2019 Audi e-tron Review

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
March 12, 2019

Buying tip

In this very limited crop of all-electric SUVs and crossovers that are family-sized, the e-tron is the only entry that truly feels like a luxury

The 2019 Audi e-tron is the way for families to go fully electric in a familiar and very luxurious package.

The 2019 Audi e-tron is a spacious, all-electric SUV; the first fully electric vehicle from the German luxury brand best known for its quattro all-wheel-drive system, attractive but conservative exteriors, and well-designed and obsessively detailed cabins. It’s available for 2019 in Premium Plus, Prestige, and Edition 1 versions.

Despite its new electric origins, the e-tron does all of these things—with aplomb—in a size that should be just right for many American families. 

Because of that the e-tron earns one of the higher overall scores here, an 8.4 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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You might not recognize either the e-tron’s newness or know that it’s fully electric at first glance. From a design and styling standpoint, the e-tron fits right into the brand’s lineup and lands somewhere between the Q5 and Q7 SUVs but with a lower stance that gives it the more grounded look of the brand’s Allroad wagons. Inside, the styling is warm and mature and also fits in with the rest of Audi’s current top-of-the-line models.

The e-tron is powered by two electric motors, one at the front and one at the rear. Performance is quiet and quick, and the e-tron tends to feel even faster than its 5.5-second 0-60 mph time suggests. The multi-mode air suspension, combined with the low-mounted,  1,540-pound battery pack (it’s below the passenger floor), helps keep the vehicle’s center of mass low. An innovative braking system helps maximize regenerative braking to recover the most energy when decelerating, and the e-tron maneuvers well and handles like a lighter, lower vehicle.

Ride comfort in the e-tron is great, with a calm and composed feel for all passengers. It’s extraordinarily quiet—a point that deserves recognition because you tend to notice road noise more in electric vehicles. Its cabin could otherwise be easily mistaken for that of Audi’s current SUVs with great, supportive front seats and a back seat for three that could accommodate two all day in superb comfort.

The 2019 e-tron hasn’t yet been rated for safety by either of the U.S. agencies, but it includes a active lane control, forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and a full suite of airbags. Audi notes that its battery has its own crash structure.

The e-tron offers features comparable to other Audi models,which says a lot about value as battery packs remain very expensive. Top Prestige models get upgraded upholstery and cooled front seats, as well as a Driver Assistance package. All models come with Bang & Olufsen sound and Audi’s new MMI Touch Response system, which includes support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and, perhaps not to everyone’s delight, moves controls almost entirely to touchscreens.

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2019 Audi e-tron

Styling

On the outside, nobody will mistake the 2019 e-tron for anything but an Audi, while the cabin styling reminds those inside that they’re in a luxury vehicle first and foremost.

Compared both to comparably priced luxury models and to other electric vehicles like the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace, the 2019 Audi e-tron offers up balanced proportions, a cohesive exterior styling, and a clean, detailed cabin design. Considering that, it earns a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

If we have a single complaint about the styling of the e-tron it’s that it simply isn’t that daring. Perhaps wisely here, Audi has decided that the jump to a fully electric powertrain is enough of a leap in itself, and so it’s designed its electric model to fit alongside its gasoline models.

Although the e-tron is a fully electric vehicle, it doesn’t go to daring design extremes and rejigger the proportions by shortening the hood (as you can with electric cars because there’s no need to plan for the space of engines and transmissions). The two-box crossover profile land at a halfway point between Audi’s SUVs and its wagons. Depending which vehicle you see it next to, the e-tron might look more like a somewhat low-set Q7 or a brawny, taller Allroad version of an A6 wagon. Outside of some distinct wheels and a yellow e-tron badge alongside the front fenders (with the charging door on the left side), this is certainly no outlier for design, but it’s a classy, good-looking luxury vehicle.

Inside, it’s mostly the same story. Audi has created a cabin look and feel that’s technologically advanced and yet also warm, understated, and mature. With every soft-touch, warm-tone surfaces, the cabin has a soft ambience that contrasts well with the dark-toned trim pieces that frame functional hubs, like the two screens at the center. There’s just enough matte-metallic brightwork—around the center console, steering wheel, and across the dash’s midline—to visually lift it a bit, but not so much so as to appear overwrought.

The most gimmicky, perhaps overstyled part of the e-tron is its shifter, which is different than what’s in Audi’s gasoline models and arguably is as awkward as it looks: a stationary piece on top with the actual shift lever a piece just below that tilts back and forth with fingertips.

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2019 Audi e-tron

Performance

The e-tron is quiet and quick—not nimble, but confident and precise in every way. If you want an extra dose of performance, hold on for next year.

The 2019 e-tron is everything an electric vehicle should be. It’s quiet and quick, and shows off the strengths of having so much torque available pretty much instantaneously.

For its strong performance, above-average ride and handling, all-weather and light off-roading ability, and towing capability, the e-tron is just as versatile as some of the best gasoline SUVs you might compare it to. That’s earned it a rating of 8 out of 10 in this category. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The e-tron has two motors that operate independently at their respective axles. The rear motor makes 224 horsepower and 262 pound-feet, while the front motor makes 184 hp and 228 lb-ft. Since the motors produce nearly all of their torque just past zero revs, and they rev very high compared to gasoline engines, there’s no need for a multi-gear transmission.

Peak power (not yet officially listed for the system) is provided via a Boost Mode that can sustain that for eight seconds at a time, enabled by engaging Sport mode and pushing the accelerator past the floor detent.

Audi quotes a 5.5-second 0-60 mph time for the e-tron, but its responsiveness and quiet, pin-you-back launches suggest even better—it’s so drama-free. You hear the faint whine of the motors only when you’re accelerating rapidly.

Brakes in the e-tron are unlike those in any other electric vehicle. Thanks to a complex, electromechanical arrangement, the e-tron uses the motor/generators when you lightly step on the brake pedal, and use the brake pads only when more you step harder on the pedal..  

Stopping aside, the e-tron has three settings for regeneration—what happens when you ease/lift off the accelerator but don’t touch the brake. The first mode is essentially coast mode, while the most aggressive mode feels like driving a gasoline car in one lower gear than normal (about 0.18g of deceleration). Separately, an Automatic mode considers following distance, map data, and other factors. In any of these modes, the e-tron feels intended to mimic the experience in a gasoline vehicle, not provide the “one-pedal driving” experience (where you might be able to avoid touching the brake pedal) of a Tesla, a BMW i3, or a Nissan Leaf (with e-Pedal)—or a golf cart, for that matter.

Otherwise, the behavior of the e-tron in stop-and-go traffic feels meant to mimic that of gasoline vehicles, with some measure of idle creep (forward movement when you lift off the brake pedal) dialed in.

Governing how the e-tron reacts is Drive Select, which offers Auto, Comfort, Efficiency, Individual, Offroad, and Allroad modes. Depending on what’s dialed up, the air suspension can raise the e-tron by 3.0 inches for moderate off-roading or deep snow (we did some churning through sand in an early drive). For those who want to tweak the settings themselves, there are Comfortable, Balanced, and Dynamic drive modes that affect steering and ride.

The e-tron is easy to maneuver and place in parking lots and within narrower lanes; the low center of mass from the battery pack’s mounting under the floor helps the whole vehicle feel balanced and confident, even though it isn’t tuned to be particularly sharp, firm, or performance-focused.

The e-tron can also tow up to 4,000 pounds when equipped with the towing package.

Sometime next year, a higher-performance version of the e-tron will arrive, featuring two motors in back—for a total of three—plus a more aggressive traction and stability control system that should aid performance driving.

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2019 Audi e-tron

Comfort & Quality

The 2019 e-tron has all the attributes of Audi’s excellent SUVs, with a comfortable, tightly assembled and well-detailed cabin.

The 2019 Audi e-tron gets a 9 for comfort thanks to its exceptional back-seat comfort and spaciousness, its cargo space and versatility, and its smooth, very quiet ride. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

As such, it fits right into the Audi lineup without any odd packaging quirks. If you can put aside the fact that you have to charge the e-tron rather than fill it up—and deal with all the consequences that come with that—it’s just a good Audi family crossover, in all the ways that you might expect.

Size-wise, the e-tron lands at about the midpoint between the Audi Q5 and Q7/Q8 crossovers. At about 193 inches long, 76 inches wide, and 66 inches tall, it’s sized most closely with the Mercedes-Benz GLE, the BMW X5, and Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it’s not as tall as any of those vehicles. Or to put it another way, it’s a taller, somewhat rugged version of a mid-size sport wagon.

In following, the driving position also feels like a halfway point between passenger cars and SUVs. You sit closer to the dash relative to where you would be within a passenger car, and yet the low beltline allows a vantage point that’s more like that of an SUV. (The big, 95-kwh battery pack sits mostly under the passenger floor.) Back support is good and the seats feel good for a long day of road-tripping.

Back-seat space in the e-tron feels normally apportioned—not mashed into an elevated floor, to make room for batteries, like in some electric vehicles. Two adults can be comfortable here for hours in the outboard spots—three would fit just fine on the way out to dinner or across town.

The e-tron still follows some very traditional proportions, and there’s no engine up front, so that leaves some extra space. There, a front trunk—”frunk” is the increasingly common term—serves as a place where charging cables can be stored, or a couple of small carry-ons or backpacks.

In back, the cargo capacity is every bit what you’d expect in a gasoline SUV: 28.5 cubic feet with the rear seat back up and 57 cubic feet with it folded forward.

You tend to notice road noise much more in electric vehicles, where there’s no engine noise or accompanying driveline vibrations. To keep the cabin quiet, Audi uses a long list of measures—including underbody shielding, acoustic side glass, and foam-filled structural members—without the need for active noise cancellation technology.

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2019 Audi e-tron

Safety

The 2019 Audi e-tron hasn’t yet been crash tested or rated for safety, but it’s loaded with active-safety tech.

Audi has a very impressive record for safety and occupant protection. Although the e-tron is a new kind of vehicle, it builds on Audi’s engineering expertise and incorporates some features that keep specific points, like the battery pack, protected in an impact.

The battery pack has its own frame and aluminum crash structure that help dissipate energy. Audi says that the battery pack has been bonded above its cooling system, which helps keep the coolant fluids away from the cells in the event of a collision. The pack itself has 36 cell modules that can be replaced individually as needed.

Federal and IIHS crash-test results for the e-tron are not yet available, so we can’t yet rate it. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Standard equipment is good, and right in line with what’s expected in a luxury vehicle today. The e-tron includes an active lane control system, forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and a full suite of airbags.

Adaptive cruise control with Traffic Jam assist is optional, and it can control the brakes, steering, and accelerator for short distances to assist drivers. That, plus traffic sign recognition, are all part of the Premium Plus, as part of a $2,850 Driver Assistance Plus package, which is included on the upper Prestige model.  

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2019 Audi e-tron

Features

The 2019 Audi e-tron has a strong feature set that’s comparable to gasoline models in the same price range.

The 2019 Audi e-tron has a strong standard-feature set, an advanced, high-tech interface, and a suite of advanced driver-assist features. On our feature scale it earns an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Outside of a special Edition 1 version of the e-tron that hasn’t yet been detailed (but will include exclusive wheels), there are two ways to get this vehicle in U.S. spec: Premium Plus and Prestige.

All of these models include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and Audi’s latest infotainment and vehicle controls that have done away with the old rotary selector and touch pad and is now entirely touchscreen (and voice) based.

The top of the system’s two haptic-feedback touchscreens is 10.1 inches and is where you go for audio, navigation, information services, and charging, while the lower screen is 8.6 inches and is the home of climate control and other vehicle functions. The lower screen also recognizes handwriting, and there are expanded voice commands. Our time with this system has been limited and we’re still not convinced that purging most physical controls (and putting the climate controls so far down from the line of sight) is a good solution.

A head-up display is a useful no-fuss convenience that could help parents stay focused, as is the adaptive cruise control with Traffic Jam assist and traffic sign recognition.

Standard features at the “base” Premium Plus level include heated and cooled front seats, Bang & Olufsen premium sound, and a surround-view camera system with virtual 3D view. The Prestige model, for about $7,000 more, adds a head-up display, an air quality package with ionizer and fragrance, power door closers, and individual contour seats with Valcona leather and a massage function for the front seats.

A Driver Assistance package is also included in the Prestige or a $2,850 option on the Premium Plus. It brings an enhanced adaptive cruise control system with turn assist, maneuver assist, and efficiency assistant—a set of predictive functions governing the behavior of the powertrain and chassis systems—plus lane departure prevention, an intersection assistant, and traffic-sign recognition.

A $900 Cold Weather package adds adaptive wipers with heated washer jets, heated outboard rear seats, and a higher-output heater with enhanced cabin and battery pre-conditioning. Rear side airbags are a standalone $400 option. And if you plan to tow, the $650 tow package is mandatory, and it brings a 4,000-pound towing capacity.

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2019 Audi e-tron

Fuel Economy

The 2019 Audi e-tron is tailpipe-emissions-free, and it has a smart set of aids that help save energy; but its efficiency doesn’t quite match up to Tesla.

With 248 miles of rated range in the European WLTP test and an anticipated EPA range of 204 miles, the e-tron aces our fuel-economy scale with a 10 out of 10 rating. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Based on our drives of early models, we expect the e-tron’s real-world range to be in the vicinity of 200 miles.

That’s not as efficient in terms of miles per kwh as Tesla vehicles. The Tesla Model X, for instance, goes 238 miles from a 75-kwh battery pack (75D) and up to 295 miles from a 100-kwh battery pack (100D). The e-tron’s range puts it in close company with the Jaguar I-Pace, which gets an EPA-rated 234 miles out of an official 90 kwh.  

The e-tron also has a number of clever features that should help prevent the dramatic loss of driving range (and efficiency) in winter driving. Its heat-pump system can take up to 3 kw of actual power loss from the electrical components and use them for cabin heating.

The e-tron’s charge port is located on the driver’s side right front fender. It will be one of the fastest-charging electric vehicles when it reaches the market. It can charge to 80 percent on a 150-kw CCS (Combo) DC fast charger in just 30 minutes. Those chargers are becoming increasingly common and are part of Electrify America’s charging-infrastructure push. With a Level 2 AC charger—the kind that you might have installed at home or in the garage, or find at some hotels—the e-tron can be fully charged in as little as 9 hours.  

It’s worth mentioning, with any plug-in vehicle, that while the e-tron doesn’t emit anything from a tailpipe, it’s only as green as the electric grid it sources energy from—wind, solar, coal, nuclear, hydro, or natural gas, for instance.

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$74,800
MSRP based on Premium Plus quattro
 
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8.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 10
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