With the Q4 Sportback e-tron, Audi widens the appeal of its mid-sized all-electric EV. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Audi's all-electric e-tron range continues to widen as more is revealed of the company's capabilities when it comes to EV technology. The e-tron sub-brand once designated PHEVs. Then it was set aside for all-electric models, the first three of those being the e-tron large SUV, the e-tron Sportback large five-door GT and the e-tron GT quattro sports saloon. But these were merely preludes to the BEV model that really matters to Ingolstadt, the Q4 e-tron, offered with a choice of body shapes, this Q4 Sportback e-tron obviously being the sportier one. Where the standard Q4 e-tron takes on the plushest versions of boxy compact EV crossovers like the Volkswagen ID.4 and the Skoda Enyak iV, the Q4 Sportback e-tron takes aim more directly at sportier contenders in this class like the CUPRA Born. Actually, all the engineering bits that matter are common between these four cars, namely the MEB platform and the battery tech. Yet Audi claims to have put its own stamp on the way this car drives and feels. Let's see.
With its Q3 and Q5 Sportback models, Audi slightly differentiates the suspension feel with base variants but there's none of that here, so the Q4 Sportback e-tron drives in the same way as the conventional Q4 model. You select drive using a slider-type shifter situated on the centre console and once underway, there's the kind of instant throttle response you'd usually get from an EV of this sort. In terms of powertrains, there's nothing we haven't seen before in Volkswagen Group EVs. Moist of these tend to be chosen with the 52kWh battery that's used by the base Q4 35 e-tron, which uses a 170PS rear-driven electric motor and makes 62mph in 9.0s and has a range of 215 miles. Next up is the Q4 40 e-tron, which has a bigger 77kWh battery and a more powerful 204PS rear-driven motor, making 62mph in 8.5s and offering a 323 mile driving range. The flagship Q4 50 e-tron also uses the 77kWh battery, but has both front and rear-mounted electric motors developing a combined 299PS. Which means 62mph in just 6.2s and a range of 302 miles. Plus, with this top performance variant, the top speed is lifted from the usual Q4 maximum of 99mph to 111mph. Across the range, there's the same kind of suspension set-up you'd find in other mid-sized Audi SUVs - a MacPherson strut front and five-link rear arrangement, with sports suspension available (which lowers ride height by 15mm) and adaptive damping offered further up the range.
Design and Build
The Q4 Sportback e-tron is definitely a sleeker thing than its standard-shape counterpart - and not just visually - the drag coefficient drops from 0.28 to o.26Cd. This sportier variant's more sharply swept back silhouette culminates in a roof spoiler that sits much lower on the split and steeply raked rear window, and as the area in which the air swirls as it comes off the vehicle is restricted to the zone beneath the spoiler, that area is significantly smaller than in the ordinary Q4 e-tron. This not only highlights the more unique design of this SUV coupe, but also enhances its range by around 7 miles, while also reducing the lift on the rear. Inside, the front of cabin experience is, of course, the same as that of the ordinary Q4 e-tron, so there's a 10.25-inch instrument display and a 10.1-inch central monitor, which can be upgraded to 11.6-inches on request. Premium materials are generously applied around the cabin and Audi's keen to highlight the extensive interior storage areas. To accommodate the battery, the back seat is mounted 70mm higher than the front. Boot space in this Sportback actually rises slightly over the ordinary model - 535-litres rather than 520-litres; but capacity when the 40:20:40-split seatback is lowered falls slightly - 1,460-litres, rather than 1,490-litres.
Market and Model
There's not a huge premium to pay for Q4 Sportback e-tron ownership over the price of an ordinary Q4 e-tron (which, just to remind you, is priced from just over £41,000 as a starting point). This of needing to find around £500 more for this sleeker bodystyle. There are lots of model options if you want to pay more, with variants ranging right the way up to just under the £70,000 price point. There are four trim levels - 'Sport', 'S line', 'Edition 1' and 'Vorsprung'. And the range kicks off with the 52kWh 35 e-tron variant. You'll need well over £45,000 for the 40 e-tron derivative with the larger 77kWh battery; and well over £50,000 for the top 50 e-tron 4WD model. Base 'Sport' variants get 19-inch Graphite Grey alloy wheels, those rims upgraded to 20-inches in size further up the range. A black styling package is a feature of the top-tier 'Vorsprung' models with their even more striking 21-inch wheels. Across the line-up, there's lots of sophisticated equipment available - much of it optional. Like the Matrix LED headlights with their 16 individually activated LEDs. And the bespoke Sonos sound system upgrade package. We'd also want to look at the optional heat pump, which rapidly heats and cools the interior using the thermal losses from the electric components and the temperature of the outside air. It uses eco-friendly CO2 as a refrigerant, which flows through the circuit at high pressure. The heat pump can reduce losses in range caused by usage of the climate control system, especially in winter. Its strengths come to the fore on long drives.
Cost of Ownership
We covered driving range in our 'Driving Experience' section - and in our 'Design' section referenced the extra 7 miles of range made possible because of this Sportback bodystyle's sleeker aerodynamics. What about charging? Well using a conventional garage 7kW wallbox, you can recharge the base 52kWh Q4 35 e-tron model with 175 miles of charge in eight and a half hours. Maximum charging capacity is 7.4kW on an AC system - or 100kW using DC current. What about with the larger 77kWh battery of the Q4 40 e-tron and Q4 50 e-tron? Well those variants have been engineered for charging speeds of up to 11kW during AC charging and 125kW for DC charging. With such a rapid public charger, WLTP testing has confirmed that in only 10 minutes, the Q4 40 e-tron can recharge enough electricity to cover a distance of about 80 miles. Charging at 125 kW in ideal conditions, the battery can achieve an 80% state of charge from a 5% starting point in 38 minutes. If you're using a conventional 7kW garage wallbox, a Q4 40 e-tron can charge 255 miles of range in eight and a quarter hours. Using the myAudi app, owners can activate charging remotely using a smartphone. The app also provides access to the comfort remote preconditioning system, which enables remote adjustment of the cabin temperature and seat heating functions to ensure that the cabin climate is always comfortable well before a journey begins. Accessing and paying for electricity while on the road can be easily taken care of using the 'e-tron Charging Service', which provides UK subscribers with one RFID payment card that is accepted at a vast number of charge points operated by 18 suppliers across the UK and Europe, and offers a choice of two fixed price charging tariffs.
Within the Q3 and Q5 ranges, the Sportback body shape tends to out-sell the conventional SUV version and we expect the same trend to be replicated here. After all, the Q4 Sportback e-tron doesn't cost vastly more than its boxier showroom stablemate, yet makes a significantly more dynamic driveway statement. There's no real penalty for the more slippery shape in terms of either boot space or rear cabin head room either. In this form, the Q4 is more likely to appeal to premium EV customers who might be looking at more stylised rivals like the Polestar 2, the Ford Mustang MACH-E, the Kia EV6 and the Hyundai IONIQ 5. Arguably, this Audi can shade all of these competitors when it comes to cabin ambiance - it has the finish, the luxury and (to some extent) the driving dynamics of an electric crossover from next class up. The kind of thing you'd get from larger EV models like the Jaguar I-PACE and the Mercedes EQC. But of course you pay for that. With Audi, it was ever thus.