Pricing for the e-tron Sportback starts at $88,850 in Canada, $69,100 in the US.
The Sportback is the second model in Audi’s e-tron’s line of EVs.
The Audi e-tron Sportback is an exceptional luxury EV.
While the average North American new car buyer awaits the arrival of the “affordable” electric vehicle, luxury automakers have rapidly introduced their own brand of electrified mobility. The Volkswagen Group could be considered at the forefront of the luxury EV offensive, behind Tesla, as they’ve launched the Porsche Taycan and, at the moment, two iterations of the Audi e-tron including the Sportback.
The all-new 2021 Audi e-tron Sportback is the crossover version of the e-tron SUV. The main visual difference between the two is the Sportback’s raked rear hatch. The shortened roofline has a strange effect on perceptions as, from a distance, the Sportback looks deceptively small but up close, it’s quite the opposite.
As with all Audi vehicles, the e-tron Sportback is a masterpiece of design and premium craftsmanship. The exterior shell is taut and impossibly Audi-esque, meaning it’s beautiful and undoubtedly looks as its price-tag suggests. On that subject, the tested Sportback was a “base” Progressiv priced from $88,850. Even in this guise, the e-tron is uber-premium.
Premium upscale design
Sliding aboard the crossover is another invitation to discover what Audi does so well. Although somewhat familiar in its layout, the Sportback’s dashboard is all 21st century with its multiple screens and displays. With fewer than a handful of exceptions, all surfaces are flat and sharp. And despite the numerous materials and textures that intertwine, there’s a level of calmness within the cabin’s confines.
For comparison purposes, the 2021 Audi e-tron’s interior makes a Tesla’s cabin seem almost amateurish, no matter the model, in both design and execution. As well, although the Polestar 2 is reassuringly premium, it’s simply not as special as the Audi’s.
I want to note here that these aforementioned details are just some of the reasons why Audi has priced the e-tron as it has – this is a high-end luxury automobile. I bring this up as the vehicles have been criticized for their overall performance and range, and Audi did not expertly handle comments related to e-tron specifications on social media in the recent past.
Range and ride
Now, about range. The issue stems mostly from the vehicle carrying a relatively large 95kWh battery pack that is rated to deliver “only” 351km of range. Unfortunately, my time with the 2021 Audi e-tron Sportback Progressiv was very brief and so never got to “test” its range.
What I was able to ascertain is that it is a superb road vehicle. In fact, it is one of the smoothest, most cosseting vehicles I’ve ever driven. The combination of the Sportback’s low centre of gravity and standard adaptive air suspension delivered an impressively serene yet sporty drive. Despite the e-tron tipping the scale at a not inconsiderable 5,750lbs, the adaptive dampers maintained not only an unruffled level of control over the chassis’ weight transfers but even managed harsh train tracks, at speed I might add, with ease that a Bentley may have difficulty matching.
The e-tron Sportback 55 quattro indicates two things in its name alone. First, it’s AWD with two electric motors, or one per axle. Here, the vehicle is set up with a rear-wheel bias which quickly changes depending on conditions. Second, it’s a “55” signaling that its output is in a specified range. In this case, the e-tron delivers 402 horsepower and up to 490 lb.-ft. of torque in boost mode. When not in boost mode, torque is limited to 414lbs.
Taking into consideration the stated output and the curb weight, it’s clear that the e-tron Sportback won’t upset other EVs or sportscars as it needs about 6 seconds to reach 100km/h in boost mode. Even so, as per usual, as a dual-motor EV, the torque is instantaneous and smile-inducing. As well, the e-tron produces an artificial engine note that increases in intensity as speeds rise. It is a unique and extremely amusing noise.
Charging the competition
Of the numerous charging aspects, there are three regenerative braking settings that can be adjusted via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles or through the car’s settings. This leads to actually plugging the Audi e-tron Sportback. On a 150kW fast charger, the battery will go from a 5-80% state of charge in about 30 minutes. At home, on a Level 2 charger, the battery will go from near 0% to 100% in 10 hours.
Competition-wise, the e-tron sits between the Tesla Model Y and X both price and size-wise. Range-wise, it does not compete however as both easily offer between 525km and nearly 600km of autonomy. As other EVs arrive from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the e-tron will slide deeper down on the range charts. However, knowing this, the Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro remains a delightful premium electric vehicle.