The EV crossover is tied to the Volkswagen ID.4.
Internal components are shared between the two models.
Range was greatly reduced during that (very) cold weekend in February.
The brand with the four rings may not be the most prominent in the industry’s electric shift, but that hasn’t stopped it from participating in the effort and has been for several months now. But so far, Audi has been focusing on a clientele used to prices above $100,000 with the e-tron GT and e-tron lineup (soon to be renamed Q8 e-tron for 2024).
Audi’s electric lineup was supposed to add the two variants of the more affordable crossover in the fall of 2021, but the arrival of the Q4 e-tron and its Sportback version was ultimately pushed back a full year, sometime last fall. In times of a worldwide supply crisis, a year’s delay is almost normal.
But hey, here it is, this more affordable EV option, the Q4 e-tron, which is underpinned by Volkswagen Group’s MEB architecture, unlike Audi’s first two electric vehicles. And as life sometimes works out well, fate wanted me to test the vehicle in the middle of an extremely cold weekend, in southwestern Quebec, which was close to -40°C at times between February 3rd and 4th.
I won’t lie, I almost didn’t go outside during this extreme temperature drop, but I at least took a few seconds to notice the reduced range pictured in the screen located behind the steering wheel. The digital gauge cluster was showing showed a possible 210 km, whereas the day before, the screen was showing a more interesting 260 km range when I plugged the vehicle into my personal charging station.
Fortunately, I drove the Q4 e-tron 2023 again afterward. Here’s what came out of that winter road test.
A tour of the Q4
As I mentioned above, the Q4 e-tron is based on a Volkswagen platform, but on the surface, the electric SUV is exclusively Audi, which is good news in my opinion. And while the proportions are the same, the design department of the four-ringed division has managed to successfully disguise the Q4’s more modest origins. The bumper still makes use of a prominent “radiator grill”, but it’s solid, as is the case with most electric vehicles nowadays. I particularly like the way this panel is incorporated into the crossover’s front end, while the S-Line exterior package adds a dose of sportiness to the lower portion of the bumper.
On its side panels, some of you may have noticed these rounded edges that highlight the vehicle’s domed fenders, a detail that recalls the motorsport heritage of the four-ringed division. As for the 20-inch wheels, they are the right size to fill those wheel arches. The Q4 e-tron comes out of the factory with 19-inch wheels.
Finally, the rear portion of the crossover is more conventional, with a rear window that’s fairly limited in height and a rear taillight treatment that crosses the vehicle from left to right. The important thing to remember is that despite its mature design, the Q4 e-tron prefers discretion to the extravagance of some other electric models. In other words, it blends in with the other SUVs on the road.
What about the interior?
Those who are used to the brand’s vehicles should fit right in, especially with the carefully assembled interior. Audi has been designing some of the nicest interiors in the industry for quite some time now, and the Q4 e-tron follows in the steps of its predecessors, despite its ties with the Volkswagen ID.4.
Moreover, unlike its popular counterpart, the Q4 prefers a series of buttons rather than touch-sensitive keys for climate control – thank you Audi –, while the center touchscreen is part of the dashboard rather than sitting on top of it. The fact that it’s oriented at a driver-friendly angle is a plus here, but the responsiveness of the 10.1-inch screen is another quality of the latter. The icons are a good size, and the graphics are crisp, but there are a lot of them. I had to stop at times to figure out the multiple apps in the infotainment system.
I also had to take a few moments to figure out how to turn down the volume of the audio system without the aid of the multi-function steering wheel. This rounded button on the center console is touch sensitive. To raise or lower the volume, the driver simply turns it clockwise or the other way around.
For the transmission, it’s also quite simple, Audi has integrated this small rectangle that acts as a gearshift lever. It must be said that the Q4’s narrowness limits the possibilities in this area, unlike the brand’s wider vehicles. Then there’s the flattened steering wheel, which, I must mention, is very pleasant to steer, especially with the perforated leather.
It’s not quite as perfect when it comes to space, the Q4 e-tron which takes its skeleton from the ID.4, let’s not forget. This is why three adults will find it a little tight behind the front rows of seats, despite a flat floor. On the other hand, the crossover’s seats are soft enough to support four adults for at least 380 km, the range estimated by Natural Resources Canada. Finally, cargo space is the same as in a Q5, the Q4 e-tron which also offers underfloor storage for the charger or any other valuables that need to be stored out of sight.
A comfortable and agile crossover, but…
Normally, an Audi vehicle finds a way to distance itself from its Volkswagen counterpart, but in this case, the Q4 e-tron delivers nothing more than the most powerful ID.4 trim. As such, the pair of electric motors delivers the same combined 295 horsepower and 339 ft-lb of maximum torque as in the platform cousin. These are more than enough numbers to move this vehicle weighed down by its 82 kWh battery pack, but not enough to worry competing models like the Volvo XC40 Recharge or the Tesla Model Y, which offers power levels approaching 400 horsepower.
Where the Q4 does shine nicely is behind the wheel, with the crossover still doing better than the Volkswagen ID.4 in this regard. The steering feels more engaged and the suspension, while designed for comfort above everything, is firm enough to allow for high-speed cornering. And let’s not forget the all-wheel drive system that can, under optimal conditions, disconnect the front axle to increase range.
Unfortunately, braking is not the Q4’s greatest strength, as the vehicle uses drums on the rear axle, just like on the Volkswagen. It would be interesting to see how much a pair of discs would transform the Q4. In fact, the development of an SQ4 variant could address my two biggest criticisms of the most affordable e-tron: power and braking.
Range (greatly) affected by freezing temperatures
According to the Canadian EnerGuide’s estimations, the Audi Q4 e-tron 50 Quattro is capable of driving 380 km between recharges. But in reality, the range displayed behind the wheel was more like 260 km during my test drive in February, which represents a loss of about 30%. On the coldest Saturday morning of the winter, the theoretical range on the SUV’s display even dropped to 210 km, almost half the prescribed range. But then again, these conditions only happen very rarely. So there’s no need to worry about this temporary loss of range… unless you are travelling a great distance.
EnerGuide also claims a combined fuel consumption of 22.6 kWh/100 km, but my week of testing resulted in an average of 27.2 kWh/100 km, a result attributable to the extreme temperatures of the last few days, but also to my right foot’s enthusiasm for seeing how the crossover handles under acceleration. A smoother, more urban driving experience would certainly have lowered this figure.
The automaker finally has a model that can attract a broader audience interested in the electric windfall, but also in the compact utility format. The brand’s first two electric vehicles are as impressive as the prices attached to them, but they are aimed at a more upscale clientele.
The Q4 e-tron, on the other hand, is even eligible for government rebates. In fact, Audi is sold out for the 2023 model year. On the brand’s Canadian website, the manufacturer is already announcing the 2024 version of the model, which confirms that waiting times are still quite long. This supply crisis is really affecting everyone in the industry.