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Road Test: Auto e-tron Sportback S line

Lopping the boot off the e-tron isn’t as mad as it may at first seem, discovers Peter Richaud.

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SECTOR Premium large SUV coupé   PRICE £69,850-£85,050   CHARGING CCS 150kW  RANGE 240 miles

Audi’s official second fully electric car seems a bit of a cheat, being very much the same as the original e-tron but now with raised coupé look.

With 0% Benefit-in-Kind, company car drivers could be persuaded that it’s the car for them, but beware the eye-watering asking price for the ‘S Sportback’, which starts from £89,450, while the regular ‘Sportback’ can be had from £69,850 and confusingly with S line trim.

Driving the e-tron’s all four wheels is Audi’s electric quattro, which pumps out a healthy 402hp at its peak. However, an important note for anyone new to electric vehicles is its continuous power output, which at 134hp is significantly less. Despite this, it’s no slouch with the base version taking 6.6 seconds to reach 62mph. Rapid it may be, but the Sportback struggles to hide its weight when accelerating and cornering, even with massive amounts of torque ( 561Nm, 664Nm at peak). Unlike rivals, it isn’t based on a dedicated EV platform.

It isn’t the most natural electric car to manoeuvre either, particularly when reversing, with subtle movements proving to be something of a dark art. Get it out onto an open road or for a motorway dash though, and it becomes a lovely thing to be in and behold. Its weight also aids its solid feel and this is where it is most at home. Nimble busy city streets and parking are understandably not its forte.

Audi has used the e-tron to push boundaries and like most experiments, it can be hit and miss. The engineers have done an impressive job of making it all work together though, with the one exception being the rear view cameras in place of mirrors. Inside, a screen on each door replaces casual glances outside and in theory these are better than mirrors, especially when it’s raining – when they offer a clear view as opposed to a wet mirror. However, at times they make it more difficult than it should be to position the car, but they are an interesting talking point that will no doubt be refined in future models.

Range is rated at a reasonable 240 miles from its 95kWh battery, which is less than the competition but still an admirable distance. This should be plenty for most, but it is a shame the car has been made so heavy that range is restricted. Answering that is the ever-growing abundance of rapid charge points, with the car supporting up to 150kW that should equate to a 0-80% battery charge up time of 30 minutes.

The Sportback is available in three trims: S line, Launch Edition and Vorsprung, as well as two battery packs: 50 quattro (71kWh) or 55 quattro (95kWh). Each comes fully equipped, with the higher trim grades gaining mostly cosmetic updates. S line comes with 21-inch alloys, air suspension and MMI Nav Plus.

So, is the e-tron Sportback worth your money? Yes and no. The Sportback manages to appeal to all the right senses and offers a truly luxurious ride complemented by a smooth and well-sorted electric powertrain. It’s a technology show-off and a good Tesla alternative. It also looks the business and despite being subtly styled, attracts admiring glances wherever you go. And surely, to some measure, that’s the point.

The Verdict
Lower boot line doesn’t hinder practicality much, but elevates the e-tron into an expensive but smart electric cruiser.

The Lowdown
Key fleet model: Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro
Strengths: Quality fit and finish; sleek looks
Weaknesses: Range and price

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Peter Richaud

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