Things move fast in the world of electric cars.
When it launched in 2019, the e-tron was Audi’s electric darling. Built on a version of the MLB platform from the petrol and diesel Q5, it kickstarted the brand’s push into the EV space and was designed to take it straight up to the Tesla Model X.
Three years later, it’s been superseded at the top of the electric tree by the e-tron GT, and will soon be joined by a range of electric SUVs built on the Volkswagen Group’s bespoke MEB electric platform.
The e-tron SUV range has also expanded to include the more powerful, tri-motor e-tron S.
It’s enough to make you wonder where the regular e-tron Sportback 55 quattro on test here fits, both in the context of Audi’s range and into the wider electric car landscape in Australia.
How much does the Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro cost?
The 2022 Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro is priced at $159,900 before on-road costs, although our tester was optioned with the $6700 Premium plus package. That takes the as-tested price to $166,600 before on-roads.
So equipped, the e-tron faces off with the BMW iX xDrive40 Sport ($141,900) and xDrive50 Sport ($169,900), and the Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4Matic Sport ($141,300).
The e-tron Sportback is on the more expensive side, especially when you consider its outputs are nigh on identical to those of the EQC, though it’s worth noting you can pocket $11,000 if you go for the standard e-tron 55 quattro wagon.
The iX is more expensive based on list price, and can be made more so with options, but is also a larger and more opulent vehicle.
2022 Audi e-tron Sportback pricing:
- Audi e-tron Sportback 50 quattro: $150,900
- Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro: $159,900
- Audi e-tron S Sportback $175,400
Prices exclude on-road costs
What do you get?
e-tron 50 quattro and 55 quattro highlights:
- Milano leather seats
- Electrically-adjustable front seats
- Heated front seats
- Dual-zone climate control with remote pre-conditioning
- Electric boot lid
- 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument binnacle
- 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- 8.6-inch supplementary touchscreen
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Satellite navigation
- Wireless phone charging*
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Adaptive air suspension
- Dual charge ports
- 11kW home charger
- Six-year Chargefox subscription
- Automatic headlights and windscreen wipers
- Keyless entry and start
- LED headlights and tail lights
- Auto-dimming interior mirrors
e-tron Sportback models gains:
- 21-inch alloy wheels
- S line exterior package
- Sport front seats
- Valcona leather upholstery
- Head-up display
- Illuminated aluminium door sill trims w/ S badging
The Premium plus package ($9700 e-tron, $6700 e-tron Sportback) adds:
- 21-inch alloy wheels (e-tron)
- Matrix LED headlights w/ dynamic indicators
- Virtual exterior mirrors
- Privacy glass
- Head-up display (e-tron)
- 705W 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system
- Electric steering column adjustment*
- Four-zone climate control
- Configurable ambient lighting (30 colours)
*Currently unavailable due to global component shortages
Is the Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro safe?
The e-tron quattro wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on testing carried out by Euro NCAP in July 2019.
Although the Sportback hasn’t been tested individually, it’s likely the coupe roofline hasn’t negatively impacted its crash performance. ANCAP’s rating applies to all variants bar high-performance e-tron S models.
The e-tron scored 91 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 71 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 78 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety features include:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Vehicle to vehicle up to 250km/h
- Pedestrian and cyclist detection (5-85km/h)
- AEB reverse
- Intersection crossing assist (front cross-traffic assist)
- Turn assist (AEB junction)
- Lane-keep assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic assist
- Adaptive drive assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Traffic jam assist
- Lane guidance assist (centring)
- Exit warning system
- Surround-view cameras
- Front and rear parking sensors
Audi’s virtual exterior mirrors are available as part of the Premium plus package, which substitute physical wing mirrors for side cameras with OLED touchscreens inside the cabin. This technology also includes kerb view, intersection view and motorway view functions.
What is the Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro like on the inside?
Strip away the wing-shaped gear selector and in-door mirrors, and this could be any other Audi. That means it’s nicely trimmed and finished, and features technology that’s close to class-leading.
It’s a nice place to spend time, although it’s not necessarily as special as maybe we’d hoped given the $166,000 price tag.
The driver and passenger sit in heated, leather-trimmed Sport seats with sporty-looking integrated headrests. They’re endlessly adjustable, and are all-day comfortable thanks to the blend of support and bolstering.
With contrast quilted stitching and the ‘S’ logo embossed on the headrests, they look pretty cool as well.
Audi’s in-car technology is some of the best in the business. The 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system has crisp graphics and snappy responses, and boasts wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to back the DAB, AM, FM, and Bluetooth inputs.
The wireless CarPlay system was one of the more reliable we’ve experienced, although it can still be frazzled by tram lines at times, and the fact it’s paired with a fast wireless phone charger means you can live without cables most of the time – though the wireless phone charger is currently unavailable for new orders due to component shortages.
Sitting below it is an 8.6-inch display for your climate controls. It’s still not as good as a proper bank of buttons and dials (let alone Audi dials, which are some of the nicest in the game), but it’s among the best touch-based climate systems we’ve experienced.
All the controls stay mostly where you left them, and the faux buttons use a haptic click to provide some feedback about what you’re doing. Good luck keeping the screen clean, though.
The Virtual Cockpit is a revelation. It’s the best in the business; graphically more sophisticated than Mercedes-Benz can manage, easier to read than what BMW offers, and more polished than the screens in lesser Volkswagen Group products.
As for the screen in the doors, which are designed to replace your side mirrors? Tune into our drive impressions for the full breakdown, but the short version is: they’re an imperfect answer to a problem that didn’t really need solving.
There’s plenty of storage up front; most of it housed in the open space where the transmission usually sits. Yes, you get the usual array of cupholders and a wireless phone charger, but there’s also a lot of dead space which could have been used more effectively.
In essence, Audi has freed up more space in the middle of the e-tron… but you can’t actually use it to store anything.
The door pockets are big enough to house an oversized drink bottle, and the under-arm storage bin has space for your garage keys and chewing gum. There are four USB-A ports split across the front and rear seats.
Speaking of the rear seats, the e-tron’s unique shape and dimensions make it a more practical family car than its sporty appearance might suggest.
At 4901mm long and 1935mm wide, the e-tron slots between the mid-sized Q5 (4689mm by 1893mm) and large Q7 (5063mm by 1970mm) crossovers based on its size. In practice, that plays out in a deceptive amount of rear seat and boot space.
Even with a panoramic sunroof and the Sportback’s sloping roofline, there’s enough headroom for six-footers in the rear, and the amount of legroom on offer means you’ll comfortably fit fully-grown adults behind fully-grown adults.
Rear seat passengers are treated to air vents in the centre and on the B-pillars, and have their own temperature and fan controls.
Boot space is a claimed 615 litres with the rear seats in place, expanding to 1665L with them folded flat.
It’s a long, flat space that will comfortably swallow a pram and your weekly shop, although the sloping tailgate on the Sportback makes it less practical than the wagon if you’re carrying bulky items.
The powered tailgate needs quite a lot of space to fully open, something worth bearing in mind if you have a small garage, and it’s a shame the e-tron will only really hold charge cables.
What’s under the bonnet?
The e-tron 55 quattro features a 95kWh lithium-ion battery pack (86.5kWh usable) hooked up to a dual-motor powertrain making a combined 300kW of power and 664Nm.
The claimed 100km/h sprint time is 5.7 seconds, and claimed range is 436km.
When the battery goes flat it can be charged using an 11kW home charger, or at up to 150kW using DC public infrastructure (80 per cent charge in 30 mins, full charge in 45 mins on a suitable charger).
We observed an average energy consumption of 23.5kWh per 100km during our time with the car, good for a 368km theoretical range.
After 315km the car was showing 25km remaining, suggesting the trip computer is a bit conservative. Plugged into a 350kW fast charger, the e-tron started at 140kW and tapered down to 49kW between five and 50 per cent.
That’s not even close to what Audi says the e-tron can do, suggesting the (busy) ultra-rapid Airport West chargers were to blame.
How does the Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro drive?
Smooth, quiet, and refined; the e-tron is the consummate electric car, and the consummate Audi crossover.
Whatever Audi has done to make the e-tron quiet behind the wheel has worked. It’s close to silent at city speeds, save for a faint space-age hum from the motors, and even on rough roads at 100km/h you get very little tyre or wind roar in the cabin. It’s such a refined place to spend time.
The same level of polish has been applied to the driver controls. The throttle is smooth and linear off the mark, allowing you to precisely bleed in the powertrain’s torque, and the steering is light and buttery smooth at low speeds.
You don’t get a pronounced shove in the back off the mark in normal mode, even when you bury the right-hand pedal off the mark, but the e-tron packs a decent turn of speed for an SUV with a tare mass north of 2700kg. With a claimed 100km/h sprint time of 6.6 seconds it’s actually hot hatch-quick, even though it doesn’t really feel it.
Flicking into dynamic mode adds what essentially looks like an overboost function, freeing up more power beyond 100 per cent on the left-hand dial in the digital instrument binnacle. Although it never feels Tesla levels of quick, the switch into dynamic does give the e-tron a shot of espresso and sharpens everything up.
Unlike some electric cars, the e-tron doesn’t default to an aggressive regenerative braking mode. It features Auto, which is meant to tailor the amount of deceleration based on the road, and then a choice of three other modes.
We generally left the e-tron in its pure coasting mode, which kills the regenerative braking entirely when you lift off the accelerator. Press the brake pedal and the car uses its motor-based braking before engaging the friction brakes, with none of the awkward wooden feeling or clumsy handover you get in some other electric cars.
The ride is plush, and this 2700kg coupe-crossover feels more athletic than it really has any right to when slung into a corner in anger. There’s no getting away from that mass, though.
It all combines to make the e-tron a really pleasant car in which to commute. There’s no real learning curve to scale here, which will make Q7 owners feel right at home… but on the other hand, there’s also no real specialness on hand to make this particular e-tron feel like much more than an appliance for its $166,000 price tag.
With a quality reversing camera and surround-view monitor, the big Audi isn’t a pain to pilot in the city – even if it feels like the big wheels have impeded the turning circle.
Then there’s the virtual mirrors. Designed to slash aerodynamic drag, they play a live video stream into small screens in the driver and passenger door in lieu of proper side mirrors. It all sounds very sci-fi on paper, but they’re a bit underwhelming in person.
The screens are smaller than a conventional mirror, and rather than a wide-angle camera it feels as though Audi has chosen something a bit too zoomed in. They struggle in dim lighting, and don’t auto-fold like proper mirrors either. Save the money, and stick with what you know.
Thankfully the rest of the assistance technology on hand is well tuned. Audi’s adaptive cruise control confidently keeps a gap to the car in front, the lane-keeping assist offers just the right amount of input, and the blind-spot lights are prominently displayed in the virtual mirror screens.
It’d be a great car to drive long distances in, providing you consider around 350km long distance.
The range on offer in the e-tron is acceptable most of the time, and it’d be naive to assume owners won’t have a petrol car for their annual trip to the snow, but the BMW iX matches it on the WLTP test cycle even with its smallest battery option fitted and the smaller Q4 e-tron (not currently on sale in Australia) bests it by 84km.
For a car that’s meant to be Audi’s flagship electric SUV, the range on offer just feels a bit middling.
How much does the Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro cost to run?
Audi Australia has moved to a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, bringing it into line with Mercedes-Benz and Genesis.
Audi offers six years of free servicing for the e-tron range, and six years of roadside assist along with six years of free access to ChargeFox public DC fast chargers.
It’s an impressive aftersales incentive that betters even Genesis’ five-year complementary servicing package.
CarExpert’s Take on the Sportback 55 quattro
The e-tron Sportback is lovely, but it doesn’t really feel standout or dominant in any particular area. At more than $165,000 before on-road costs, that’s a bit disappointing.
Its interior borrows from the Q7 and Q8, and the electric-only bits – most notable of which are the optional camera-based mirrors – don’t really move the game forward. Give me normal mirrors any day of the week, please.
It’s comfortable and luxurious, but not all that special when you consider the level of luxury on offer in a BMW iX.
The driving experience is every bit as quiet and smooth as you’d expect, but performance doesn’t really back up its sporty exterior, and the range is middling at best.
If it’s an e-tron you’re after, we’d be looking at the e-tron 55 quattro wagon or the e-tron S Sportback. The former has the same powertrain as the Sportback on test here, but shaves $10,000 from the price and offers a bit more boot space.
The latter is just $6000 more expensive than our tester, but features a tri-motor punch that ties in nicely with the Sportback’s coupe-like looks.
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