Audi E-Tron launch: Everything you need to know about Audi's all-electric SUV

Our man on the ground, Leon Poultney, gets up close and personal with the Tesla shocker which can seat five and ditches wing mirrors for futuristic cameras

Audi E-Tron

If you needed proof that the electric vehicle revolution is well and truly underway, you just have to take a look at the recent releases and announcements from the major premium players.

First we had Jaguar's Tesla-punishing I-Pace, with its 298-mile official range and eye-swivelling styling, then Mercedes-Benz announced its gargantuan EQC model that can accelerate from 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and will go on sale in 2019.

Now Audi, the other German giant, is busy flexing its automotive muscle with the unveiling of its e-tron SUV - the first standalone all-electric model from Ingolstadt that can cruise for 248-miles on a single charge and will open the floodgates for 12 new electric Audis by the year 2025.

The age of e-tron

Based on the Volkswagen Group's MEB platform, which is used for a number of electric models from Volkswagen and Skoda, the new e-tron packs a dual motor system that sees an electric drive unit bolted to each axle.

These twin motors combine to offer a total system output of 300 kW and a staggering 664 Nm, which is enough to dispatch of the 0-62mph sprint in just 5.7 seconds and propel e-tron on to a limited top speed of 127mph.

Better still, because the power distribution can be constantly altered by clever onboard software, drivers can make the most of Audi's drive select system to alter the characteristics of the car on the fly.

Audi E-Tron

One moment it can be a comfortable cruiser that seats five and offers 660-litres of luggage space in the boot, and the next it can devour tarmac by sending power to the rear wheels like a thoroughbred sports car.

Better still, the e-tron features one of the most advanced energy recuperation systems that sees that batteries topped up under braking and when the vehicle is coasting.

At up to 0.3 g of deceleration, which is up to 90 per cent of any given journey, the electric SUV recuperates solely via the electric motors, with the wheel brakes only called into play when the driver decelerates by more than 0.3 g using the brake pedal - a first for any manufacturer.

The tangible result of such technology was demonstrated at the punishing Pikes Peak race recently, where Audi managed recuperate nearly 19-miles of the e-tron's range just by coasting down from the 14,000ft summit.

Slipperiness, screens and ingenious mirrors

Aerodynamic efficiency only really means anything to car boffins and those that want to eke every single mile from a tank of fuel but in electric vehicles, where so many external factors can effect battery range, aero means everything.

That's why Audi has ditched standard wing mirrors for small cameras that transmit a live video feed to interactive OLED screens mounted on the front door panels.

Audi E-Tron

Admittedly it feels a little overkill at first, but these fancy mirrors mean the Audi e-tron achieves a Cd value of 0.27, which is an impressive result for a big old SUV, and they allow the driver to easily interact with the screens to move the live image, highlight potential blind spot hazards and adjust the picture to afford a wider view when turning, for example.

Inside, customers are greeted by two large MMI touchscreens that make up most of the cockpit and replace pretty much every conventional switch and dial, while those that enjoy their retinas sizzled by digital information can choose to specify the optional Audi virtual cockpit that is now ubiquitous across its range.

Connectivity is also a major buzzword here, with an on-board SIM card allowing constant updates from the web and intelligent route planning that can highlight charging points on the journey.

Plus, the system considers the traffic situation and includes the required charging time in its arrival time calculation.  

While we're on the subject of charging time, expect the e-tron's 95kWh batteries to take around 8.5 hours to top up via Audi's neat compact 11kW home charging adaptor, or 4.5 hours using a chunkier 22kW home system.

Audi E-Tron

Of course, using one of the Holy Grail 150kW chargers, which are slowly becoming more commonplace in the UK, will see an 80 per cent charge delivered in just 30 minutes.

But perhaps the most pertinent news for owners is that Audi will offer a subscription service that makes accessing and using over 72,000 charging points in Europe much simpler.

This package will be billed monthly via the MyAudi app and sees an Audi RFID card or QR code activate numerous charging points from various providers, which puts an end to the painful experience of signing up, maintaining and keeping track of the numerous subscription packages required for pain-free EV travel. 

The e-tron will change how we buy and use cars

Audi claims that services like Uber and Lyft have completely changed the way customers buy and use cars, with a recent study revealing that almost 250,000 ride-sharing service users in the USA completely ditched their cars for the more flexible, app-based transport in 2018.

Audi E-Tron

As a result, Audi will focus its attention on mobility and short term rental schemes, which will see cars delivered to users on an 'on-demand' basis.

Matt Carpenter, VP for Audi America, says that in the not-so distant future, a large amount of customers won't actually own an Audi but will instead continually swap cars depending on their needs.

"A customer might want to use an R8 for the weekend, or make use of the e-tron during the week when they have school runs and kids to ferry around," he explains.

On top of this, Audi plans to offer certain functions as 'unlockable' upgrades across its electric vehicle range through the next generation of its connected apps.

Audi E-Tron

As with current in-app purchases, future owners and rental customers will be able to unlock more power from the electric powertrain, upgrade the LED headlights to Matrix LED headlights and add infotainment extras, such as DAB+ digital radio, with the swipe on a smartphone app.

Leon Poultney

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. When he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing. He's also a man who knows his tools, and he's provided much of T3's drills coverage over the years, all without injuring himself.