Dawn of a new era

It's here – the all-electric Audi e-tron arrives in Australia.

The brand’s first all-electric model, the Audi e-tron, has arrived in Australia, ushering in a whole new era in mobility.

James McRory

Mark Bramley

2 October, 2020

The e-tron is a vehicle that does everything you would expect of an Audi, but does it using electric power and producing zero emissions

It’s here, or to be more accurate, they’re here. The first Audi e-tron models, available with two body styles and two battery variants, have officially arrived in Australia, ushering in a new era of mobility and a new chapter for the brand Down Under.

For e-mobility in Australia, the arrival of the Audi e-tron SUV and Audi e-tron Sportback is significant in what these new Audis bring to market, the greatest range available from an all-electric vehicle, the fastest charging capabilities available in the country along with the brand’s well chronicled engineering and luxury finish. 

The e-tron models feature an all-electric version of the brand’s groundbreaking quattro technology as well boasting an unrivalled energy recuperation system that make these vehicles real world alternatives to the traditional combustion models, without compromise.

This is one of the reasons Audi wasn’t first to market with an all-electric vehicle. Such an important step in the company’s progression and such an important new product direction had to be done right from the outset, and the result of that patience, research and development has resulted in a vehicle that does everything you would expect of an Audi, but does it using electric power and producing zero emissions.

With a range of over 400 kilometres for the Audi e-tron 55 models with their 95kWh batteries and a 0 to 100km/h time of 5.7 seconds, it’s obvious from the outset that the e-tron means business and that zero emissions don’t have to come at the price of range or performance. 

Indeed from first glance, the only obvious elements to distinguish the Audi e-tron and e-tron Sportback as electric vehicles is the badging and perhaps the orange brake callipers where fitted in the 20-inch wheels (21-inch on the Sportback). 

Sure if you look more closely you’ll see that the radiator grille is different to a conventional unit, and for those who know what to look for, the light signature is unique to e-tron. Add the optional virtual wing mirrors to the equation – the e-tron is first passenger vehicle in Australia to offer this technology – and it’s obvious that the e-tron is something special, but at a glance, both e-tron models look to all the world like handsome members of the Audi Q family of luxury SUV vehicles.

The next thing that strikes you about the e-tron is how intuitive it is to drive. For someone who had never driven a fully electric vehicle before, there was no ‘relearning’ of how to drive, or need to memorise a new sequence of checks and measures. Just get in, press the start button and select drive and away you go. Quietly mind you, the lack of engine noise at start up is different, but otherwise, everything else about the operating equipment, touch screens and switch gear is all … well, Audi.

That these vehicles have been painstakingly designed for maximum aerodynamics – again without compromising functionality, is really only evident after you’ve actually driven one. From that front grille which opens and closes for greater airflow and cooling as required, to the rake of the windscreen and even the design of the wheels, the e-tron is made up of myriad details all designed to make it as slippery through the air as possible – the less resistance, the less power required to propel the vehicle and the greater the range. Those slimline virtual mirrors for example are good for an extra six kilometres of range as well as reducing wind noise and delivering a clearer image of what’s behind the e-tron, especially in low light and bad conditions.

The e-tron is made up of myriad details all designed to make it as slippery through the air as possible

Just a touch of the accelerator and it just surges forward. No lag, no building up speed – it just goes.

Indeed a good deal of what makes the e-tron so special goes on almost invisibly. Driven by 

an electric motor on the front and rear axles, it draws power from a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery. The Audi e-tron 55 (in SUV and Sportback) stores up to 95kWh for a WLTP range of over 400km. The slightly smaller battery in the e-tron 50 (SUV and Sportback) holds up to 71kWh of energy for a WLTP range of over 300km. 

Both can be charged with the supplied 11kW AC home-charging kit which needs some home minor infrastructure installed, with the e-tron 55 variants charging from empty to full in 8.5 hours and the e-tron 50 variants in six hours.

Out on the road they can use up to 150kW DC fast-charging (120kW for e-tron 50) using the growing system of charging outlets around the country.

Using one of the fast chargers as we did on the official drive, restores 80 percent of the charge to a completely flat battery in 30 minutes or a full charge in 45 minutes.

In terms of their output and performance, the e-tron 55 quattro delivers 265kW of power and 561Nm of torque, but a ‘boost’ function available in ’S’ mode on the selector, increases that to 300kW and 664Nm for up to eight seconds, delivering that 5.7 second 0 to 100km/h time. The e-tron 50 quattro is only slightly behind that with its 230kW of power and 540Nm and a 6.8 second sprint time. 

What these times don’t tell you though is just how relentlessly the e-tron accelerates. Just a touch of the accelerator and it just surges forward. No lag, no building up speed – it just goes. 

The lack of sound may be a factor here too, given there is no engine noise building to a crescendo as speed increases – even in the e-tron 55 Sportback with conventional wing mirrors on launch, the cabin was so quiet you could literally hear yourself think. 

Driving technique is no different to the way you’d drive a Q5 or any other Audi, although you do find yourself playing a little game, seeing if you can increase the projected vehicle range displayed on the virtual cockpit by the way you drive. After all, recuperation while driving contributes significantly to the e-tron’s range, with up to 220kW and 300Nm while braking contributing up to 30 percent of its range, while its high-tech thermal management system contributing up to 15 percent.

But that doesn’t mean that you drive around gingerly, afraid to put your foot down. After city driving, back roads and stretching its legs on highways for a while, you start to play another game where you see how much you can drain from the battery.

The e-tron is certainly no shrinking violet. Aside from its impressive turn of speed, it is also able to tow up to 1.8 tonne payloads, and with its quattro all-wheel drive, adaptive air suspension (which allows ride height adjustment in a range of up to 76mm) it is every bit as versatile as its Audi Q siblings.

Handling too is aided by the low slung placement of the battery which gives it a low, low centre of gravity and makes it feel particularly planted no matter how you try to unsettle it.

Inside the e-tron is likewise surprisingly familiar. There’s the  MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch screens you’d recognise from other Audi models, along with the Audi virtual cockpit, Audi smartphone interface with Android Auto and Wireless Apple CarPlay integration, and wireless charging.

The cabin was so quiet you could literally hear yourself think

The beautifully finished interior is all Audi, and backseat passengers will love the lack of a transmission tunnel and the resulting extra legroom

In fact it’s easier to list the aspects of the e-tron that are different to its contemporaries than those that are the same. there are e-tron specific screens in the virtual cockpit monitoring range, charge and power, and the MMI system also calculates if charging is required on longer journeys, taking into account live traffic, and where along the journey that charging should take place. It draws on live information about charger speeds and space availability to do so. Of course for those e-trons fitted with the virtual wing mirrors there are the seven-inch high resolution screens in the base of the A-pillars, and the gear selector is a simplified unit that looks as though it’s been carved from a solid ingot of aluminium – but otherwise, the interior is all Audi luxury and intuitive functionality.

Milano leather upholstery, dual zone climate control and front-seat heating make for a very comfortable place to be, and backseat passengers will love the lack of a transmission tunnel and the resulting extra legroom. There’s also room for 660 litres of luggage in the e-tron SUV and 615 litres for the Sportback and the rear seats can be folded 40:20:40 for greater versatility. And because there’s no engine up front, that space too is available, adding another 60 litres to the equation.

As you’d expect, safety is paramount, and the five-start ANCAP rating a given. So too are the myriad safety and driver assistance systems, 360-degree cameras and even the tyre pressure monitor. 

With all of the familiarity, it’s very easy to forget that the e-tron is literally the beginning of a whole new chapter in e-mobility – a technological tour de force that delivers on every front without compromise, but utilises game-changing technology to do it. To that end, Audi Australia is offering all e-tron vehicles with a six-year subscription to the Chargefox charging network (of which Audi is a founding partner) which means e-tron owners are provided unlimited charging on all ultra-rapid, and selected fast and standard, chargers within the Chargefox network. All ultra-rapid chargers are powered by 100 percent renewable energy. 

In addition, Audi Australia is offering all e-tron vehicles with servicing and roadside assistance for the first six years of ownership and the vehicles come with an eight-year/160,000km battery warranty, while the three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty applies to all other items. Customers can also take their e-tron to any Audi dealer to carry out the scheduled servicing.

At launch, customers will have the choice of the Audi e-tron 50 quattro ($137,100*) or e-tron 55 quattro ($146,100*) each with the more traditional SUV styling. The Audi e-tron Sportback 50 ($148,100*) and e-tron Sportback 55 quattro ($157,100*) add the distinctive Sportback styling and additional elements to the mix, and both the e-tron 55 quattro and e-tron Sportback 55 quattro will be offered with even more additional equipment in a First Edition model at $159,000* and $169,350* respectively.

The future of mobility has arrived, and while it wears a familiar face, the driving force literally opens up a whole world of possibilities.

For more information on the Audi e-tron models visit audi.com.au

(*Manufacturer List Pricing [MLP] – excludes dealer delivery and government statutory charges) 

With all of the familiarity, it’s very easy to forget that the e-tron is literally the beginning of a whole new chapter in e-mobility