Audi e-tron: Germany’s future in Electric.

 

Electric cars. It seems everyone in the motor industry has been talking about them for quite some time now, but only a few companies have actually come to the table with one. And even then, very little of them were something you’d actually want to live with. Realistically, your only choices were the Nissan Leaf or a Tesla. But over the past couple of months, we’ve began to witness the dawn of a new era, because the Germans have officially joined in. First with the Mercedes EQC, and hot on its heels: the Audi e-tron. And we’ve been to the Paris Motor Show to have a look at it!

On the stand was a blue e-tron on a rotating plinth, but it was behind glass so no one was allowed near that one. I have no idea why, especially since there was a near-identical beige one which you could sit in, fifty feet away in another area of Audi’s huge stand. Between these two cars was an e-tron’s chassis and battery pack, complete with rolling wheels. Which was basically just some wires and stuff. Again, no idea why that was there, particularly because there wasn’t any plaques or screens offering information on it. Never the less, after a crack broke in the crowd surrounding the beige one, I hustled in for a look.

 

 

 

The first thing that caught my eye was the door mirrors, or rather lack there of. See, while you can have the e-tron with conventional door mirrors, higher spec’d models have larger cameras where door mirrors would usually be. (Let’s face it, that’s just something else to break. Can you imagine how much it’ll cost to fix if someone knocks it off?) While the technology existed for this kind of gimic years ago, I can see why Audi have waited to put it on one of their cars until now. It adds to the appeal of the e-tron by reinforcing the whole ‘futuristica’ image that comes hand in hand with it, along with the stunning light bar that runs the full width of the car’s rear. The reason for these features, is because while Mercedes have gone to great lengths to make their electric SUV seem as normal a car as possible, (even adding in fake exhaust pipes to do so) Audi don’t want you to forget that this is an electric vehicle – right down to the range anxiety. Yes, range anxiety. Because full batteries in this car will only take you 250 miles. Which doesn’t sound bad, but here’s the killer; a massive 30% of that range (85 miles) is due to regenerative breaking. This means that the car will probably be very easy to live with if all you do is urban driving. But if you rack up a lot of motorway miles, (ie. Little to no breaking) you’re looking at 175 miles before you have to plug in and wait for 8.5 hours so that the batteries can recharge. However if you’re lucky enough to find a 150kw/hr public unit (not likely in the UK) then 80% of your charging is over in just half an hour. Additionally, no excuses can be made for the cover for the charging cable, which lives under the bonnet. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that it is the most flimsy and low quality thing I’ve ever had the displeasure of finding in any car. It wouldn’t be an acceptable component in an early 90’s supermini.

 

 

One area where the e-tron does shine though, is in its interior. Seating space is average, but the seats are very high-end-Audi – lots of room to accommodate all body types with support all over. All the car’s fixtures and fittings felt solid and premium. The one I was in had off-white seats with orange stitching, and three screens. One for the driver display, one for the nav and such, and another for the heating controls. All are large, and all have an easy to work out, clear display. This is all good stuff, because it’s priced high, even for this segment. £10,000-15,000 more than its main rival, the Mercedes EQC. Which is bigger, has more range, and is quicker.

 

So then why should you buy the Audi? Simple, because it’s built well. If you can look beyond high price, low range, and the hideously flimsy cover for the charging cable under the bonnet, (trust me, it really is bad. Audi, get that sorted.) and I promise you that you’ll have what is otherwise the most mechanically and ergonomically solid electric vehicle on the market.
By James Harrison

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