The 2019 Audi e-tron, a spacious crossover SUV, is the first all-electric car from Audi. It delivers all the things Audi is known for, including a warm and well-detailed cabin and all-wheel drive. It slots into the Audi lineup between the midsize Q5 and larger Q7 and Q8, but looks more like the Allroad wagon.
The e-tron is powered by two electric motors, one at the front and one at the rear. Its silent acceleration makes it feel even faster than its 0-60 mph capability in a very brief 5.5 seconds, which it manages to achieve despite carrying 1,540 pounds of batteries, mounted below the passenger floor. And it can still tow another 4,000 pounds, when equipped with the towing package. It rides on an air suspension, which helps dampen the effects of that weight.
An innovative braking system helps maximize regenerative braking to recover energy when decelerating, while another new system is designed to prevent the dramatic loss of range in cold weather. Roughly like recycling, it uses power loss from the electrical components for cabin heating.
These features help give the e-tron an EPA-rated range of 204 miles from its 95-kwh battery pack. In our test run, we got close to the EPA rating.
That’s less than its main rival the Jaguar I-Pace, which has an EPA range of 234 miles with its 90-kwh battery pack, and less than the Tesla Model X, which gets 238 miles from its 75-kwh battery pack (75D) and up to 295 miles from its 100-kwh battery pack (100D). It’s similar to the range provided by the new Mercedes EQC.
The Audi e-tron charges very quickly, to 80 percent on a 150-kw CCS (Combo) DC fast charger in just 30 minutes. Those chargers are becoming increasingly common and are part of Electrify America’s charging-infrastructure push. With a Level 2 AC chargerâ€”the kind that you might have installed at home or in the garage, or find at some hotelsâ€”the e-tron can be fully charged in as little as 9 hours.
The e-tron has Drive Select, with six modes: Auto, Comfort, Efficiency, Individual, Offroad, and Allroad. It maneuvers well and handles like a lighter vehicle, but it’s heavy nonetheless.
The ride is calm, composed and comfortable, and the e-tron is silent beyond the soundless powerplant. Smaller and cheaper electric cars tend to transmit a lot of road noise, which can be heard because there’s no engine to smother the thumps of the suspension and whining of the motor; but the luxurious cabin of the e-tron is quiet at all times.
The 2019 e-tron hasn’t been crash-tested or rated for safety by either of the U.S. agencies, but automatic emergency braking is standard, along with active lane control. Other active self-driving features are optional.
The Audi e-tron comes in Premium Plus, and Prestige models.
Standard features on Premium Plus ($74,800) include heated and cooled front seats, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, surround-view cameras with virtual 3D view, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and Audi’s new touchscreen infotainment system.
A Driver Assistance package for $2,850 brings adaptive cruise control with turn assist, maneuver assist, and efficiency assistantâ€”a set of predictive functions governing the behavior of the powertrain and chassis systems. It also includes lane departure prevention, an intersection assistant, traffic-sign recognition, and Traffic Jam assist, which controls the brakes, steering, and accelerator.
The Prestige model, for about $7,000 more, makes that Driver Assistance package standard, while adding a head-up display, an air quality package with ionizer and fragrance, power door closers, and individual contour seats with Valcona leather and a cooling massage function for the front.
A $900 Cold Weather package adds adaptive wipers with heated washer jets, heated outboard rear seats, and a higher-output heater with enhanced cabin and battery pre-conditioning. Rear side airbags are a $400 option, and the tow package is $650.
Compared its rivals, the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X, the styling of the Audi e-tron is more cohesive and its proportions better balanced. Its profile lands between the Q7 crossover and Allroad A6 wagon. It’s handsome and classy, if not very daring.
Since an electric vehicle doesn’t have a big engine in front, the e-tron’s hood could be shorter, but it’s not. Instead, there is a front trunk, or â€frunk,â€ where charging cables can be stored, or a couple of small bags.
The cabin is warm, understated, and mature. There is a soft ambience that isn’t disturbed by the dark trim that frames the touchscreens. There’s some matte-metallic trim on the dash, console, and steering wheel, but not too much.
The e-tron uses Audi’s new MMI Touch Response system that moves the controls almost entirely to touchscreens. There are two haptic-feedback touchscreens: the top screen is 10.1 inches and used audio, navigation, information services, and charging; the lower screen is 8.6 inches and used for climate control and other vehicle functions. The lower screen also recognizes handwriting, and there are expanded voice commands.
The driver’s position feels high like an SUV because the beltline is low. The front seats are great, very supportive, while the rear seats are exceptionally comfortable for two people. The battery pack is mounted low enough that the floor doesn’t have to curve awkwardly.
The cargo space isn’t compromised either: 28.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 57 cubic feet with it folded.
Besides being quiet and quick, the e-tron is precise and confident. Its vast torque comes in an instant, while its ride and handling are above average. Its all-weather capability, with an ability to go into modest off-road terrain, make it as versatile as a gas-powered SUV, except of course for that range limitation.
The e-tron has two motors that each drive one axle. The rear motor makes 224 horsepower and 262 pound-feet, while the front motor makes 184 hp and 228 lb-ft. Since the motors produce nearly all of their torque just past 0 rpm, there’s no need for a transmission with gears. Maximum power comes through a Boost mode that can sustain its peak for eight seconds.
The e-tron can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, but it feels much quicker because it’s so effortless and instantaneous, not to mention silent–the only time you hear the whine of the motors is when the driver is at their most insistent.
The brakes in the e-tron are unlike those in any other electric vehicle. It’s a complex, electromechanical system that uses the motor/generators when you lightly push on the brake pedal, and the brake pads only when more you push more firmly.
There are three settings for regeneration that occurs when you back off the throttle but don’t touch the brake. The first mode and smoothest is essentially coast mode, while the third and most aggressive mode feels like driving a car with a gearbox in a low gear (about 0.18g of deceleration). The middle Automatic mode is the smart one; sensors gauge the distance from the car ahead, map data, and more.
The e-tron is also programmed to “idle creep;” that is, with you foot off the brake pedal, it will move slowly forward, like a gas car. We like this too, if only because it is reassuring. Too many times, we’ve climbed into an electric car and haven’t known if it’s ready to go until we step on the accelerator.
The e-tron has Drive Select, with six modes: Auto, Comfort, Efficiency, Individual, Offroad, and Allroad. Depending on what’s dialed up, the air suspension can raise the e-tron by 3.0 inches for moderate off-roading or deep snow (we did some churning through sand in an early drive). Further modes affect the steering and ride to Comfortable, Balanced, and Dynamic.
The e-tron is easy to maneuver in parking lots, where you can’t feel the weight. On curvy roads, the low center of gravity from the battery pack’s mounting under the floor helps the car feel balanced and confident, even though the suspension isn’t tuned to be particularly sharp, firm, or performance-focused.
It’s a brave new world, and this is a brave new type of vehicle. Regardless of how well the 2019 Audi e-tron sells, there will be more like it in the future. We would be wary of buying any first-year electric car with this many innovations, especially knowing rivals are on their way, but those who can afford it might find the price of exclusivity to be acceptable. As long as everything works, and you don’t drive more than 200 miles a day, it can be almost as functional as a Subaru Outback.