Audi e-tron 50 quattro 2020: Road test review

Front and side view of blue Audi e-tron quattro driving on road

Tim Nicholson

Posted December 15, 2020


Tim Nicholson takes Audi’s first electric vehicle for a spin.

Audi is gearing up for a significant rollout of electric vehicles in the coming years, but first out of the gate is the e-tron – a sleek, tech-laden medium-to-large SUV. Can the German juggernaut take the fight to the Teslas of the world?

Thumbs up

Attractive, spacious and practical, top-notch in-car tech, punchy performance, grippy handling, loaded with safety gear.

Thumbs down 

Still expensive, driving range less than key electric SUV rivals, cheap-looking leather trim.

Audi e-tron 50 Quattro interior
Interior, dashboard and steering wheel
Rear and side of Audi e-tron 50 Quattro

Price and positioning

Audi was late to the coupe-style SUV party, but it’s rolling out new models at a rapid pace. The Q3 and Q5 SUVs are available in ‘Sportback’ guise with a rear sloping roofline, and now its first electric vehicle – the e-tron – is here in SUV and Sportback body styles. Both e-trons are available with two permanent model grades – 50 quattro with a 71kWh battery pack and 336-kilometre driving range, and 55 quattro with a 95kWh battery and 436-kilometre range. A limited First Edition is also available initially, based on the 55 but with more kit.

The 50 quattro SUV tested here kicks off at $137,100 before on-road costs. Opting for the Sportback adds $9000 to the price.

EV pricing remains high in Australia and there’s no doubt the e-tron is an expensive proposition. An equivalent petrol SUV at a similar price is the recently tested Porsche Cayenne Coupe V6. Unlike the Porsche, however, the Audi is jam-packed with standard gear across the range. The e-tron 55 even includes the option of virtual exterior mirrors instead of regular mirrors, the first passenger vehicle in Australia to offer the tech. The feature uses a small camera to project information through a high-resolution seven-inch display at the base of the A-pillars.

The only options fitted to the test car were metallic paint ($2300) and privacy glass ($1050).

Buyers might also consider other high-end electric SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz EQC ($139,700), Jaguar I-Pace (from $128,248) or Tesla Model X (from $159,400). BMW’s iX3 hits showrooms next year.

 


Safety first

The Audi was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating, receiving high marks for adult and child occupant protection. Audi hasn’t skimped on safety gear, with all variants offered with an impressive suite of active and passive safety features as standard.

The e-tron’s lane-keeping aid self-steering system is well calibrated and behaves exactly as it should on the road.

 


The inside story

The e-tron’s well-executed cabin is typical of Audi. The functions are intuitively laid out, with the dual central touchscreens angled towards the driver for easy access. The four-spoke steering wheel looks great and the controls are clear. While Audi hasn’t exactly taken a minimalist approach to the design, the irregular shapes of the dash and door inserts work well. The doors have plenty of space for large bottles and the central bin offers ample storage.

A traditional gear shifter is replaced with a ‘floating’ toggle attached to a hand rest. It’s clever and takes up less space. Audi’s tech is on show via the dual MMI screens and 12.3-inch virtual-cockpit digital instrument cluster, all of which impress with their functionality and clarity. Audi’s standard ‘connect Plus’ multimedia system includes extended navigation features, remote charging and climate control. That means you can set the e-tron to charge at a specific time via your home-charging wall box. You can also set the air-conditioning or heating, and seat heating, so it’s your ideal temperature when you get in the car. Perfect for a chilly morning.

The cabin is bathed in dark grey and could do with a lighter tone here or there. The leather upholstery in the 50 doesn’t look or feel particularly premium. If you want the sexy Valcona leather sports seats you’d need to order the Premium interior package or opt for the pricier 55 quattro.

Dimensionally, the e-tron sits somewhere between Audi’s mid-size Q5 and large Q7 SUVs, and there is more than enough occupant space for three adults to fit comfortably across the back seat. The rear seats have a flat base but offer more upper-body support – it’s not a plush second row, but there’s little to fault. Rear passengers have access to large bottle storage, knee-level air vents, map pockets, a 12-volt outlet and a pair of USB ports.

The 660-litre cargo area is larger than the Q5 (550 litres) but not as cavernous as the Q7 (865 litres with third row lowered). It has a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor and handy levers on the side to lower the rear seats.

 

Blue Audi e-tron 50 Quattro parked outside on a sunny day

On the road

Even though the 50 quattro is the entry grade, it’s exceptionally quick off the mark, hitting 100kmh in just 6.8 seconds, according to Audi. Like the Tesla Model 3 we tested last year, the base e-tron offers more than enough straight-line performance for a driving enthusiast. But if you feel you need even more, the 55 quattro is the pick.

The e-tron maintains its pace on challenging roads with twisty sections and steep ascents. The dual motors combine for remarkable, linear performance. Of course, constant full-throttle acceleration isn’t the best way to save on battery range. Thankfully if range is the priority you can switch the Drive Mode Select between Comfort, Dynamic and Efficiency. Dynamic improved response further but we couldn’t detect any other changes.  

The 2.5-tonne EV handles like a more compact and nimble vehicle – something of an Audi SUV trait. Everything from the new Q3 to the large Q7 and Q8 are all dynamically capable. The all-wheel-drive e-tron hugs bends even when on loose road edges, and there is zero lateral movement. The impressive suspension setup includes a damping tune that’s geared towards comfort, making for a calm and rewarding ride. The thick tyres also help keep out nasty ruts and bumps. It’s as compliant on a crumby country backroad as it is on a smooth urban street.

EVs emit little noise when you’re moving, save for tyre noise, and the e-tron’s hushed cabin is well insulated from outside intrusions.

From when we collected it to when we dropped it off three days later, the available range had dropped by 180 kilometres, but the odometer had us doing 152 kilometres. That difference in kilometres is understandable given we pushed the e-tron hard during testing. We could have achieved better economy during a week of regular commuting. The official driving range of 336 kilometres is dependent on performance, weather and road conditions, and vehicle load.

In comparison, the Benz EQC’s range is 353 kilometres, the Jaguar I-Pace is 470 kilometres and the Tesla Model X starts at 561 kilometres.

Given our brief loan period, we didn’t test the charging time or capabilities, but we noted that the e-tron has a charge port on both sides of the car, which is useful.

According to Audi, the e-tron 50 quattro can be charged from zero to 100 per cent battery capacity in 36 hours using a regular 10A household power point, seven hours with an 11kW home wall charger, and about an hour and 25 minutes with a 50kW fast-charging station. Audi is offering the e-tron with six years’ free charging using the Chargefox public network.  

 


The verdict

The e-tron retains Audi’s renowned dynamics and unrivalled interior quality, but it’s also family-friendly with plenty of space. Audi’s first electric vehicle is a winner.

 

Audi e-tron 50 quattro 2020

Price

List price: $137,100 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $140,450 before on-road costs.

Model range: $137,100 to $169,350 before on-road costs.

Drivetrain

Dual electric motors, 71kWh lithium-ion battery, single-gear planetary gearbox, all-wheel drive.

Power: 230kW.

Torque: 540Nm.

Wheels: 255/50 20.

Fuel

Driving range: 336 kilometres (WLTP). 

Consumption: 23.6kWh/100km.

Emissions: Zero.

Safety

Five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, anti-dooring exit warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with cyclist and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-keeping aid, rear cross-traffic assist and intersection assist.

Features

10.1-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, folding and heated exterior mirrors, 8.6-inch screen for vehicle functions, electric tailgate with gesture control, heated seats and dual-zone climate control.

Warranty

Three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Eight-year/160,000-kilometre battery warranty. Six-year/90,000-kilometre servicing plan. Service intervals every two years/30,000 kilometres. Six years of roadside assist.


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