Audi A7 2019 review
The all-new, second-generation version of the Audi A7 is startlingly familiar - and to the untrained eye, there mightn't have been enough change here.
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I’ve always had a tendency toward ambition. When my Mum would tell me to be back by dark, I’d cross the doorstep shortly after the street lights came on. If the Lego box was labeled 12+, 10-year-old Mal was stoked to build it, and when tackling a road race on a mountain bike, I was pretty proud not to come last.
This mentality continued into P-plate years, where I’d drive barely roadworthy ‘70s Corollas between Canberra (where I grew up) and Sydney at 110km/h, screaming along in fourth gear for three hours at a time, with the engine constantly sounding like it was on the edge of detonation.
With the advent of electric cars, one of my newer bucket list items has been to drive that same journey in an EV non-stop. Teslas have shown promise for a few years now, but I’m yet to have the chance.
With the recent arrival of the Jaguar I-Pace and its 470km official range based on the purportedly more real-world WLTP test, I had a pretty good feeling it would be able to manage the 288km between my adult home on the eastern edge of the Blue Mountains and my parents’ place in northern ACT.
So with a planned long weekend trip to Canberra coinciding with the loan of an I-Pace, here was my chance. And based on that range figure and my very good experience with the I-Pace at its Australian launch, I had no qualms about bringing my two-year-old son along for the ride. Surely there was no chance of being left stranded beside the road in summer heat…
I left work early enough to collect what I expected to be a fully charged I-Pace with enough time to drive the 56km home and recharge to 100 per cent at the claimed charge rate of 11km of range per hour from a standard power point, with enough time to get to Canberra before bedtime. I really wanted to give this trip its best chance of success.
This charge rate can be stepped up to 35km of range per hour with a Jet Charge wall box installed if you buy an I-Pace, but this will set you back at least $2280.
Our I-Pace SE was only showing 95 percent charge on the dash on collection though, with a range estimate of 373km. Based on the 11km per hour recharge rate, this is when I started to feel a little nervous.
After the comfortable and near silent drive home, the dash was showing 298km remaining and 78 per cent charge, meaning the estimate had dropped by 75km after on 56km of driving. This isn’t too far out of the ordinary for any calculated distance to empty, but I didn’t want this deficit to continue.
Plugging straight into the wall without using an extension cord as mandated on the charge cable transformer, the dash display estimated 14 hours and 52 minutes to full charge. Time I didn’t have. At the rated 11km of range per hour, I’d be waiting more than 15 hours. The nerves continued.
I left it on charge for just under four hours and set the vehicle preconditioning to occur just before my departure deadline while still on charge. With the numbers bumped back up to 327km and 84 per cent, I made the difficult decision to leave, rather than wait until the morning. Read on to see if it was the right choice.
During that four hours, I’d been pretty anxious to see how much charge I was gaining, and found that the dashboard charge progress display doesn’t alway stay on, forcing me to put the car on Accessories to check progress.
Unlike the rated 11km per hour recharge, this was more like 7km, leaving me wondering (and kinda hoping) my powerpoint was faulty. Anyway, we soldiered on and commenced our journey.
Just 50km in though, the sat nav issued warning that charge would be required along plotted route, and suggested the new NRMA Electric Vehicle Fast Charger station in Mittagong as our best option to do so. Not just nerves now, the penny was starting to drop.
I attempted to verify this theory via a voice activated Android Auto google search for “Can you charge the Jaguar I-Pace at a Tesla Supercharger?” A result from a website I can’t recall suggested I indeed could, so that was good enough for me.
I didn’t want to lose 40 minutes waiting for an 80 per cent charge, but it was a more appealing option than running out of juice in the middle of nowhere, in the heat, and with a sleepy toddler to worry about.
So onwards to the blandness of the Hume Highway we went for most of the remaining 237km of our journey.
Passing the time by exploring the I-Paces menus, I knew there would be a way to extend the charge by scaling back some ancillary functions. This turns off the centre screen and climate control but only added 5km to the range estimate. Given it was 27 degrees outside and my son was on the back seat, I stuck to Plan A.
As I reached the turnoff to Goulburn, the I-Pace was showing just 66km of range remaining, compared with the 105km left to reach my parents for the night.
The Tesla Supercharger was easy enough to find on the edge of the main part of town, and everything was looking rosey when our public charge station adaptor (a $425 option) plugged straight in.
Except our I-Pace didn't acknowledge that it had been plugged in, and nor did the Jaguar display tell me it was charging. Perhaps there was something wrong on Tesla’s end?
Tesla’s customer assistance number was thoughtfully printed on the Supercharger. After 30 minutes on hold and no other charge point showing up in Google results with a very patient two-year old wondering why we'd stopped in a Goulburn carpark, I bit the bullet to try and find a hotel for the evening. One with a power point accessible within the 5m of charge cable of course.
Fortunately, I struck gold with the first place I tried.
Also fortunately, Mr 2 was happy to have an adventure in a hotel room with Dadda for the night rather than his highly anticipated arrival at grandma's house.
With 138km of range and 42 per cent charge showing after about nine hours of overnight charge, our kilometres of range-per-hour rate was up to just over 8.5. Better than the seven-ish I managed at home, but still far from the 11km official figure.
I drove the rest of the way to Canberra, straight to the ACT’s only recharge point showing in the Jaguar nav system.
Fortunately, the University of Canberra public charge station is within 6km of my parents’ house, because it doesn't seem to exist. Or at least it’s nowhere to be found anywhere near where the Jaguar nav had plotted it.
I arrived at my parents' house with just 12km and four per cent remaining and plugged straight in. With the remaining charge displaying 49 hours and 26 minutes, it was clear I’d be Ubering for the rest of the weekend if I had any hope of making it back to Sydney in one day. Thanks Mum and Dad for the garage space, power point and the juice.
Curiosity got the better of me that evening though, and I decided to move the I-Pace the 7km to where I was staying in the interest of keeping an eye on charge levels and boosting my confidence for the return journey. Jaguar owners are able to do this from the InControl phone app, but this wasn’t able to be set up for my loan. After sitting on charge all day though, the range calculation had only climbed to 98km.
I collected the car, drove around the corner to another mate’s place for dinner where it promptly went back on charge for another few hours.
That evening I received a tip that there was a public charge station that hadn’t appeared on Page 1 of Google results for “Electric car public charge station ACT”, Given it would only add 10km to my journey back to my mate’s place for the night I decided to give it a shot in the hope of getting some juice on board more quickly and making the Jag available for general transport once again.
Unfortunately we found on arrival that AGL’s charge points need a subscription and swipe card for access. Neither of which are something that could be organised after 10pm on a Friday night.
That's it, it was back to my mate's place I was staying at, where the I-Pace would have to stay on charge for as long as possible. For the record, it was showing 84km remaining and 27 per cent charge, with 39 hours and 42 minutes required for a full charge.
By morning this had climbed to 149km and 48 per cent and when we returned that evening it was showing 206km, 64 per cent, with 20 hours and two minutes of charge remaining. This was sounding like a Sunday lunchtime departure at best. The I-Pace didn’t move a millimetre this day.
After 34 hours plugged in, the I-Pace was showing 312km and 90 per cent charge shortly after breakfast, which suggested a charge rate of 6.7km of range per hour, or our furthest from the 11km figure yet. My host is actually a qualified electrician, and assures me that household power points don’t vary this much.
I gingerly drove the four kilometres to my parents’ where I’d promised to help move some stuff as well as collect the golden grandchild.
This bought me more charge time, which I dearly craved when the range estimate dropped to 303km and 88 per cent after the short trip, but not as much as when it gained just 2 per cent of charge over the next six hours, with the range estimate actually dropping to 290km!
Based on my first experience along the Hume, I knew this wasn’t going to get me home without recharging along the way.
Enter that Mittagong NRMA Electric Vehicle Fast Charger station, which is 180km from my parents’ place, but I wasn’t leaving anything to chance this time.
I phoned NRMA customer assistance to ensure the Mittagong charger; 1. existed, 2. was functioning, and 3. is available to non-NRMA members. With friendly assurance of all those details, we set off.
We arrived in Mittagong to find the charge station with 88km showing on the dash, compared with the 123km left of our journey. So we would have made Narellan at best before running dry.
The NRMA station looks like it will handle two cars at once and has two dedicated parking spaces, but the cords hanging off either side are actually to suit the two main different charge plug types currently on the market, or one cord for each type.
So with time pressing, I decided to unplug the already-charged Tesla from our related plug and hope to avoid the scorn of its owner for handling their cable.
If the term for an an internal combustion engined car occupying an EV parking spot is ‘ICEd’, what’s the term for a charged EV doing the same thing? In this case, surely we were ‘Teslad’.
The next 40 minutes were the most sublime of our whole I-Pace roadtrip experience, with the neighbouring RSL being ideal for a babychino and cake, not to mention the indoor playground.
Right on the 40-minute mark, we went back to the I-Pace to find it 80 per cent charged with 260km of range showing. Thank you NRMA.
We then drove the remaining 123km in confident EV near-silence, before arriving home with a comfortable 187km remaining range showing. Why was the range estimate post-NRMA charger suddenly 50km pessimistic instead of the significantly optimistic readings we’d experienced to date? Perhaps the fast charger rate of charge helps it make a more accurate assessment of the batteries?
Who knows, but we were home safely within four hours of leaving Canberra, for a trip that usually takes three non-stop with a conventionally fuelled vehicle.
Yes, 40 mins is a long time compared to a quick petrol stop, and Mittagong RSL adds another seven minute detour from the Hume Highway, but compared with the rest of the weekend, life was good.
I may still be yet to live my Sydney to Canberra non-stop EV dream, but I’ve done a mighty good recce.
|EV400 FIRST EDITN AWD (294kW)||—, EV, 1 SP AUTO||$159,700||2019 Jaguar I-Pace 2019 EV400 FIRST EDITN AWD (294kW) Pricing and Specs|
|EV400 HSE AWD (294kW)||—, EV, 1 SP AUTO||$140,800||2019 Jaguar I-Pace 2019 EV400 HSE AWD (294kW) Pricing and Specs|
|EV400 S AWD (294kW)||—, EV, 1 SP AUTO||$119,000||2019 Jaguar I-Pace 2019 EV400 S AWD (294kW) Pricing and Specs|
|EV400 SE AWD (294kW)||—, EV, 1 SP AUTO||$130,200||2019 Jaguar I-Pace 2019 EV400 SE AWD (294kW) Pricing and Specs|
“The I-Pace is still a remarkable achievement and arguably the best EV currently on the market, but it’s just not as suited to long-distance travel as its official range figure suggests, at least when relying on a standard power point for recharging. General EV roadtrip lessons learned- Even though it’s the most convenient option, save the wall charger for your last resort. At an as-tested rate of almost 50 hours for a full charge, it really is just the space saver spare or can of goo of recharging. You know that feeling when your phone charge cable is frayed and on its last legs and takes forever to trickle charge into your phone? Same deal, but it’s affecting your ability to get places, not just communicate remotely.- If you buy an I-Pace, do get the Jet Charge wall box (capable of a full charge in a ‘theoretical’ 13.5 hours) installed and your ownership experience will be far more convenient.- If in any doubt, wait for the 100% charge before travelling. It’s not worth the angst.- Don’t put all your faith in the charge remaining indicator for guidance. Build up slowly to any lengthy journey, unlike our ‘give it a go straight up’ approach.- Treat Android Auto voice activated Google search results with the same scepticism as any other. Be mindful of the source of results!- Every time you start the car or even switch it on to Accessories to check charge progress, there’s a whole lot more going on than just turning on the instrument screen. The battery cooling system is likely to be the biggest power drain, but also air conditioning, radio, interior lights. This robs multiple kilometres of range estimate every time. If you must use a standard power point, use the app to monitor charge and just leave the car until it is time to go.- Plan your route around certainty. Always have a Plan B with time to spare. Don’t trust that a charge station actually exists until you’ve see it in the flesh.- Electric cars with direct drive (single speed transmissions) just aren’t suited to long distance driving. The faster those motors spin, the faster they consume electricity. It's like driving around in first gear all the time. If you only drive around Sydney or even urban areas, you’ll have a vastly different experience.- It probably goes without saying, but there’s next to no potential for brake regeneration on the Hume Highway. You need a mighty steep hill to be coasting at 110km/h.”
What are your EV war stories? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
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