Vorsprung durch electric

Audi e-tron review New Zealand

‘Borrowed’ from an old poster in Ingolstadt, Audi’s ‘vorsprung durch technik’ or ‘advancement through technology’ slogan became one of the 80s biggest catchphrases and thanks to the release of their Quattro all-wheel-drive system, more than supported their claim. Anyway, it’s several decades, multiple innovations, numerous awards and countless iterations later and Audi continues to advance in the automotive world, only they’ve added a full-EV SUV to the fold - introducing the new Audi e-tron.

With over a century of car making under their belt, Audi has taken all this knowhow, its comfort, its prestige, its performance, its Quattro confidence and now its Electric Vehicle (battery-only) technology and created a head-turning and oh so capable BEV SUV.

Powered by a cell bank of lithium-ion battery’s that total 95.3 kWh that drives not one but two electric motors (one on each axle), under boost, the Audi e-tron produces 300kW and 664Nm of power and torque all with zero emissions. 0-100km/h comes in at 5.7 seconds and it boasts a WLTP, anxiety-soothing range of 417km. But these numbers are just part of the e-tron story. The big news, in my humble opinion, is just how ‘Audi’ the e-tron is.

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of attending the NZ launch of this big battery-only SUV. It was held in Queenstown (NZ South Island) and the showcased the e-tron’s ability to cover on and off-road terrains and even had us four-wheel drifting. But in all honesty, although fun and enlightening, it’s not really the way most e-tron’s will spend their lives. So to experience a more ‘natural habitat’, Audi NZ let me introduce the BEV SUV to my family for a long weekend, fully-charged and raring to go.

Being the ‘burb’ family that we are, having an Audi on the driveway undoubtedly has the neighbour’s curtains twitch. The e-tron’s style is such that it looks very much like an Audi SUV just with a hint of something different. The trapezoid grille is in keeping with brand recognition, especially as it showcases a large 4-ring logo, but it’s blackened out and ‘smoother’ than the other, more aero-dynamic, a position that the entire SUV embraces. Low front air curtains direct air down the vehicle’s profile and e-tron wheels, while strong character lines can be found on the vehicle’s bonnet, shoulder and belt. Round the rear, a roof spoiler, full-width LEDs and a kicker tailgate feature well and the lack of exhaust tips softens the SUV’s lower valance.

Size wise, the e-tron offers a bold kerbside presence, yet to drive, it feels rather nimble and agile. The position of the battery cells makes for a low centre of gravity and although the SUV is bathed in leather and luxury finishing plus ticks virtually every driver and safety aid on offer, it’s certainly no slouch.

The interior is spacious, refined and smart, it even ha a ‘frunk’ under the bonnet. Digital touch-screens, a virtual cockpit and Audi’s latest MMI system means that infotainment and instrumentation are customisable to suit. The seats are comfy and the upmarket feel is there in spades. My review model came with Audi’s virtual mirrors, essentially cameras instead of exterior mirrors that transmit images onto small screens in the front door cards. They’re pretty space-age in concept and reduce drag on the outside but I found them a little hard to get my head around in terms of ‘blindspot’ traffic and driver’s door screen positioning, I guess I’m not quite there yet - but they are an option and a pretty cool one at that.

Being electric, the rev-gauge is replaced with range and power/charging displays and the gear paddles behind the steering wheel adjust the regenerative braking rates. It’s fun trying not to use the brakes.

We used the e-tron for much of our mundane ‘burb family life and it really enlivened the normally soul-destroying grocery shopping and mall adventure. The battery range remained high, but for added kicks, experience and for a closer (and vacant) parking spot, I plugged in (Type 2/CCS) at the mall Charge-net rapid charger and let the e-tron eat while we trudged around inside.

If SUVs are the current ‘preferred’ style of vehicle right now and EVs, especially BEVs are looking to be the future power source, the Audi e-tron looks to be one of the key models to lead the charge. According to them, Electric has gone Audi but to me, it’s more the case of ‘vorsprung durch electric!’

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