Can Audi’s e-tron EV SUV dethrone the EQC?

A German electric SUV war is about to begin. Open fire, Audi…

Audi E-Tron
Gallery101

Exactly two years to the day after Audi launched its first mass-produced EV in a hall crammed with 2000 guests in San Francisco, the e-tron has arrived in Australia. And it’s priced $200 less than the COTY-winning Mercedes-Benz EQC...

Such was the delay, Audi has launched both SUV and Sportback bodystyles at the same time, starting at $137,700.

Both use a pair of electric motors, with the front providing 125kW and the rear, 140kW. Both units also contain a single-speed transmission and two-stage diff. It equates to 265kW and 561Nm, while an eight-second Boost mode bumps things to 300kW and 664Nm for a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.7 seconds.

20200921 Audi E Tron 50 Sportback High Res 002 Web Jpg
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Two batteries are offered in both bodystyles; the e-tron 50 uses a 71kWh battery that gives a claimed 300km-plus of range, while the 95kWh battery in the 55 offers a claimed 400km-plus. The gel-cooled battery array is big, too, weighing in at 700kg and bolted to the MLB Evo chassis at 36 points. Opt for the 50 and you’ll save 120kg.

Sophisticated electronics give the e-tron seven driving modes including off-road and all-road. The e-tron’s all-new braking system also offers a three-stage regenerative system. A traditional gear shift paddle can swap between three levels of regen braking feel, and up to 30 percent of the e-tron’s range comes from regen braking. The only flaw here is that the chosen regen mode is overridden every time you touch the throttle pedal.

The brakes themselves are decent, too, with six-piston calipers up front. Air-sprung, adaptive-damped suspension is standard on Aussie cars.

The e-tron can be plugged into any AC 240-volt socket (on either side of the car, too) via its own Type 2 plug-equipped charger unit. This, though, will take a long time to charge; in excess of 12 hours, in fact. Using three-phase power and the included Audi charger at home bumps output to 11kW and reduces that time. Audi will – initially at least – install its charger at your house for free (where suitable). This unit can also be detached for trips away.

The fastest way to charge the e-tron is via a DC ultra-fast charger, which can give you 80 percent range in as little as 30 minutes. Audi has partnered with ChargeFox to offer e-tron customers six years of access to their stations, which includes a brace of ultra-fast chargers.

A 300km stint in both the 55 Sportback and 50 SUV included a top-off at a ChargeFox ultra-fast charger in Goulburn. A Zoom-riddled lunchbreak covered a sub-30 minute charge to take the 50’s battery from 40 to 80 percent for the final run into Sydney, where we ended the day with an indicated 82km left on the dial.

What’s most impressive about the e-tron is just how resolved it feels right out of the box. There’s a bit of dull reluctance to get rolling, but once underway, the e-tron steers, turns, handles and brakes as well as – if not better than – a Q7. It’s about 300kg heftier than a Q7, though, which is hard to disguise.

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Highway driving is a silent delight, with more than enough urge to dispatch tardy traffic. The jury is out on the rear-view cameras, though; it’s very hard to retrain the brain to look inside and down at the door card to see what’s behind you.

Around town, a reluctance to let all the electrons out to play means the e-tron isn’t as sprightly as expected. Dynamic mode makes the ride a little jittery but not unbearable, but it improves the throttle response a lot.

Despite being Audi’s first real swing at the EV space, the e-tron is resolved, easy to access and a pleasure to drive. It also doesn’t shout ‘EV adopter’, which – like the EQC – should help entice more people into the electric world. The comparo is going to be a beauty.

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AUDI E-TRON VERDICT

Plus: Smooth; swift; silent; easy to drive

Minus: Rear-view camera a challenge to learn; low-speed lag

AUDI E-TRON 50 SPECS

Motors: dual (front + rear axle)

Max power: 300kW (boost mode)

Battery: 71kWh lithium ion

Torque: 664Nm

Transmission: single-speed reduction

Weight: 2490kg

0-100km/h: 6.7sec (claimed, boost mode)

Economy: 28.5kW/100km (on test)

Price: $137,700

On sale: Now

20200921 Audi E Tron 55 Sportback High Res 012 Web Jpg
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The rival: Mercedes-Benz EQC ($159,900)

A surprise COTY winner and second only to the Jaguar i-Pace in getting to market. It offers more oomph (300kW and 760Nm), just as much range (434km claimed) and an 80kWh battery that’s sized between the two e-tron extremes. It also offers free ChargeFox access for five years. Game well and truly on.

 

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