First drive: Audi e-tron Sportback

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  • AUDI E-TRON SPORTBACK 55 S LINE
  • Price range: $169,900
  • Powertrains: Two electric motors with 300kW/561Nm (664Nm under boost), Two-stage, single-speed gearbox, 4WD
  • Body style: SUV
  • On sale: Now

Audi has expanded its e-tron family by one, the Sportback representing the SUV-coupe option in the range.

Make me an instant expert: what do I need to know?

The only major difference here is the sloping roofline.

Nile Bijoux/Stuff

The only major difference here is the sloping roofline.

Audi’s e-tron electric SUV has been on sale since last year and has since grown to include the entry-level 50 Advanced along with the 55 and 55 Advanced models. Now it grows again, with the Sportback body shape coming in 55 S Line trim.

READ MORE:
* Audi to give top-rung e-tron GT RS tri-motor power
* Road test review: Audi e-tron 50
* Road test review: Audi RS Q8
* Audi’s electric e-tron Sportback SUV here soon

It is the new range-topper, at least before the e-tron S and Sportback S land sometime next year boasting even more power thanks to an additional third motor.

Looks good in grey too, but I think I’d take the blue.

Nile Bijoux/Stuff

Looks good in grey too, but I think I’d take the blue.

You can only have the Sportback shape as a 55 in S Line specification, the first e-tron to get such a spec. Audi New Zealand wouldn’t be drawn on saying if models further down the foodchain would get the shape but I’d be surprised if the 50 Advanced remains the only entry option.

Where did you drive it?

Audi took us to Raglan from Auckland, going by the 300kW hyper chargers at the top of the Bombays for a quick battery refill both ways. The e-tron supports charging rates of up to 150kW which, when plugged in for about 20 minutes, plumped the range up by close to 230km. Half an hour evidently adds 300km, though it should be mentioned that fast chargers tail off the amps after the battery reaches 80 per cent in order to keep it healthy.

We stopped off at the new 300kW hyper chargers at the Bombays for a quick dose of volts.

Nile Bijoux/Stuff

We stopped off at the new 300kW hyper chargers at the Bombays for a quick dose of volts.

At full power, you can expect to regain 300km of range in 10 minutes, though the Porsche Taycan is the only car capable of taking the full 300kW brunt in NZ at the moment.

After a quick recharge, I hit State Highway 22 to give the front tyres some punishment. The e-tron Sportback weighs just shy of 2600kg and the roads were pretty wet for most of the drive. However, the SUV wasn’t overly bothered and kept its composure well, despite these roads being out of its comfort zone.

Using the 55 as a springboard means the Sportback has the same 300kW/561Nm twin motor powertrain, with that torque figure increasing to 664Nm when in Sport mode. Audi says the Sportback is more aerodynamic thanks to its, ahem, sportier back but it still takes the same 5.7 seconds to hit 100kmh as the normal e-tron. The extra aero slipperiness does give the Sportback more range though, up to 446km according to Audi, versus 417km in the normal e-tron.

One of the saturated stops on the way to Raglan. Despite weighing around 2.6 tonnes, the e-tron Sportback wasn’t ruffled by the wet roads.

Nile Bijoux/Stuff

One of the saturated stops on the way to Raglan. Despite weighing around 2.6 tonnes, the e-tron Sportback wasn’t ruffled by the wet roads.

I wasn’t all that interested in trying to find the limits of grip on wet rural roads, so settled for a few 80-120kmh blasts instead. My findings: the Sportback pulls just as hard as the normal SUV at pretty much any double-digit speed. Groundbreaking, I know.

We got to Raglan with at more than 50 per cent battery, meaning we could have done the roundtrip to Raglan and back without needing a charge, if we drove sanely. You could allay any range anxiety with a quick stop at the hyper charger too, nine more of which are on their way to locations across the country.

What stands out the most?

The e-tron has always been a looker and the Sportback continues this tradition.

Nile Bijoux/Stuff

The e-tron has always been a looker and the Sportback continues this tradition.

Given it’s the same underneath as the e-tron 55 already on sale, the body shape is the only real difference. It looks good too, which is remarkable in the hot/cold world of SUV-coupes. The sloping roofline doesn’t impact rear headroom much either, thankfully, and luggage capacity only drops by 45-60 litres, depending on if the rear seats are folding or not (615-1665L total).

It’s also the only S Line e-tron, which gives it sports seats at the front, an S Line-spec interior backage, scuff plates front and rear, Valcona leather upholstery, privacy glass and black headlining. Other standard features include active cruise control, 21-inch alloys, a head-up display and body-coloured wheel arch trim. Buyers can spec on a panoramic sunroof and Audi’s trick virtual mirrors.

Why would I buy it?

It’s an SUV-coupe that actually looks good and it’s fully electric. You can also take advantage of the new hyper chargers, which unlocks the potential for longer road trips.

Why wouldn’t I buy it?

You don’t like SUV-coupes or are taller than six feet and often ride in the back. You might also want to wait for the more powerful e-tron S models, or the Q4 e-tron, a new model coming closer to 2022 that will sit between the Q3 and Q5 externally but closer to what a Q6 might be internally. That one will come in both normal and Sportback guises.



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