Audi Q4 e-tron review: A cut above

2 weeks ago 13
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(Pocket-lint) - With the advent of the electric vehicle (EV) revolution upon us, genuine electified choices are rapidly becoming much richer in their offering. Take the mid-size SUV space as one key example: there are plenty of options already out there - from Volkswagen to Skoda and beyond - but Audi has taken that framework and one-upped it by, well, 'Audi-fying' its offering.

By and large that's a literal turn of phrase: the Audi Q4 e-tron shares the same so-called MEB platform as the Skoda Enyaq iV, Volkswagen ID4, and Seat Cupra Born, but by decorating that with an altogether sportier design, plusher interior and more adept technology implementation than any of those, it's simply the more sophisticated offering.

Sure, the Q4 e-tron will cost you more cash than those, too, plus the options list quickly raises the price further, but if you're looking for a lease option for an EV and have the money jangling in your pocket then it's a sound choice in so many ways - and without any real compromise to range or practical space either.

Design & Trim

  • Standard Q4 e-tron or Q4 Sportback e-tron designs
  • Trim levels: Sport, S Line, Edition 1, Vorsprung
  • 19-inch alloy wheels (20- & 21-inch optional)
  • LED headlights (LED Matrix for Vorsprung)
  • 520-litre boot capacity minimum
  • £40,750 UK OTR starting price

One glimpse at the Q4 e-tron and it's clear as day an Audi. It's got those distinctive looks, those agressive-looking headlights - which are LED as standard on all trim levels (Vorsprung gets Matrix LED as standard) - those panel folds and a sporty shape. We've driven the standard model; a Sportback version is also available, which drops a little headroom in the back for a sportier still poise.

Much as the Q4 e-tron's front grille has that Audi aesthetic, however, it's a rather different setup to the German marque's combusion models. As this is electric, no air is required for cooling, thus the front is sealed off - even the classic four rings aren't fully embossed from the front, but are rather flat, almost as if drawn onto the front (optical illusion style).

Here presented in a subtle purple coat of paint ('Aurora Violet Metallic' in marketing speak), the metallic finish is subtle and glints in the sun gently. Audi perpetually pushes new colour options per vehicle, and its always fun to get behind the wheel of something a little different. Fret not, though, the usual palette of colours are available - visit Audi's official website to design and built your own selection of options, including blue, black and a whole palette of greys.

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Being an SUV, part of the Q4 e-tron's very purpose is to be high-riding and offer increased interior space over the typical saloon. That includes a 520-litre boot - increasing to over four-figures if you drop the rear seats - and plenty of space in the back for whomever needs to sit there; there's the ceiling height to accommodate adults no problems.

Interior & Tech

  • Audi central MMI monitor (10.1-inch touchscreen [11.6-inch option due 2021])
  • Audi Virtual Cockpit drivers display (10.25-inch non-touch)
  • Audi Pre-sense, lane departure & swerve/turn assist
  • Optional: Cruise assist, 360° cameras, blindspot
  • Head-up dislay (HUD) & AR navigation options
  • Android Auto / Apple CarPlay compatible
  • Sonos Audio available

We're down with the looks, as we're sure you are too, but it's inside where the Audi Q4 e-tron really sells itself. This interior cabin is the step-up that qualifies its taller asking price over its near competition.

In many respects it's much the same as your typical Audi. We say that in positive fashion, noting here that the electrification of the drivetrain doesn't eat into interior space; there's no giant centre tunnel using up potential space or forcing your legs into weird and compromised positions. It's spacious, airy, and largely driver-focused too. 

For many years Audi has been enhancing its MMI setup (that's Multimedia Interface, acronym loathers), with the Q4 e-tron embodying the latest implementation for 2021. That comprises two core components: a 10.1-inch touchscreen to the centre dash, angled towards the driver (a larger 11.6-inch version will be added late 2021); and a 10.25-inch visual display, called Audi Cockpit, positioned to the driver's line of sight.

The main screen relies on touch control, but with haptic feedback providing an assured 'clack' and physical response, it's really easy to use. Yes, it gets very fingerprinty very quickly, so you'll want to have a microfibre cloth and buckets of love and care on hand too.

However, unlike some of Audi's earlier touch-only implementations, the Q4 e-tron also supplements controls with physical buttons for climate control. We think this is a much, much more successful marriage of the two forms - making it super easy to always select and sync air-conditioning, for example, without needing to dig into screens. There's no additional third screen towards the centre tunnel here, like you'll find in the A8 as one example, instead a floating platform with simple controls such as the one-button start control.

Audi's MMI system has decent navigation and mapping that works well, but if you would rather use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay then that's easily accomplished too. Simply plug-in via one of the two front USB-C cables (if you don't have a C-to-C cable you'll want an adapter for USB-C-to-A) and off you go.

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Interestingly, and unlike other manufacturers, you can supplement Android Auto with Audi MMI in tandem: listen to Spotify via your phone, with Android Auto showing the playlist on the central screen; while using the Virtual Cockpit display to utilise Audi's turn-by-turn mapping and directions through its navigation. A best of both worlds, that really don't seem to clash or oppose one another.

The ability to switch between what displays on these two main screens is also ideal to ensure everything you need is within eyeshot. Battery charge remaining and projected mileage are always on display in Virtual Cockpit, which is great. Our only real complaint about the screens overall is that the central one, despite being cleverly positioned towards the driver, is just a little bit of a reach at times. First world problems, eh.

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The overall tech available can be expansive, too, depending on what pack options you pick. While Audi's Pre-sense is aboard as standard - it's always keeping an eye on what's in front, should an emergeny stop be needed - there's also optional cruise control, a head-up display (HUD) with further optional augmented relaity (AR) visualisations, lane-keep, blindspot alert, and a full-on suite of cameras that can view all around the car - and even create a top-down visualisation of it and your surroundings for additional safety when reversing or parking. 

Drive & Range

  • 40 model (204PS): Single motor & rear wheel drive, 77kWh battery capacity, 316 mile range quoted
  • 50 model (299PS): Quattro all-wheel drive & twin motors, 77kWh, 295m
  • 35 model (170PS): Single motor & rear wheel drive, 52kWh, 211m
  • Drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Individual
  • Up to 125kW fast-charging capable

All of which is all well and good, but if you're buying an EV and it's going to give you range anxiety, or you don't have the charging capabilities at home, then it's unlikely to be the car for you. Not just in the case of this Audi, but any electric car at present really.

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That's something we had in mind in particular because our previous Audi experience - with the e-tron S - was miles off its advertised range. The Q4 e-tron, however, is only around 15 per cent below its quoted WLTP rating, based on our time with the car, meaning it'll push you in and around - and potentially upwards - of 250 miles per charge (caveat: reviewed is the '40' model, the '35' delivers a lot less as outlined in bullet points above). In context: the Volvo XC40 Recharge gave us slightly less, at 225 per charge, which is still pretty good going.

Now we say upwards of 250 miles per charge because we did not, in any way, drive the Q4 e-tron around with the core goal of conserving energy. We put Dynamic drive mode into play. We popped the aircon on. The Sonos soundsystem was blaring out the tunes. We weren't shy of an overtake or to put the pedal down. Motorway sections were absolutely not spend on the inside lane.

Before setting off, battery at 99 per cent charge, the Q4 e-tron told us we'd get 233 miles out of it. Even with the style of driving above we motored through 100 miles and the battery dropped to 58 per cent. On that calculation we would have surpassed the 233 miles quota anyway. Sure, it's nowhere near the top-end 316 miles the WLTP rating claims, but this rating is always overly high for any vehicle - not just Audi.

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The key take-away being that, for your typical sub-40 miles per day round commute, you could do a full Monday to Friday home to office run, pop the car on your home charger and set it up to only click in to charge after midnight, when your electricity rate is likely lower than daytime. Even if you prefer to stick within the rule of not charging beyond 80 per cent to aid with battery preservation the circa 200 miles available should provide that kind of commuter potential.

We're certain the Q4 e-tron can handle the range, then, but the way in which it handles itself on the road brings further assurance: this is one smooth operator, a truly comfortable place to sit, and with ample pep to go firing you off down the road at pace when it's needed (the 0-62mph time of 8.5s doesn't sound exceptional, but for a 2.5-tonne vehicle it's spritely enough).

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Verdict

The Audi Q4 e-tron takes the mid-size electrified SUV market and goes beyond the competition thanks to its distinctive style, interior comfort, and technology implementation.

Yes, it'll cost you a pretty penny - especially with those alluring options - and that may make its more affordable Volkswagen ID4 or Skoda Enyaq serve more appeal, but with the understanding that there's some compromise to the overall cabin by comparison.

With a decent real-world range per charge (in the 40 model; the 35 is more a town runabout), however, the Q4 e-tron is a car that, for many, will be high up the leasing options list. It'll be no surprise to see many of these on the roads by the end of 2021 and beyond: for the simple reason that it's a cut above its electrified SUV competition.

Also consider

Pocket-lint

Alternative photo 1

Skoda Enyaq iV

Although built on the very same platform as the Audi, the Skoda equivalent is far cheaper yet still well appointed. Whether you like the look of it as much is up for debate, but from a capability and cost-savings point of view it's got obvious appeal.

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Alternative photo 8

Volvo XC40 Recharge

Much like the Audi, Volvo's electric SUV will cost a fair bit, but it also features a plush interior and decent range per charge. There's even a Google integrated infotainment system here that feels altogether more future-facing. It's a bit speedier off the mark too, but that slightly cuts down on its range potential.

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Alternative photo 9

Volkswagen ID4

Also built on the same platform, the VW's interior is much more sparse, while its infotainment setup feels more work in progress. It's a great and more mainstream alternative option though.

Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 25 August 2021.

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