4 Jun 21

First Drive: Audi Q4 e-tron: a Fleet success in the making

Audi finally unleashes the Q4 e-tron, a midsized electric crossover to compete with the BMW iX3, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Polestar 2. Underneath its refreshingly styled body it hides a plethora of trumps that could make it a hit in the corporate sales department.

Since 2018, e-tron has been synonymous with all-electric cars at Audi. The first model in the range was a large SUV, simply called e-tron, followed by its coupé version, the e-tron Sportback. Recently, the sporty e-tron GT saloon was added and today the Q4 e-tron joins the party.

As its name suggests, it fits neatly between the Q3 and Q5. In Audi's pure Q tradition, it also comes in two versions: a "normal" one and a coupé derivative, which is - you guessed it - called Q4 Sportback e-tron. The former will undoubtedly account for the majority of sales due to its slightly more practical shape and therefore greater everyday usability.

That's actually what this Q4 e-tron is all about: it wants to be a practical, spacious crossover that is a daily driver in every respect.

Spacious and sophisticated

That said, it does look quite innovative and avant-garde, with its long wheelbase and short overhangs, complemented by large wheels of 19 to 21 inches and wing panels that look like flexed muscles. The sleek design with lots of aerodynamic details gives it a Cd of 0.28, which is good for efficiency and driving range.

In true Audi tradition, your attention is also drawn to the advanced LED technology, including dynamic indicators and, for the first time, customisable daytime running lights.

Like the VW ID4 and the Skoda Enyaq iV, the Q4 e-tron sits on VW Group's modular electric MEB platform. This means that within the total body length of 4.59 metres, you have lots of interior space and a completely flat floor. The boot measures a respectable 520 litres, which can be increased to 1,490 litres with the rear seats folded down.      

The impression of space is further enhanced by the dashboard, which is angled slightly towards the driver and encompasses two screens. The design and the materials used are at a level you have come to expect from an Audi. The brand with the four rings also uses recycled materials - after all, this is a car with a heart for the environment. Moreover, Audi only uses renewable electricity to produce the Q4 e-tron.

Smart navigation

The infotainment is provided by Audi's own MMI, which comes in three versions. The top version is accompanied by the Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus and a large central touch screen with which you control just about everything. There are hardly any physical buttons, which takes some getting used to. In any case, the menus are clearly structured.

As for the navigation, it distinguishes itself on two levels. Firstly, it has the option of Augmented Reality, whereby you see projected arrows in the head-up display on the road ahead so that you never miss the right turn. Secondly, there is the e-tron route planner, a navigation function that calculates a route close to the public charge points.    

Electrifying drive

At its heart, the Q4 e-tron is a rear-wheel drive vehicle. You can choose between the 35 e-tron, which produces 170hp, and the 40 e-tron, the permanent magnet synchronous motor of which produces 204hp. For those who want more performance and grip there's the Q4 e-tron 50 Quattro, which offers an additional asynchronous electric motor to drive the front wheels and brings the total output to 299hp.

We tested the 40, the middle version, in Edition One trim. This model comes with a generous standard equipment, including the S-Line package inside and out and the 15mm lower suspension that goes with it. However, this is not accompanied by excessively stiff dampers so that comfort is not compromised.

The 204 hp on the rear wheels provide a pleasant push and enable you to hit 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds. The top speed has been limited to 160 km/h. An electric car usually drives very quietly and well balanced. This is especially true of this Audi, which manages to keep out the tyre and wind decibels sublimely.

Where EVs usually score less well is on steering. With this Q4 e-tron, there is no reason to complain. Moreover, the turning circle is very small at 10.2 metres, thanks to the front wheels not being hindered in their movement by an engine block, as is the case with ordinary cars.

Efficiency and range

Energy efficiency is further enhanced by the optional heat pump, which extracts heat from the batteries and the outside air to heat the interior. Another clever feature is the intelligent recuperation of braking energy during driving. This Audi takes into account map data from the GPS and topographical information in order to proactively slow down - for example, before a roundabout or when approaching a built-up area - and thus to return a few watt-hours to the battery.

Of course, you can also brake on the electric motor yourself by putting the 'gear selector' in B (for Brake) or by using the paddles on the steering wheel to regenerate more or less. True one-pedal driving is not available, as you still have to put your foot on the brake pedal to come to a complete stop.

The Q4 e-tron's battery holds 55 kWh as standard (35 e-tron), which, according to the WLTP cycle, is sufficient to achieve a range of 340 kilometres. The 40 e-tron gives you the greatest range, with its 82 kWh battery capable of covering 520 kilometres. The same battery is also found in the 50 e-tron Quattro, which is a little thirstier and heavier due to its double electric motor and therefore covers 30 kilometres less. 

Charging performance

Charging is possible with 7.2kW of alternating current for the 35 e-tron and with 11kW for the 40 and 50 e-tron when three-phase current is available. Direct current can be fed to the Q4 at 100kW or 125kW, depending on the battery size. This is in line with the market and means that you can add up to 130km of driving range in 10 minutes.

Audi also has preferential rates with Ionity, so that you don't have to pay an arm and a leg if you want to recharge quickly.

Speaking of prices, the Audi Q4 35 e-tron can be yours from roughly €35,000 excluding VAT (Germany). The mid-version (40) changes hands for about €40,000 and the top version (50) costs at least €45,000. These are pretty competitive prices compared to the other premium brands. By offering three battery sizes and power outputs, Audi can cover a wider section of the market than it's competitors, which mainly aim at the top of the iceberg. 

Audi’s message is clear: if there is any car the four-ringed brand wants you to buy, it’s the Q4 e-tron. And why shouldn’t you. It’s a practical crossover that drives well, comes with all the goodies one could desire and conveys a strong and credible sustainability message for your company while being surprisingly affordable compared to its competitors. 

Picture copyright: Audi

Authored by: Dieter Quartier