Leading motoring journalist Steven Berry, a member of the Northern Group of Motoring Writers, test drives the Audi e-tron 50 Quattro.
Audi’s first foray into the all-electric vehicle market was never going to be anything less than classy. It was always going to be cutting-edge tech meets premium-car refinement, although I was a little surprised that it turned out to be an SUV.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by the Audi e-tron though, as SUVs have been bossing the car market now for a good few years, so why not make a top-notch family 4×4 with the best of green credentials?
Even better, the e-tron now has an entry-level model – the e-tron 50 Quattro – that will save you a packet at the dealership while still being packed to the gills with all the techy goodness of its more expensive sibling, the e-tron 55 Quattro.
The Audi e-tron 50 Quattro starts at around £10k less than the equivalent 55 model, at £59,900 for the entry-level Technik. This is mainly due to the difference in battery size and combined output of the two electric motors – one in the front and one in the rear.
While the 55 gets a 95kWh battery pack and 402 bhp, the 50 gets a 71kWh battery and 308 bhp. This means the range is also down from 240 miles to 190 miles.
Don’t let range-anxiety kick in just yet though because both models get the ability to rapid-charge which means you can get the Audi e-tron 50 Quattro up to 80% charged from zero in just 30 minutes.
The Vorsprung e-tron 50 Quattro is the range-topper at a whopping £81,900 with the Sport, S-Line and Black Edition models being the mid to higher trim levels.
I’ve been driving the e-tron 50 Quattro S-Line (£66,700 OTR), which I suspect will be the best-seller as it has everything you could possibly want (and expect) from a prestige EV that is roughly the same size as Audi’s own Q7.
Inside you’ll find the e-tron is more futuristic looking than the outside. It’s all quite minimalistic but three large TFT screens dominate the dash – one for the infotainment, one to control climate settings and the third is Audi’s excellent, multi-configurable Virtual Cockpit – standard on all trim levels.
Fit and finish is superb with all switchgear feeling top-notch and the leather seats being a highlight of an already impressive interior.
Rear passengers won’t have any complaints either as there is plenty of head and leg room for even six-footers. With virtually no transmission tunnel, you can get three in the back quite comfortably too, although there won’t be much elbow room.
The boot is large at 605 litres and a whopping 1,770 litres with the rear seats folded. You won’t lose space to charging cables either as they are stored under the bonnet.
Even the base-model spec is impressive with 20-inch alloys, Adaptive Air Suspension, Quattro 4-wheel-drive, Audi 7-mode Drive Select, LED headlights, Power Tailgate, electrically adjustable heated front leather seats with memory function and deluxe 2-zone electronic Climate Control – including Remote Preconditioning which allows you to heat or cool the car before you enter to the temperature you left it at. This can be programmed and activated via the infotainment screen or the myAudi app.
Also standard across the range is a 180W, 10-speaker audio system with subwoofer as well as a host of driver aids such as Audi Pre-Sense collision warning system, Lane Departure Warning and Parking System Plus with a 360-degree view.
It’s difficult to imagine what the other four trim-levels could achieve above this, but if you really want to spend another £20k plus you could be enjoying the likes of a Bang and Olufsen audio system, wireless phone charging, 22-inch alloys, Adaptive Sports Suspension, interior and exterior styling cues, panoramic sunroof, and more.
What all the trim levels do get is a great driver experience as the Audi e-tron is a sublime cruiser. Quiet, cosseting and relaxing on the motorway while easy enough to manoeuvre around town thanks to that smooth electric power delivery and decent visibility all-round – although the parking aids help enormously when reversing, due to those wide rear pillars.
It’s still a hefty vehicle though so you won’t be chucking it around like an Alfa Romeo Stelvio but with a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds it still feels quick in a straight-line.
The adaptive suspension does a brilliant job of smoothing out even badly-pockmarked roads and I found the steering to be well-weighted with plenty of feedback.
The regenerative braking can be adjusted by the paddles behind the steering wheel – to the point where you almost only need one pedal to get around.
The Audi e-tron 50 is no doubt a heavy investment despite the money that may be saved on fuel. I estimate (at today’s electric tariffs) that if you’re charging from home it would cost around £10 to fully-charge from empty. That’s okay for around 190 miles of luxury motoring but not particularly cheap compared to a diesel car.
However, truly impressive savings can be had if the Audi e-tron 50 is purchased as a company car. Favourable Benefit-in-Kind (Bik) for EVs means a 40% tax-payer would only pay just over £700 in tax over 3 years (2020 to 2023). If a similarly priced petrol or diesel car were purchased, you’d be looking at a tax bill of over £10,000. As a company car, in particular, the e-tron is an electrifying proposition.
AT A GLANCE:
Audi e-tron 50 Quattro S-Line
OTR Price: £66,700
Engine: 71kWh electric motor
Power: 308 bhp
0-62mph: 6.8 secs
Top Speed: 118mph
Range: 190 miles