When releasing their first EVs, each “heritage” carmaker approaches the task in a manner that is meant to align with their core equities. Audi has thus elected to privilege a kind of precise, technical gravitas. The car and all of its systems feature the brand’s endemic purity: clean interior and exterior design, quality but subdued materials, LCD-forward haptic driver interfaces (three screens!) generally unmarred by fussy buttons.
Even the thinking about range and charging, known in Audi-speak as “electric ecosystem,” reflect this unpretentious sincerity. Audi plans to diminish consumer perceptions of range anxiety by smoothly paving a pathway toward 240-volt in-home charging where 80% of power-ups take place. It will accomplish this, rationally, utilizing Amazon Home Services much as Kia has already done. With just a few clicks, you can get a quote and book a contractor, and in no time your E-Tron will be as juiced up as a Russian power lifter.
Outside of the home, Audi is staking its faith on a spate of new 150-kW fast(ish) chargers that Electrify America will have placed in 950 locations (300 highway and 650 metro-urban) by the end of this year. We had a chance to try out one of these newly installed stations, part of the VW Group’s mandated penance for their Dieselgate dirty tricks, in the far corner of a suburban strip mall outside of Sacramento. It was simple to use. You just download the app, link it to your credit card, scan in the charger you want to use, and jack it in. And then start waiting.
Like every other automaker, Audi is quick to promote the myth that improbable amounts of range can be pumped into its battery pack in comparably improbable amounts of time. Audi’s claims are 163 miles in 30 minutes, or 54 miles in 10. It has designed its battery to charge at a higher, faster rate for a longer duration than any of the competition (apart from certain Teslas at a small but growing number of V3 Superchargers), peaking at 150 kW and remaining there until the battery is nearly three-quarters full. However, in 25 minutes and starting with the battery about half full, we got only 60 miles of juice.
If this had been an actual real-life situation, our Audi E-Tron app and in-dash MMI would have helped figure out where, when, and for how long to stop and charge in order to reach our programmed destination most efficiently, similar to what Tesla does with its Trip Planner.
Even better, the E-Tron would have been using a portion of the 1,000 kWh of free charging on offer to initial takers. Still, Audi might want to consider adding a list of charger-proximate attractions to their comprehensive infotainment display, so that owners can make use of this mandatory downtime by eating lunch, or hitting up the outlet mall, or running a marathon, or watching Wagner’s Ring Cycle. When you’re used to four-minute gas fill-ups, even fast charging is slow.
At any rate, those extra 60 miles were plenty of power to propel the E-Tron the rest of the way up and over the Sierra to Tahoe. This, despite a freak (and range-sapping) snowstorm, the kind of atypical late spring weather likely generated by the very carbon-induced climate change that has necessitated our movement into these zero-tailpipe-emissions vehicles.
With front and rear motors capable of delivering a joint 355 horsepower (or 402 hp for eight-second blips in Sport mode) with the ability to shift all of that power to the front or rear wheels, and with a prodigious 95 kWh battery down low beneath your butt, the E-Tron feels capable of powering through any conditions, climatological or roadway. This perception of permanent plantedness may be due, in part, to its nearly 5,754 pounds (!) of curb weight. It plows through and out of corners like a magnetic earthmover. It moves along and through things, always with eerie silence, as though you are the center of gravity.
This substantiality, and quietude, also denies the E-Tron a sense of speed. 60 mph feels like 40, and the fact that it takes just 5.5 seconds to reach that rate feels oddly unbelievable. Not because it feels slower, but because the speed doesn’t build in a familiar way. The E-Tron is neat, solid, uncanny even. But this is not a fun-to-drive vehicle.
In fact, the most fun had with it was toying with increasing and decreasing the brake- and torque-based battery regeneration capabilities, either with the manual paddles on the steering wheel, or the automatic system, which uses the adaptive cruise control and GPS system to automatically slow the car based on topography and traffic to maximize efficiency and battery regeneration. It also allows for one-pedal driving, which can only be fully appreciated once tried in gridlock traffic.
None of that supposed fun sounds like much of a balm to us car enthusiasts. But, then again, vehicles in this category aren’t expected to be enthusiast-pleasers. This E-Tron is intended to penetrate the market and convert mainstream users to electrification. Down the line, Audi will release sportier electric cars, like the E-Tron GT, for folks who crave speed and corner carving. Be patient. The Trojan Horses have to venture — silently, torque-ily — past the city’s gates before the thoroughbreds can stampede in.
Audi e-tron Information
– 2020 Audi E-Tron Quick Spin Review –
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