The Audi e-tron has been around since 2019 as one of the few all-electric vehicles that seem normal. While the likes of Tesla have been innovating with the alternative propulsion method, Audi's design and feel of the e-tron have been applied in an intentionally subdued manner. While this may bother those who want everyone to know just how sanctimonious they are for buying an electric SUV, it's the perfect answer for those who want their battery-powered automobile to look and feel like a regular car. Jaguar has taken a similar route with its I-Pace, but which is better? Or should the Tesla Model X remain your default choice for advanced electric mobility? With the e-tron generating up to 402 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque from its dual electric motors, it's certainly worth considering. And when you take into account that the price of the Audi e-tron is thousands of dollars less than the Tesla, it becomes all the more attractive. Let's see if it's good enough to dethrone the king.
The 2021 model year brings with it some minor yet valuable updates for the e-tron SUV. There's now a new base model called the Premium, and it starts at a base price that is almost $9,000 lower than the 2019 Audi e-tron's starting cost. In addition, changes to the drive system and the software of the vehicle have resulted in a maximum range that is increased by 18 miles to 222. More of the battery is usable now too, with the 95.3 kWh unit now allowing the use of up to 86.5 kWh - almost 3 kWh more than before. The options list has been updated too, with the 2021 e-tron now offering a Convenience Plus package that enhances driver aids and styling.
See trim levels and configurations:
The exterior of the Audi e-tron is perfectly balanced, with a great mix of advanced design along with plenty of traditional Audi styling elements that help make it look familiar. It's this subdued approach to electric vehicles that could make all the difference in enhancing Audi's popularity in this segment, and we expect that this SUV will still look good a decade from now. The front features a unique grille with plenty of chrome. Full LED headlights sit on either side of this grille and are complemented by LED taillights and dynamic rear indicators. The profile highlights black accents that run from the underside of the front fascia, through the rockers, and to the rear with its silver "diffuser" accent. This fake diffuser also features strakes that sit where exhaust tips normally would appear. A subtle roof spoiler, roof rails, and a panoramic sunroof complete the look, while standard 20-inch wheels give the e-tron an Audi allroad flavor, although 21s are available too. Thanks to US regulations, we get regular wing mirrors instead of cameras on fine stalks, but again, this is in keeping with the e-tron's conventional and approachable execution - even if there is an ultra-modern electric powertrain lurking beneath the skin, and not a conventional engine.
The dimensions of the Audi e-tron SUV are quite different from those of Jaguar's competition, the I-Pace. While the Jag is 184.3 inches long, the e-tron has a length of 193 inches. However, the British vehicle has a longer wheelbase of 117.7 inches while the German's is 115.3 inches. Width on the e-tron is measured at 76.2 inches excluding the mirrors, while height has a rating of 65.5 inches. This can be raised by up to three inches thanks to adaptive air suspension, helping owners get through snow or mud. Curb weight is unsurprisingly hefty at a base figure of 5,754 pounds. In comparison, the I-Pace weighs just 4,784 lbs.
As standard, the e-tron comes in just one no-cost paint finish called Brilliant Black. If you're willing to spend an additional $595, you get access to a host of metallic hues: Catalunya Red, Florett Silver, Galaxy Blue, Glacier White, Manhattan Gray, Mythos Black, Navarra Blue, Siam Beige, and Typhoon Gray. While some Audi models are available with exclusive special colors, cars in the e-tron range do not have access to them. However, you can spec the Black Optic package for $1,250 on the top two trims, upgrading many of the exterior chrome elements to gloss black. On the range-topping Prestige trim, the Black Optic package also requires the addition of 21-inch wheels for a further $1,250.
All trim levels of the e-tron are powered by the same setup: two asynchronous electric motors propel the car forward, with the one on the rear axle doing most of the work, most of the time. The idea is that this will give the e-tron a rear-biased drive, resulting in sharper handling. Together, the two motors can produce up to 402 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque - enough to launch the heavy SUV from 0 to 60 mph in a respectable 5.5 seconds. Top speed is 124 mph, so it's certainly not the fastest electric vehicle out there, but as a family car that is aimed more at buyers with a focus on practicality, this is perfectly fine. Naturally, there's no gearbox, so power delivery is smooth and instantly available, but you will need to drive the car for some time to acclimatize to the regenerative braking system if you've never been at the helm of an EV before. Although it will deplete the battery at a much faster rate, the electric Audi e-tron has the ability to tow up to 4,000 pounds when properly equipped.
As mentioned above, the 2021 Audi e-tron is powered by two electric motors. The one on the front axle produces 181 hp and 228 lb-ft of torque, while the one on the rear axle serves up 220 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Combined, they deliver a total of 355 hp and 414 lb-ft of torque. Switch to Sport mode and bury your right foot in the firewall and you'll unlock a Boost mode that increases output to 402 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque for around eight seconds. As expected, this delivery is sharp and it takes no time for the e-tron to get moving from a standstill, making it easy to get away from the lights quickly. Passing power on the freeway is also easy to access, thanks to the system's lack of a traditional transmission. Just plant the gas and you're on your way. However, due to the tremendous bulk of this machine, it only ever feels quick - never fast. Still, that's not what a luxury SUV is about, and the e-tron does a great job of keeping wind and tire noise from entering the cabin, particularly with the available double-glazed windows.
Okay, so straight-line performance is not what this SUV is about, but how does it actually feel to drive? Well, as a rather lardy machine, it's not all that agile, despite the battery packs being mounted as low in the vehicle as possible. There's quite a bit of understeer when you enter corners with vigor and the fact that the rear motor is more powerful does little to correct this flaw. Nevertheless, the feel of the steering in Sport mode is pretty good, with appropriate weight and decent levels of feedback. Thanks to its variable-ratio setup, it's still easy to maneuver at low speeds. The brake pedal is a little less universally loved, however, as some have found it easy to modulate while others have felt that the regenerative braking system is too prominent to make smooth stops a simple exercise. We thought it was well set up.
The real question, though, is not if this SUV performs well when treating it like a sports car, but if it is any good as the luxury EV it aims to be. Fortunately, the adaptive air suspension system gives us no reason to fault this vehicle. A test drive will quickly show that it's comfortable and compliant without being floaty and there's enough firmness that you don't feel as if the car is about to tip over. Big and small bumps alike are soaked up with ease and the electronics do an excellent job of maintaining traction when you're on slippery surfaces too. We doubt it'll be as capable as a Range Rover off-road, but it seems to be able to hold its own.
Audi's claims for mileage and range are not class-leading, but they're not bad either. Thanks to some updates for the 2021 model year, the e-tron now has combined figures of 78 MPGe along with a range of 222 miles. That's quite an increase compared to what the 2019 iteration's figures were. 2019 Audi e-tron models had an EPA-estimated range of 204 miles, so the increase of 18 miles is decent. There is little difference between driving in congested areas or on the open road, with figures of 78/77/78 mpg city/highway/combined. However, it's still not as great as the I-Pace, with 234 miles of range or the Tesla Model X Long Range Plus (371 miles).
With a 150 kW DC fast charger, Audi says you can recharge the e-tron to give around 50 miles range in just 10 minutes. From flat to 80 percent charge will take around half an hour on the same outlet, while a regular 240V household outlet will fully recharge the 95 kWh battery in nine hours.
If you open the door to any modern Audi, you can always expect the interior to be stunning. The e-tron does not buck this trend, with a trifecta of high-definition screens, a plethora of standard features, and exceptional build quality coupled with attractive design. You get quad-zone automatic climate control as standard, along with a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, and loads of leather. The interior is hugely spacious and ergonomic, although not quite perfect. Thanks to an absence of physical buttons for most functions, the e-tron, as with many other Audis currently on offer, requires that you divert your gaze far from the road to change the temperature of the climate control. It's one small gripe in an otherwise brilliant cabin, and this interior emphasizes that Audi is looking to make EVs feel like regular, mainstream cars.
The e-tron eschews the trend to make new SUVs pretend to be coupes, so its roofline is not aggressively sloped. What this means is that you can seat five adults in decent comfort. Both headroom and legroom are generous in either row, but we wouldn't recommend seating three adults alongside each other if they're known by name at the local Burger King. The front seats are obviously the best and are power-adjustable. Also available are massaging front seats and ventilation for these along with heating for the rears, but even the standard seats and steering wheel can be warmed up. Visibility all-round is pretty good too, but the high rear window and haunches of the car can create a bit of a blind spot.
As standard, the e-tron boasts leather upholstery in a choice of Black with Rock Gray stitching, but you can also opt for Okapi Brown, Pearl Beige, or Pearl Beige with Agate Gray stitching - all at no charge. Opt for one of the beige options and you can have Dark Brown Natural Sycamore Wood inlays, but the standard Volcano Gray Ash and Dark Brown Walnut options are attractive too. The top-tier Prestige trim gets extended premium leather in the same shades as the other trims, but without the option of Agate Gray stitching on the Pearl Beige leather.
Cargo volume in the e-tron is respectable, with a power tailgate revealing a space of 28.5 cubic feet. That's more than you get in the I-Pace, where a sloping tail cuts volume down to just 25.3 cubes. However, if you want to stow more than just a week's luggage for each occupant, you can still fold down the rear seats and open an area of 56.5 cubic feet - again more than the Jaguar can manage. There's a small frunk too for the charging cable, but it's too shallow and short to store anything more than a toiletry bag.
In the cabin, you get a pair of cupholders for each row along with narrow door pockets, a shallow but wide glove box, and center armrest storage. The driver also has a small cubby where one could put a wallet or a set of keys.
As standard, the e-tron is well-appointed with features like adaptive air suspension, LED headlights with auto high beams, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, quad-zone automatic climate control with an 8.6-inch touchscreen display for vehicle functions, a power tailgate, and a 12.3-inch driver info display. You also get blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors, lane departure warning, collision preparation, a rearview camera, and forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking.
Available features include heated rear seats, ventilated and massaging front seats, a surround-view camera, wireless charging, adaptive cruise control, Matrix-design headlights, multicolor LED ambient lighting, rear side window sunshades, and a head-up display.
Another sign that Audi is making this a regular car that just happens to come with an alternative powertrain is that the infotainment system is exactly what you'd find in traditionally-powered Audis - no flashy yet gimmicky portrait displays in here. Instead, you get Audi's brilliant MMI interface with its easy to understand and attractive 10.1-inch touchscreen. Voice control is included if you don't like using the screen or steering-mounted controls, and the system also boasts navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and HD Radio with SiriusXM satellite radio. If the standard sound system isn't quite up to your standard for audio quality, a Bang & Olufsen 3D Premium setup is fitted to the top two trims.
Thus far, the 2021 e-tron has been totally free of recalls. Reliability shouldn't be an issue as the 2019 model that we first saw was only subject to one recall for a possible short-circuit on the high-voltage battery.
Beyond its good build quality, you can also rely on Audi's limited and powertrain warranties that provide coverage for four years/50,000 miles while there is also an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty. Complimentary scheduled maintenance is included, but only for one year/10,000 miles. Audi's 24-hour roadside assistance runs for the first four years of ownership.
Audi has done a great job of making the e-tron SUV safe for you and your family. Safety reviews from the NHTSA resulted in a full five-star rating. Over at the IIHS, the 2019 review of the Audi e-tron, which was almost identical, returned the highest possible honor of a Top Safety Pick+ award.
Standard safety features on the e-tron include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a rearview camera, collision detection and preparation along with automatic emergency braking, and an airbag suite that includes frontal, side-impact, and overhead airbags. Available upgrades as one progresses through the trim levels include Matrix-design headlights, a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, intersection assist, and a head-up display. Also available are additional rear side airbags.
The Audi e-tron is a heavy vehicle that weighs even more than the Q7 SUV, but, along with upcoming models like the e-tron GT, Audi is making sure that electric vehicles are attractive alternatives to regular cars. Sure, it doesn't have the range of some of its competitors and it doesn't have the handling ability of gasoline-powered vehicles, but it finds itself in the middle of these two categories in a way that is actually impressive. It blends the best of both worlds by mixing usable real-world range and efficiency with an overall package that you don't have to be a tech geek to understand. It looks and feels homely while still standing out just enough to let traffic wardens know from a distance that you have the right to move freely in congested cities. It's luxurious, well-equipped, safe, and good-looking. If you're on the fence about switching to electric vehicles, the e-tron is the perfect choice. All of the benefits of EV power with none of the drawbacks combine to make this a brilliant SUV. Well done, Audi. Well done indeed.
The base e-tron starts at $65,900 before a $1,095 destination charge, but this can easily be offset by rebates that this vehicle can take advantage of. The mid-level Premium Plus trim carries a starting MSRP of $74,800 while the top Prestige trim starts at $79,100. Fully loaded, the e-tron will set you back around $88,000 including the destination charge. The 2020 Audi e-tron qualified for a $7,500 tax credit, which may also apply to the 2021 model.
The 2021 e-tron is available in three configurations: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. Each model is AWD and powered by a pair of electric motors that can produce up to 402 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque.
The Premium boasts adaptive air suspension along with 20-inch wheels, LED headlights with auto high beams, quad-zone automatic climate control, and a power panoramic sunroof. You also get a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, as well as a rearview camera, cruise control, a 12.3-inch driver info display, front and rear parking sensors, and a power tailgate. The infotainment system is made up of two touchscreen displays (10.1-inch and 8.6-inch) and comes with navigation, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.
At mid-range level, the Premium Plus builds on the base model with heated rear seats, a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, wireless charging, Matrix-design LED headlights, ventilated front seats, and a premium audio system from Bang & Olufsen.
The top Prestige trim adds yet more standard features with multicolor LED ambient lighting, massaging front seats, premium leather upholstery, rear side window sunshades, and a head-up display.
For those who intend to use their SUVs for leisure, we recommend speccing the Towing package. It costs just $750 and unlocks access to the full 4,000 pounds of towing capacity. Rear-seat side airbags are another option worthy of consideration at $400, while Digital Matrix headlights cost $3,000 but are limited to the top trim. The Black Optic package has no benefit beyond the aesthetic changes it brings, but there's never any harm in deleting some chrome to replace it with gloss black. This package costs $1,250 on the top two trims and comes with unique wheels. For customers opting for the base Premium trim, the Convenience Plus package is available at $3,500. This adds lane keep assist, a surround-view camera, and adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist. You also get the Black Optic package included for free.
If you're after a practical yet affordable e-tron, we recommend the mid-level Premium Plus trim. This model boasts additional features over the base trim with things like adaptive cruise control, a surround-view camera, Matrix-design headlights, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and an upgraded 3D Premium sound system from Bang & Olufsen. However, if you don't want to spend almost ten grand extra over the base model, we suggest the Premium trim but with the Convenience Plus package detailed above.
We're yet to see the 2021 I-Pace, but based on the features of the 2020 model, it should continue to be competitive in this segment. It manages 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque, and although that's not as much power as the Audi can put out, it produces that output constantly rather than just for short bursts. Nevertheless, despite impressive handling and gorgeous styling, we have to recommend the Audi e-tron. It's more spacious, more practical, and more ergonomic. The I-Pace is plagued by a sub-par infotainment system and fewer standard luxury features too, although the cabin itself is certainly a stylish piece of design. However, the Jag hasn't been reviewed by the USA's ratings agencies for crashworthiness yet. For those who value driving and style above all else, the Jag is the winner, but as an overall package, we prefer Ingolstadt's effort.
Tesla's Model X has made practical EV motoring a more prominent part of the auto industry, but it's not exactly cheap. With a base price of just under $80,000, it's over 14 grand dearer than the base Audi e-tron. However, although its dimensions are very similar in many respects to those of the e-tron SUV, it offers a lot more cargo space with up to 87.8 cubic feet of volume in five-seater guise. On that note, the Model X can also seat six or seven occupants depending on the configuration. You also get the benefit of regular updates throughout its life cycle, and it's a lot more powerful too, with at least 534 hp and 557 lb-ft of torque in the Long Range Plus. That said, the interior looks and feels sparse, albeit executed in a stylish and modern manner. If you don't mind futuristic interior design and few luxury features, the Tesla is great. For those who want their cars to feel "normal", we'd opt for the cheaper and fancier e-tron.
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