The new 2023 Audi e-tron Sportback electric SUV is the latest fastback-styled version of Audi's first-ever battery electric vehicle (BEV), the e-tron. Whereas the normal e-tron's more boxy styling is less swanky, the Sportback is an unashamed member of the odd class of SUV that tries to look like a coupe. Be that as it may, the Audi pulls off the look convincingly and the glamorous e-tron Sportback looks like it stumbled off a catwalk, more so than its more sober sibling or the boxy BMW iX, if not as futuristic as the new Cadillac Lyriq. Other similarly minded electric SUVs that can be mentioned include the smaller Jaguar I-pace and Genesis GV60.
Because Audi had to get its original e-tron to the market while still developing a bespoke EV platform, the MLB Evo platform used in internal-combustion-engine (ICE) Audi products was adapted for its new role. The result is that e-trons are heavier than all of their rivals, even though they're not the largest. The 355-horsepower dual-motor AWD powertrain briefly delivers 402 hp in Sport mode, but the Audi's performance still trails most of the class. An EPA-estimated range of 225 miles is also the worst in its class. At a starting price of $74,000 in the USA, the e-tron Sportback has its work cut out for it against newer rivals.
Audi has not made many changes to the new 2023 Audi e-tron Sportback trims. On the inside, the black headliner that was previously an option on the base models has been made standard across the board. On the outside, only the Prestige trim sees any changes. It gets standard 22-inch two-color five-Spoke-Turbine alloy wheels with Dynamic Orange brake calipers, Digital Matrix-design headlights, and the Black Optic exterior styling package. The second row's previously optional side airbags are now standard on the Prestige, along with illuminated seatbelt buckles.
Quiet and refined ride
Spacious and comfortable cabin
Very attractive styling
Up-to-date interior tech
4,000-pound tow capacity
Weak regenerative braking
Performance trails the best in class
See trim levels and configurations:
Largely thanks to the standard adaptive air suspension, the portly coupe SUV does a remarkable job of hiding its weight and its general behavior when cornering briskly is composed, with high levels of grip and limited body lean. It's not much fun to fling around and when motoring enthusiastically, you become aware of the mass, the numb - if accurate - steering, and the weak regenerative braking compared to some other EVs. Rather slow down and enjoy its superior insulation from extraneous noises and vibrations and marvel at the refined, hushed ride.
Don't marvel for too long, because you'll run down the batter in an EPA-claimed 225 miles, which will be less than 200 miles in the real world. The 22-inch wheels reduce the range even further, but Audi doesn't say by how much. Towing the rated 4,000 pounds will decimate whatever's left. Stick to sub-200-mile trips and the e-tron Sportback is an enjoyable companion with a useful 402 horsepower and 490 lb-ft briefly on demand (up from the usual 355 hp and 414 lb-ft) for quick getaways. That said, the 5.5-second 0-60 sprint is not class-leading and beaten by a number of rivals, but the Sportback always feels like it has enough punch on hand.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
To determine its worth, we have to see the 2023 e-tron Sportback in context, and that means talking about its rivals. While there are no deal-breakers in terms of its appearance, infotainment, or driving experience, the major chink in its armor is its poor battery range. All of the Audi e-tron Sportback's competitors, except for the Jaguar I-Pace, offer well over 300 miles, and even the Jag beats the Audi by more than 20 miles. The next issue is value for money. At a starting price of $74,000, it's nearly $10k more expensive than the 500-hp AWD version of the new Cadillac Lyriq, arguably the crossover SUV closest in spirit and size to the Audi. With a lot more power and range, the Caddy dates the e-tron Sportback overnight, and, with its superior performance credentials and futuristic appearance, it looks like the better car. The aging Audi's replacement cannot come soon enough to take the fight to its rivals. For now, it's falling well behind in a very competitive market segment.