2019 Audi e-tron First Drive Review: More Lightning Than Thunder

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2019 Audi e-tron review
2019 Audi e-tron - Photo: Audi

Audi is just one of a host of luxury automakers now turning their attention to electric vehicles.

The 2019 Audi e-tron is the first production fully-electric vehicle to bear the e-tron name after a host of concepts and PHEV models introduced over the years.

Audi’s first foray into the all-electric world was bound to materialize as a sports car. At least, that’s what everyone was thinking about at the 2010 Frankfurt Motor Show when the four-ring brand lifted the veil off an electrified version of the Audi R8.

That model was actually destined for mass production, but somewhere along the way Audi changes its mind. Only ten units were produced.

2019 Audi e-tron
2019 Audi e-tron – Photo: Audi

The electric R8 housed in each of its wheels a small electric motor. Together, they were powered by a 389-volt battery weighing nearly 600 kilos. This combination provided the R8 e-tron with a range of 250 kilometers. That was 10 years ago.

And now?

The 2019 Audi e-tron is the first production vehicle to wear the name that Audi has been using to refer to anything electric. Audi therefore went with an SUV and not a two-door high-performance coupe to launch its EV range which will get a second model at this year’s Geneva Auto Show.

And let’s not forget the spectacular Audi e-tron GT which may eventually become the e-tron lineup’s third model. We certainly hope so.

We could describe the e-tron’s proportions this way: It’s almost as long as a Q7, but roughly the same height as a Q5. You see? And its weight? The equivalent of two Audi TT coupes.

Unlike the R8 e-tron, this utility devoid of an exhaust system (and the engine that comes with it) uses technical solutions so far mastered. The floor, thick and heavy spreads along its length a 95-kWh battery weighing almost 700 kilograms.

That gave the new Audi e-tron a little more than 315 kilometers of range on the expressways around Abu Dhabi where we got our first taste of Audi’s first luxury electric SUV.

The most caustic minds will point out that this is little compared to what Audi trumpeted ten years ago with the R8 e-tron. And Tesla followers will think no less. And Jaguar? The English automaker will likely be reassured given its own I-Pace’s slightly lower-than-expected range.

2019 Audi e-tron
2019 Audi e-tron – Photo: Audi

We could spend months arguing the presumed and real range of current electric vehicles and particularly of this Audi. We are sure to find someone to say that the e-tron can “easily travel 400 km”, while another will voice loud and clear their disappointment of not being able to travel more than 300 km.

All this debate becomes a bit tiresome after a while. There are so many variables that come into play when determining actual range including the person sitting behind the steering wheel or the accessibility to charging stations to name just these two. Just ask yourself if 300 kilometers is enough then drive in a way that you could reach 400 kilometers.

Speaking fo charging, the e-tron offers two charging ports rather than just one in the front grille as was the case of the now extinct A3 e-tron (hybrid).

According to Audi, charging time varies from 30 minutes to 40 hours depending on the type of terminal. Note that refueling in half an hour will only be possible with a 150-kW fast charger. Most charging stations in Canada and the U.S. are 50-kW chargers. Essentially, most users will need between 90 minutes and 10 hours to charge using the right equipment.

Inside the 2019 Audi e-tron

2019 Audi e-tron cockpit
2019 Audi e-tron – Photo: Audi

Given the e-tron’s price, you’d expect a certain level of luxury inside Audi’s new electric SUV. From the Virtual Cockpit to the infotainment touchpad, everything is there. Well almost. The most significant innovation – cameras rather than exterior mirrors – will not be featured on the list of optional e-tron equipment sold in Canada. We’re also surprised about some of the finish and trims, like the lack of Alcantara on the ceiling.

The generous interior dimensions provide space for five passengers. The cargo area includes a standard trunk that is accessed via an automatic opening and closing tailgate that accommodates the equivalent of 660 liters. It is possible to increase this surface (up to 1725 liters) by folding all or part of the rear seats. Under the front hood, Audi builds another compartment (60 liters), but its mainly used to store the charging cables

Composed of aluminum and high-density steel, the architecture of this model accommodates two electric motors driving, with a continuously variable distribution, the four wheels. With a preference for the rear where the equivalent of 210 horsepower provides standard mobility in RWD mode. When more needs to be done, the other powerful 170 horsepower engine drives the front wheels, effectively switching all-wheel drive on for up to 360 horsepower. A boost function allows the engines to deliver 408 horsepower for 8 seconds.

Benefiting from an ideal distribution of its masses and a low center of gravity, the Audi e-tron is quite agile and sporty considering its weight (2.5 tons). It can behave like a RWD around the corners if you want, or provide the optimal grip and stability of an AWD sport utility vehicle. The switch from one to the other happens in an instant and you don’t notice it at all.

If the 2019 Audi e-tron represents the future of the electric luxury SUV, things are looking good.

2019 Audi e-tron Images

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