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Audi e-tron EV 2021 review: 50


This was my first time ever in an Audi e-tron, so I was pretty curious about this electric vehicle when it came to stay at our place for a week. Curiosity in the Audi E-Tron almost killed our cat, but more on that later.

What I can tell you now, is that electric cars are far better for urban lifestyles than petrol or diesel cars in many ways, but there are a couple of drawbacks to EVs and I'll tell you all about that as well in this review of the Audi e-tron 50 quattro Sportback.

The cat is fine, but only has eight lives left.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The e-tron comes in two forms – the regular SUV shape and the Sportback version, which is what I tested. Sportback is Audi-speak for 'coupe styling' and that means a sloping roof line which pinches in at the rear creating a sporty…um… back.

The e-tron Sportback has a similar coupe-SUV look as the BMW X6 or Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and it's about the size as those, too, at 4901mm long, 2043mm wide and 1616mm tall. The closest EV equivalent to the e-tron would be the Mercedes-Benz EQC, although that's shorter at 4774mm end to end and not as 'coupey'.

While it has similar looks to those petrol-powered rivals there are a couple of small details which hint that this isn't just an ordinary coupe SUV. There are the charge flaps in the front wheel guards which open with such satisfying smoothness that I found myself doing it over and over again.

Sportback is Audi-speak for ‘coupe styling’ and that means a sloping roof line which pinches in at the rear creating a sporty…um… back. (image: Richard Berry) Sportback is Audi-speak for ‘coupe styling’ and that means a sloping roof line which pinches in at the rear creating a sporty…um… back. (image: Richard Berry)

There's also the grille which looks a lot like the ones on every other Audi, but peer closer at the images and you'll see that only the centre slats are open. That's because while the e-tron doesn't have an engine and a radiator, it still has electrical components which need to be cooled. Those slats open automatically depending on when cool air is needed and close to increase aerodynamics.

I'm a fan of the taillights with the LED strips which extend the entire way across the rear of the car. Essentially, however, the e-tron Sportback looks like a normal Audi SUV, which is good and the way it should be, because if the future is electric then it will also be normal.

That 'normalness' goes for the interior, too with its dual screens for media and climate control as you'd find in a Q7, along with the virtual instrument cluster.

The S-line exterior package is also included as standard along with the 21-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels. (image: Richard Berry) The S-line exterior package is also included as standard along with the 21-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels. (image: Richard Berry)

Again, the only hints that this SUV is different are small things such as the gear shifter which operates with just your thumb and index finger. There's also the circuit-board pattern stitched into the seats.

Our test car had the standard Valcona leather upholstery.

Also, standard is the S line exterior package, which includes the sporty front and rear bumper.

The privacy glass and Catalunya Red metallic paint are optional.

The Audi e-tron 50 quattro Sportback has a prestigious interior with leather upholstery, and its dual screens for media and climate control as you’d find on a Q7. (image: Richard Berry) The Audi e-tron 50 quattro Sportback has a prestigious interior with leather upholstery, and its dual screens for media and climate control as you’d find on a Q7. (image: Richard Berry)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

There are two electric motors: one on each axle. The '50' in e-tron 50 quattro Sportback refers to the output (there's a more powerful e-tron 55, too) and it's a combined 230kW and 540Nm. Those motors being on the front and rear axles also provide the quattro all-wheel drive.

The e-tron 50's lithium-ion battery has a 71kWh capacity, which is smaller than the e-tron 55's 95kWh.

Still the e-tron 50 is able to throw itself from 0-100km/h in a pretty darn quick 6.8 seconds and the way that oomph is delivered instantaneously without delay or even transmission shifts (there's just one gear) is incredible. If you've driven an electric car before you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, I wish I could be there to see your face, because acceleration in one is a case of 'WOOOOMP!' Even in this lower powered e-tron.

The ‘50’ in e-tron 50 quattro Sportback refers to the output (there’s a more powerful e-tron 55, too) and it’s a combined 230kW and 540Nm. (image: Richard Berry) The ‘50’ in e-tron 50 quattro Sportback refers to the output (there’s a more powerful e-tron 55, too) and it’s a combined 230kW and 540Nm. (image: Richard Berry)

What's it like to drive around town?

In 10 years of testing cars, I've driven few as effortless as the e-tron 50 quattro Sportback. The ride on its air suspension was comfortable, the steering felt superb in its smoothness, weight and accuracy, but it was that powertrain which made the experience a pleasure – always, even in traffic with a cranky child sometimes in the back.

The e-tron's electric motors were quiet and provided instant acceleration for changing lanes, out of car spaces into traffic and providing extra reassurance when crossing intersections with poor visibility thanks to being able to move quickly when needed. An added bonus is also impressive handling, thanks to a lower centre of mass provided by the e-ton's batteries laid out under the floor.

Whenever I drive an electric car, I'm reminded that for urban driving, nothing beats their smooth, serene and quick nature.

The e-tron 50 Sportback may not be as fast-accelerating as the e-tron 55 nor any Tesla, but the experience is still superb with all the prestige refinement in comfort we'd expect from Audi.

The only aspect of the e-tron 50 Sportback which didn't lend itself well to urban duties was the size of it. At just under five metres long and more than two metres wide I found myself holding my breath a lot as we squeezed down lanes so tight people park half on the footpath. I'm lucky enough to have off-street parking at my block of flats, but even then, it was tricky piloting the e-tron in and out of my parking space.

On the upside I had access to a power point in the driveway and that meant I could charge it up. Read on to find out how far you can go on a full battery and how to charge up.

How much fuel does it consume?

You'll need somewhere to plug your e-tron in, ok? Your best bet for fast charging is a wall unit for your home, which but if you have a power point like I did, then you can top it up slowly through that.

When I picked up the e-tron I took it home and plugged it into the power point in our driveway to bring the battery from 98 percent back up to full so that I could start my testing knowing the battery was really at 100 per cent. That was at about 9.30am and my plan was to leave it on the charger the whole day. But at 11.50am I noticed out the window my neighbour was having trouble getting her own car around the e-tron and so I offered to move it back a bit. When I opened the e-tron's door my cat leapt out of the car. She'd snuck in when I was out there plugging the car in and had been locked in the car the whole time, on a 32-degree day.

The cat was hot, but fine although I don't want to think about what would have happened if I hadn't gone back to the car until maybe that night.

So, off to a good start, right? Anyway, with a full battery the e-tron's instrument display told me I had a range of 283km.

The e-tron 50 has the smaller battery in the line-up – it's 71kWh in gross capacity, although only 64kWh is usable, according to Audi. The e-tron -55 has the larger 95kWh battery and a range of about 400km.

Audi says the e-tron 50 Sportback should be getting 22.7kWh/100km. (image: Richard Berry) Audi says the e-tron 50 Sportback should be getting 22.7kWh/100km. (image: Richard Berry)

Well, 283km was going to be fine for me as this was an urban test. Besides I live 8km from the CBD and during the week my trips are generally less than 20km each day.

As expected, the range was more than enough for me. After a week I'd covered 109.6km with a mileage of 30.4kWh/100km, according to the trip computer. My 'fuel gauge' told me the battery was at 48 per cent with 121km of range left based on my driving.

When I said you can use a power point to charge the e-tron slowly, I mean slooooowly.  Plugging the e-tron into a regular power point using the charging cable that comes with the car the display told me it would take 27 hours and 2 minutes to get from 48 per cent to a full charge. Three and a half hours later I came back to the car and it was at 53 per cent charge.

For the week my driving had been confined to city streets only, but on the last day with the e-tron I took it for a run on the motorway. High speeds for long periods without braking much normally saps power quickly in electric vehicles, but the trip computer was reporting that the e-tron was using 23.9kmh/100km while at 110km/h.

Audi says the e-tron 50 Sportback should be getting 22.7kWh/100km.

You can increase how much energy the regenerative braking can send back to the batteries, too, by digging into the charging menu and opting to manually adjust that setting using the steering paddles. My own experience found that this really didn't make a great deal of difference to my range.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The e-tron 50 quattro Sportback lists for $148,100. Coming standard is the 10.1-inch media display, 8.6-inch climate screen, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, 10-speaker stereo, digital radio, wireless charger, sports seats, leather upholstery, adaptive air suspension, heated front seats, head-up display, and a power tailgate with gesture control.

As mentioned in the Design section, the S-line exterior package is also included as standard along with the 21-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels.

The only hints that this SUV is different are small things such as the gear shifter which operates with just your thumb and index finger. (image: Richard Berry) The only hints that this SUV is different are small things such as the gear shifter which operates with just your thumb and index finger. (image: Richard Berry)

Standard, too, are the two charging ports either side of the car and a charging cable.

The Catalunya Red metallic paint my test car wore is a $2300 option while the privacy glass costs $1050.

That's pretty great value.

How practical is the space inside?

I expected the practicality of the Sportback version of the e-tron 50 to be hugely compromised by that coupe styling, and although I did hit my noggin on the roof climbing out of the back seat once, when you're in there it's surprisingly spacious. Even at 191cm tall I can sit with about 10cm of legroom behind my driving position and there's ample headroom, in there. too. Just make sure you duck enough when you get out.

Cabin storage is excellent. There are large door pockets front and rear, four cupholders (two up front and two in the back) and a big centre console storage area with a cleverly design wireless charger dock.

  • The e-tron 50 Sportback is a five-seater SUV, with no option for a third row. (image: Richard Berry) The e-tron 50 Sportback is a five-seater SUV, with no option for a third row. (image: Richard Berry)
  • The boot has a luggage capacity of 615 litres. (image: Richard Berry) The boot has a luggage capacity of 615 litres. (image: Richard Berry)
  • Under the bonnet there’s a large storage box for the charging cables. (image: Richard Berry) Under the bonnet there’s a large storage box for the charging cables. (image: Richard Berry)

There are two USB ports in the second row and another two up front and two 12V power outlets.

The boot has a luggage capacity of 615 litres, while under the bonnet there's a large storage box for the charging cables.

The e-tron 50 Sportback is a five-seater SUV, with no option for a third row.

Although I did hit my noggin on the roof climbing out of the back seat once, when you’re in there it’s surprisingly spacious. (image: Richard Berry) Although I did hit my noggin on the roof climbing out of the back seat once, when you’re in there it’s surprisingly spacious. (image: Richard Berry)

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The e-tron was given a five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2019. Coming standard is an armoury of city-focussed advanced safety tech, such as AEB which can brake to avoid an impact with cyclists and pedestrians between 5km/h and 85km/h (and up to 250km/h for vehicles); there's also rear cross traffic alert and cross traffic assist, plus an exit warning system on the door which detects cyclists and vehicles.

On top of that there's blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance, collision avoidance assist with evasive steering, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function for traffic jams.

Four wide-angle cameras provide a 360-degree camera including a kerb view, front and rear parking sensors and Audi pre-sense which tensions the seat belts and closes the windows when a collision is anticipated.

For child seats there are three top-tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

How good is this: if you buy an e-tron Audi will include a six-year subscription to the Chargefox network which includes unlimited fast charging.

Audi is also offering servicing and roadside assistance for six years on e-trons and an eight-year/160,000km warranty on the battery.

This is along with the three-year unlimited, kilometre warranty on the car itself.

This is outstanding value.

The e-tron 50 quattro Sportback is up there with the best of the cars I've driven in 2020 in terms of comfort, space, safety, features and for the way it drives.

The e-tron's large size was its only drawback in the city but it still excels as an urban vehicle for its smooth, powerful and ease of piloting around town, although the large size made tight streets feel even tighter at times.

Score

4.3/5
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