 1 SP||$157,100||2022 Audi E-Tron 2022 55 Quattro Pricing and Specs|
|S Quattro||—, Electric, 1 SP||$175,400||2022 Audi E-Tron 2022 S Quattro Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Motor & trans||9|