Audi keeps its promise, debuts Tesla Model X fighter

The E-tron Quattro is Audi’s first-ever all-electric SUV. It was previewed by a similar concept car back in 2015 and made its debut as a production model in 2018. Developed as a competitor for the Tesla Model X, the E-tron Quattro joins Audi’s existing range of hybrid models that also use an "e-tron" badge.

Smaller than the Q7 but notably bigger than the Q5, the E-tron created its very own niche in the Audi lineup. It’s not big enough to offer full-size capability, but it’s not too cramped either. At the same time, it’s the perfect compromise for urban driving, as it’s not as difficult to park as the company’s range-topping SUV. The big question is, does it have what it takes to give the Tesla Model X a run for its money? Audi has yet to unveil all essential information, which makes predictions difficult, but we still know enough to paint a fair picture. Find out more in the review below.

Exterior

  • Slots between Q5 and Q7
  • Familiar design
  • Unique front grille
  • Standard LED lights
  • No exhaust pipes

*** The E-tron combines styling cues from both the latest-generation Q7 and the recently released Q8 ***

Before we dig deep into the details, it’s pretty obvious that the E-tron combines styling cues from both the latest-generation Q7 and the recently released Q8. As far as size goes, it’s smaller than both, falling somewhere between the Q5 and the Q7. Specifically, the E-tron is 193 inches long. That’s five less than the Q7 but almost ten more than the Q5. It’s slightly wider and taller than the Q5 as well. Its wheelbase is almost as long as the Q7 and Q8 at 115.1 inches, missing less than three inches compared to the bigger SUVs.

Styling-wise, the E-tron shares many features with other Audi SUVs, starting with the "singleframe" grille with vertical struts. However, whereas the usual Audi grille has openings from top to bottom, the E-tron has enclosed upper and lower areas. These were added to set the E-tron apart from the gasoline and diesel Audis, but it’s still a big departure from most EVs, which feature a flat panel.

*** Around back, the E-tron is a typical Audi SUV with a solid bumper, a wide tailgate, and a big spoiler on the roof ***

The standard LED headlamps have sharp edges, just like the Q8’s, but the lower corners sport four-stripe daytime running lights that becoming smaller toward the bottom. Audi says this design is reminiscent of charging status indicators.

Moving onto the sides, the E-tron is almost as sporty as the Q8 thanks to its beefed-up fenders and deeply sculpted lower door areas. The shoulder line seems almost continuous, extending from the headlamps, along the flanks and to the rear lights. A thick D-pillar and small quarter window rounds out the profile.

Around back, the E-tron is a typical Audi SUV with a solid bumper, a wide tailgate, and a big spoiler on the roof. The taillights are also similar to other SUVs, but borrow the light strip connecting the lights from the Q8, A7, and A8. Naturally, the EV doesn’t have exhaust pipes, but the wide, silver-painted diffuser and the similar trim in the upper bumper give the rear fascia a sporty look.

All told, I think the E-tron looks a bit too much like the Q7 in order to stand out as a product from the brand’s all-electric division.

Interior

  • Somewhat unique design
  • Large screen for the MMI system
  • Language recognition
  • Premium materials
  • Standard panoramic roof
  • Optional Valcona leather
  • Fairly large trunk

*** Look below the A/C vents and you’ll find a couple of large screens for the standard MMI Plus system ***

Somewhat surprisingly, Audi made noticeable changes inside the cabin. While almost all SUVs feature the continuous air vent strip that extends from the instrument cluster to the passenger side of the dashboard, the E-tron sports a more traditional layout. Specifically, there are only two rectangular air vents atop the center stack, while the passenger side dash features gold stripes and an "e-tron badge."

Look below the A/C vents, and you’ll find a couple of large screens for the standard MMI Plus system with navigation, LTE, and Wi-Fi. The system includes natural language recognition and provides access to various information and media delivered from the cloud at LTE speed. Alexa has been fully integrated into the MMI system and provides access to many features and services including news, weather, sports scores, ordering groceries, and streaming music and audio books.

*** Fit and finish seems perfect just about anywhere, while premium materials are offered even in the least expensive trim ***

Audi claims the E-tron is well equipped to meet premium buyer expectations and needless to say, the Germans aren’t kidding. Fit and finish seem perfect just about anywhere, while premium materials are offered even in the least expensive trim. The panoramic glass roof and the four-zone air conditioning come standard, as does the electrically operated tailgate that can be opened by foot gesture when the key is in your pocket or purse.

If you’re a fan of fancier materials and features, you can optionally order Valcona leather for the seats and natural wood inlays for the dashboard and door panels. There’s also a special stitching for the seats that creates a motif that evokes the precision of electric circuit boards. You can also opt for an air quality package with ionizer and aromatization, multi-adjustable contour front seats with massage function, and the contour/ambient lighting package.

*** When it comes to rear-seat comfort, the E-tron benefits from its EV layout, as the center tunnel area is flat ***

When it comes to rear-seat comfort, the E-tron benefits from its EV layout, as the center tunnel area is flat. This provides additional space and enhanced comfort for the passenger sitting in the middle. Up front, the central tunnel rests on open side panels and incorporates a storage compartment, cup holders, and the standard Audi phone box for inductive smartphone charging.

Another cool feature is the standard heat pump, which uses the waste heat from the electrical components for cabin heating, air conditioning, and cooling. Depending on ambient temperature, the heat pump’s design can help contribute to SUV’s range by up to ten percent.

As far as luggage capacity goes, the E-tron’s trunk can swallow up to 28.5 cubic feet with the rear bench in place. When they’re folded flat, capacity grows to 57 cubic feet. Needless to say, it’s not as spacious as the Q7, but it can hold several suitcases, which makes the E-tron suitable for long road trips.

Drivetrain

  • Two electric motors
  • Up to 402 horsepower
  • 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds
  • Top speed at 124 mph
  • 200+ miles of range
  • Maximum tow rating of 4,000 pounds
  • Electric AWD system
  • Adjustable suspension

*** An earlier release said that the E-tron’s motors generate an estimated 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque ***

The E-tron moves on electricity alone thanks to a couple of motors. A large motor spins the rear axle, while a smaller one motivates the front axle. Both are powered by a 95-kWh battery. Audi has yet to reveal final output ratings, but an earlier release said that the E-tron’s motors generate an estimated 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque. An overboost function, which can operate for up to eight seconds, increases power to 402 horses and 490 pound-feet of twist.

On the other hand, Audi did say that the E-tron needs only 5.5 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start. This figure is for the overboost mode, so the E-tron will be slower in normal mode, probably needing around 5.8 seconds for the benchmark. While a 5.5-second sprint is nothing to sneeze at, the E-tron is notably slower than the competition. The Tesla Model X needs between 4.9 and 2.9 seconds depending on specifications, while the Mercedes-Benz EQC achieves the sprint in 4.9 clicks. The Jaguar I-Pace gets there in an impressive 4.5 seconds.

*** Add the tow package and the SUV has a maximum tow rating of 4,000 pounds ***

The crossover tops out at 124 mph, a figure that’s in line with most of the competition.

You can also use the E-tron to haul stuff. Add the tow package and the SUV has a maximum tow rating of 4,000 pounds. That’s not as impressive as the Q7, which can two between 4,400 and 7,700 depending on drivetrain, but it’s not bad for an EV.

EPA ratings aren’t yet available, but the WLTP estimate is set at 248 miles. Expect the U.S. range to be lower than that.

Audi created many new systems for the E-tron, starting with an energy recuperation system that enhances the vehicle’s range by about 30 percent. Specifically, the electric SUV can recover energy in two ways: by means of coasting recuperation when the driver releases the accelerator pedal, or by means of braking recuperation by releasing the brake pedal.

The SUV also benefits from a new, electric all-wheel-drive Quattro system. Just like in the regular Audi models, the front axle can be connected predictively when the driver needs more power than the rear electric motor can supply. It kicks in before grip declines in wintery conditions or high-speed cornering, while torque can be redistributed between the axles within a fraction of a second.

*** EPA ratings aren’t yet available, but the WLTP estimate is set at 248 miles ***

A fully adjustable suspension modifies the body’s ride height by up to three inches. On the highway, the suspension lowers to improve airflow around body, which helps increase range. In "offroad" mode, ground clearance is increased by 1.4 inches compared to the standard level. An extra 0.6 inches can be added by using the "Raise" function from the Audi drive selector.

So how can you charge the battery? Well, the E-tron was engineered for both AC and DC charging. This isn’t exactly innovative, but Audi brags about having the first DC fast charging capability of up to 150 kW. However, you can benefit from this at select high-speed public charging stations. If you can find one, you’ll be able to charge the battery up to 80 percent in only 30 minutes. Residential charging can be made via the standard 9.6 kW AC charger with plugs that can utilize both a standard 120-volt household outlet as well as a fast-speed 240-volt outlet. You can also have an exclusive home charging installation through Amazon Home Services and complimentary 1000 kWh of charge powered by Electrify America.

Safety and Driver Assistance Systems

Much like every premium vehicle out there, the E-tron is packed with state-of-the-art systems that make parking and driving easier. Unfortunately, most of them are part of the optional Driver Assistance Package.

The bundle includes the familiar adaptive cruise assist system, which supports the driver with accelerating, braking, maintaining speed, and keeping distance in traffic jams or at highway speeds. The system detects lane markings, structures, and vehicles driving on both ways.

In urban areas, the E-tron also uses intersection assist, rear cross traffic assist, and lane change assist systems. All three are aided by 360-degree cameras, which also enable precise maneuvering and parking. Speaking of that, Park Steering Assist steers the Audi e-tron independently into parallel parking and perpendicular parking spaces. All you have to do is accelerate, select the gear, and brake.

Pricing

Pricing for the E-tron starts from $74,800, not including destination and delivery, taxes, title, and dealer charges. This sticker makes the E-tron the most expensive Audi SUV, adding a $25,000 premium to the Q7 and a $20,500 premium to the SQ5.

For the base price you get the Premium Plus model, which already includes numerous standard features. Go with the Prestige trim, priced from $81,800, and you also get a head-up display, the Driver Assistance package, massage seats, Valcona leather, and the air quality package.

Finally, the First Edition model, which includes exclusive trim and a full leather interior, starts from $86,700.

Competition

Tesla Model X

2016 Tesla Model X Exterior
- image 722484
2016 Tesla Model X Exterior
- image 722485

The Model X was the first official, all-electric SUV, and the first one to offer up a decent range at that. It boasts its own unique look on the outside, with a large air dam down below to match the LED fog lamps in the corners. Its overall silhouette has a bubbly look, but it does have the Gullwing doors in the back which is unique to this segment and probably always will be. Inside, the Model X is quite comfortable, and the large tablet-like display serves its purpose very well. Under the metal, you’ll find a 75 kWh battery in the entry-level model or a 100 kWh battery in the middle and upper-range models. The 75D is good for 237 miles per charge, offers a 4.9-second sprint to 60 mph, and tops out at 130 mph. It comes in at $82,500 before government incentives. Moving up the line to the 100D will get you a larger battery pack that’s good for 295 miles. This model will get you to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph. The cash price will set you back $99,500. Finally, the range-topping P100D comes with the same battery, but you sacrifice range by 6 miles to get a 2.9-second sprint to 60 with Ludicrous mode. It too tops out at 155 mph. You’re going to pony up for this model too, with the cash price set at $145,000.

Read our full review of the Tesla Model X.

Conclusion

I have to say that the E-tron Quattro sounds promising. It’s plenty powerful, it has loads of tech, and it comes with a decent trunk and solid tow ratings. Sure, it’s notably slower than the competition, and it doesn’t look as appealing as the Model X or the Mercedes-Benz EQC, but it’s your only option if you want a larger EV. The good news is that the E-tron Quattro is a bit more affordable than the Model X, but there’s a big chance that its EPA rating will be lower too. What’s more, you won’t benefit from a nationwide charging station network like Tesla has for the Model X and Model S. Sure, Audi will probably expand its own network in a couple of years, but for the time being you will have to rely on fewer charging stations.

Love it

  • Plenty of tech
  • Powerful motors
  • Not as expensive as a Tesla
    Leave it
  • No official range estimate yet
  • Looks too much like the Q7

Press release

Audi unveils the prototype for its first all-electric model at the Geneva Motor Show. The sporty SUV combines the space and comfort of a typical luxury car with a range suitable for everyday use. Until the start of series production, almost 250 development vehicles will complete testing under extreme conditions worldwide. Specially camouflaged prototypes kick off the chase for the most spectacular photos.

The Audi e-tron prototype offers a preview of the first all-electric model from the brand with the four rings. The camouflaged exterior conceals a sporty premium SUV with space for five people along with plenty of luggage – the space and comfort are similar to that of a typical Audi luxury class model. The range suitable for longer journeys and the comprehensive charging options allow customers to drive purely electrically without making compromises. The production version of the Audi e-tron prototype can fill up on electricity at fast-charging stations with up to 150 kW charging capacity. In just under 30 minutes, the SUV is then ready for the next leg of the long-distance journey. The electrical quattro catapults the four-wheel drive into a new age and ensures strong performance on any terrain. The production version of the Audi e-tron will be launched on the European market at the end of 2018. The car is produced at the carbon-neutral plant in Brussels.

“Audi sets an important milestone for the company’s future with its first purely electrically powered model,” said Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG. “In 2020 we will have three all-electric vehicles in our product range, with a four-door Gran Turismo – the production version of the Audi e-tron Sportback concept – and a model in the compact segment joining the sporty SUV. We will be launching more than 20 electric cars and plug-in hybrids by 2025 – spread across all segments and concepts,” the Audi CEO explains.

Showcasing high-voltage technology: the design camouflage
The Audi e-tron prototype does not wear the traditional prototype camouflage, but instead illustrates its electrification with a specially developed design film. The distorted e-tron lettering stretches across the entire flank, as if it was charged with electricity. The “e” winds its way around the tailgate at the height of the front fender and is literally electrifying. Mimicking the high-voltage grid, orange elements illustrate the fact that the Audi e-tron prototype is fully electric – the lower part of the car, for example, is encircled with alternating orange and black segments. The expressive sills, with their colorful inserts, indicate where the battery and therefore energy center of the car are located.

Four continents, more than five million kilometers: testing under extreme conditions
Until the first electric model of the brand with the four rings is launched at the end of the year, the sporty SUV will complete test drives on four continents. Whether in the cold of Scandinavia or the heat of Africa, in the mountainous altitudes of Asia or on the north loop of the Nürburgring, in the stop-and-go traffic of major Chinese cities or on American highways – the purely electrically powered SUV has to prove its all-round qualities in uncompromising practical tests under extreme conditions. Audi is testing the pre-series vehicles for customer-focused operation in all climate zones ranging from below -20 to above +50 degrees Celsius (-4° to +122° F). In addition, intensive tests of the charging technology are being conducted worldwide – an important safeguarding criterion for battery-electric models. The individual charging standards are tested on proving grounds and in public areas to validate the full range of different charging options. In total, just under 250 Audi e-tron prototypes are used in the tests. They will cover more than five million kilometers (3,106,856 mi) – roughly equivalent to 125 times around the earth and 85,000 hours on the road.

Hunting down the prototype in Geneva: pictures at www.e-tron.audi
Prior to the world premiere, part of the Audi e-tron test fleet will be out on public roads wearing the electrifying camouflage. The first stop for the distinctive prototypes is in Geneva. Here they drive past prominent sites in the Swiss metropolis at the start of the motor show. Anyone interested can take advantage of these and other opportunities to photograph the prototype in its designer livery and post their spectacular scoop photos on social networking sites using #etron. Audi will publish the best pictures on the website at www.e-tron.audi, without any hide-and-seek.

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