This EV impresses you with its part-throttle rolling responses, intuitive auto mode and strong performance
With market awareness and acceptance of EVs in India on the rise, Audi has introduced the all-electric e-tron to compete with the likes of the Mercedes EQC and Jaguar I-Pace. Available in three variants, the ‘e-tron 50’ draws power from a 71kWh battery and is priced at ₹99.99 lakh; the ‘e-tron 55’ and ‘e-tron 55 Sportback’ draw power from a 95kWh battery, priced at ₹1.16 crore and ₹1.18 crore (ex-showroom, India), respectively. We tell you all about the Audi e-tron 55 in this review.
The e-tron is based on a heavily modified Audi Q7 platform, and this 5-seater e-tron is similar in dimensions to the 7-seater Q7, stretching over 5 meters in length, almost 2 meters in width, and 2.9 meters in wheelbase.
Audi has adopted a conventional styling approach (inside and out) with the e-tron, so while it looks sharp, it does not scream ‘futuristic’ in its design language. This has been intentionally done to make buyers feel at home as they transition from an internal combustion engine vehicle to an electric one. Grabbing the limelight up front is a massive, enclosed hexagonal area finished in grey that mimics a standard Audi front grille. The stylish headlamps and 20-inch wheels add some oomph to its design.
Uniquely, Audi has given a charging provision on either side of the car, and what is cool is the way the flap slides down electrically, at the press of a button. Giving away its all-electric identity are the green number plates, mandated for EVs in India, and orange highlights on the e-tron badge and the brake calipers.
Step into the e-tron’s cabin and you will immediately identify the design traits and parts shared with other Audis, which is no bad thing. The sheer quality and fit-finish on the inside are top-notch, and there is not a single low-rent area in this Audi’s cabin. The uncluttered, layered dashboard nicely wraps itself around the cabin, flowing seamlessly into the door pads. The most striking detail is the twin screen setup — one for infotainment and the other for climate control, both of which are angled towards the driver. The screens have clear displays, as well as an option for haptic feedback (mild vibration) when ‘pressed’. What lifts the futuristic feel of the e-tron’s interior is the superb virtual cockpit (full-digital instrument cluster), which is one of the best units around when it comes to display quality and ease of use.
The broad front seats have firm cushioning, and hence they do not feel very plush. Storage and charging areas in the front are aplenty, and there is a clever recess area to wirelessly charge your smartphone when placed perpendicularly.
The rear bench is nicely shaped, and the backrest is set at a comfortable angle. The good news is that, even though the battery pack has been accommodated beneath the floor, the floor is not set too high. So, you are not seated in an uncomfortable knees-up position, nor has the headroom been compromised.
The seat itself is broad enough to accommodate three passengers abreast and the floor is almost flat too; the protruding air-con console, however, hampers knee-room for the middle occupant.
At 660-litres the e-tron’s boot is massive, and the there is an additional storage area to tuck in the charging cables. What is more, in the absence of an engine under the bonnet, there is an additional storage cavity, where a small soft bag or the charging cables can be stowed.
The e-tron features Matrix LED headlamps, 20-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, Audi’s virtual cockpit (fully-digital instrument cluster), twin screens — one for infotainment and the other for climate control, a four-zone climate control, air-suspension and wireless charging. Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, also make it to the standard equipment list.
The e-tron 55 draws power from a 95kWh battery pack that supplies energy to two motors, one on each axle. In its sportiest setting, the e-tron generates 408hp/664Nm, 184hp at the front axle and 224hp at the rear. In other modes, the e-tron makes 360hp/561Nm (170hp in the front and 190hp at the rear).
Right off the bat, you will be impressed by how nice and gentle the part-throttle rolling responses are, and you will even forgive Audi for not offering a standard creep function. A mere flex of your right foot is enough to scoot past slow-moving traffic with the type of gusto you would least expect from a 2.6-ton SUV. Interestingly, the e-tron plays a whirring-like sound through external speakers to alert pedestrians and other road users of its presence while on the move.
Switch from D to S and this Audi unleashes the additional 48hp/103Nm in Overboost mode, under hard acceleration. When driven flat-out, it gallops from 0-100kph in a blisteringly quick 5.58 seconds, and with your foot pinned to the floor it will max out at 207kph.
The e-tron has two settings for energy regeneration — manual and auto. What is impressive is how intuitive the auto mode is and how natural it feels when you lift-off. It allows the car to coast in order to maximize the distance covered, or it will recuperate charge and decelerate, all based on the driving style and battery state. What is more, if you need to slow down slightly sooner, you can tug at the left paddle to momentarily increase the intensity of regeneration.
Riding on air springs at all four corners, the e-tron soaks up road shocks very competently, and even sharper edges are not quite as jarring as you would have imagined in a car with 20-inch wheels. The drive modes alter the ride’s softness, and in Comfort and Efficiency mode, it gets significantly softer, resulting in some float at speeds. The ‘Auto’ mode, however, balances the suspension’s behaviour extremely well, with controlled body movements and no undue pitching or bobbing.
The low centre of gravity (due to the battery placement below the cabin floor), a balanced 50:50 weight distribution at each axle, and Audi’s ‘quattro’ system, make this e-tron feel very nimble from behind the wheel, offering immense levels of grip. Braking performance is impressive too.
In our standard tests, the e-tron 55 achieved 350km on a full charge in the city cycle, and 382km out on the highway. If you are running really low on charge, there is a ‘range mode’ option, which when selected, switches the climate control off, reduces power consumption, and limits the max speed to 90kph, which can provide an additional 40-60km of driving range.
Not only is the e-tron a very good EV, but it also delivers as a regular premium SUV. As the latter, it looks the part, it is spacious and practical, the ride is excellent, and performance is strong. Being an EV, however, long distance touring will need careful planning, but as an urban daily driver, the e-tron is as good as it gets. A real-world city range of about 350km makes it more than capable for the routine traffic grind, and it goes about doing its job flawlessly. So, if you are looking for an easy-to-drive luxury SUV with green credentials, the e-tron makes a compelling case.