Audi e-tron Sportback review
The Audi e-tron Sportback has a beautiful interior and is great to drive. Unlike other Audi Sportback models, rear space isn’t really compromised, but alternative electric SUVs have longer ranges.
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The Audi e-tron Sportback provides proof that the brand doesn’t really do ‘shouty’, because it’s one of company’s most futuristic models but you’d be hard-pressed to tell it apart from the conventionally fuelled models. Where the Tesla Model X with its ‘Falcon Wing’ doors is all a bit ‘look at me, I’m from the future’, the Audi is more like Knight Rider’s KITT in that it looks totally normal but does extraordinary things.
All this equally applies to the e-tron SUV, but the Sportback takes all that’s good about Audi big SUV EV and puts it into a slightly sleeker package. Think of the BMW X5 and X6 and you’ll get the picture.
At the front, the e-tron and Sportback are virtually identical, with the four Audi rings surrounded by a large grille (despite there being no engine to cool), two air intakes and a pair of Matrix LED headlights. The Sportback rolls on 21-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, it’s all very mission control, with no fewer than three high-resolution screens, plus swathes of soft-touch plastic and brushed metal-effect highlights. There’s likely more computing power in here than got Neil Armstrong to the Moon and back, and you’ll probably still get lost on the way to Sainsbury’s.
One of the screens controls the ventilation system, and it’s pretty decent, although conventional buttons like those found in the e-tron GT saloon would be easier to operate on the move.
You can specify your e-tron Sportback without door mirrors, too; if you do, they’ll be replaced by small cameras that project their images onto screens at either end of the dashboard. Cool? Undeniably. Practical? Jury’s out.
Audi has long been famed for the quality of its interiors, and that reputation remains intact here, because fit and finish are great; the switches, metallic finishes and leather trims all look and feel suitably polished, although the plastics in the sides of the centre console and the glovebox lid let the side down a bit.
Still, the door bins are huge, and that glovebox is pretty large, although it’s also a weird shape.Talking of odd – the e-tron Sportback’s price is almost £70k, yet, it doesn’t have rear-seat cupholders. What’s that all about?
However, there’s plenty of space for five adults, and the more sloping rear tailgate hasn’t had too much of an adverse effect on luggage capacity. It has 615 litres available, or enough for seven carry-on cases, although the Audi’s capacity is bested by the 656 litres offered by the Jaguar I-Pace. There’s also a storage area under the boot floor that’s (almost) big enough for a carry-on case.
The boot lip is acceptably small, and there are numerous classy-feeling tie-down points. You fold down the rear seats using levers on top of the seatbacks, and while the seats don’t lie completely flat, there’s no awkward step in the boot floor when they’re down. Handy.
Audi has seen fit to give the car a front boot, too, although this is only big enough for the charging cables. A Tesla Model X has a much more useable front storage area.
Up front, the large front seats can make even the most sizeable of frames comfortable, and there’s a vast range of adjustment for the seats and the steering wheel. Getting into and out of the front and rear is made easy because of the huge, wide-opening doors, so you’ll have no worries even if you aren’t quite the racing snake you once were.
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There’s decent leg and head room in the back, too, although the seats don’t do any fancy sliding/reclining party tricks. The centre rear passenger might find their head brushing the rooflining, too.
It’s easy enough to fit even a bulk rear-facing child seat, although the covers for the Isofix points must be removed instead of just flipped up, which will make them easy to lose.
Still, the 40/20/40 split rear seat is easy to fold and allows you to carry long objects and two rear passengers.
Talking of racing snakes, the e-tron Sportback isn’t one; the ‘normal’ model weighs almost two and a half tonnes, and the S model, with its bigger batteries and three motors, is 2.7 tonnes. Oof.
Still, as with most electric vehicles even the least powerful 50 model is pretty brisk off the line; its two motors and 313hp whirr you past 62mph in 6.8 seconds. Next up is the 55, which has two motors and 408hp, and it does 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. Finally, there’s the S model, which has three motors and (in boost mode) 503hp, and which we timed from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds.
If you take things easy, the entry-level e-tron Sportback should have a range of around 188 miles. The mid-range 55 model should do 241miles, and the S model should do 226miles. All of these are significantly less than the 292 miles Jaguar claims for its I-Pace.
All versions can be charged from empty to 80% in around half an hour, but while the top two can be hooked up to a faster 150kW charger, the 50 model can be hooked up to a 120kW charger only.
You’ll want to take a relaxed approach, because the big Audi is an extremely quiet car to whisper around in. There’s almost no drivetrain noise, and the air suspension goes about the business of keeping you isolated from the road very quietly indeed.
The e-tron Sportback is light and easy to manoeuvre, and the view out of the front or rear is fairly uncompromised. Of course, there’s a camera system to help you see behind when parking anyway.
Relaxed it may be, but fun it isn’t, although few 2.5-tonne-plus SUVs are; blame the 700kg battery pack for that. As a result, hustling it down a twisty road feels like trying to have a game of rounders with Dame Judi Dench – it’s just not right.
But that would be to miss the point of the e-tron Sportback. It’s not meant for hustling. No, it’s designed to take from here to there in extreme comfort, and to make you look like a stylish eco-warrior while you do so. Just make sure that the ‘there’ isn’t too far from the ‘here’.