As part of the judging of the semifinalists for the North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) awards last week, I had the time to spend a bit of time behind the wheel of the Audi e-tron quattro, the company’s first foray into the electric vehicle space.
Yes, so. . .
Not to put too sharp a point on it: It really is remarkable.
I’m not going to go down the road of claiming that this is some sort of “Tesla-killer.”
Rather, what is notable about this vehicle is that it is both ordinary and extraordinary.
Isn’t that contradictory?
The ordinary part is that the e-tron has the appearance of a midsize, five-passenger SUV. There is really nothing that says: “Look at me, I’m an electric vehicle.”
And that is by design.
Audi product planners deliberately decided to create a vehicle that might appeal to people who are interested in the vehicle as what it is as a whole, not just in terms of what powers it.
(This, of course, could be a two-edged sword, in that there are probably a certain number of people who want an EV because they want to be seen in an EV. That said, there’s nothing to sniff at vis-à-vis Audi design, so for those who are looking for a vehicle that has the handsome appearance of the vehicle—regardless of what’s under the hood—then they’ve got it.)
Elements of the e-tron
The electrical architecture is solid. It has a 95-kWh battery that provides an EPA-estimated range of 204 miles. This is a vehicle that has standard quattro all-wheel drive, but unlike the setup for an Audi Q8, the e-tron has two electric motors.
There is a an axially parallel asynchronous induction motor in the front.
There is a coaxial asynchronous induction motor in the rear.
Combined there is a total 335 hp.
However, if the “Boost mode” is engaged—yes, there is something about EVs that seems to require some sort of Star Trek-like ability to go into hyperdrive—402 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque are generated, propelling the car from 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds.
But then those 204 miles of range are, well, reduced. Rapidly.
Odds are, if you have a vehicle with an internal combustion engine you have a gas tank of, say, 17 gallons. And let’s say that your driving habits are such that you get 20 mpg.
So that means a total range of 340 miles. A considerable difference from 204 miles. Enough to make someone feel a bit uncomfortable, even though there is an abundance of stats indicating that people generally don’t go 204 miles in one fell swoop.
What’s more, there is something else that benefits the e-tron. . .
As a result of “Dieselgate,” Volkswagen of American is making a BIG investment—on the order of $2-billion over 10 years—in building out EV charging stations and promoting EVs. Audi, of course, is a VW Group brand. And Electrify America is the brand that VW has established to fulfill its EV mandate.
According to the company: “As of July 1, 2019, Electrify America has begun implementing both the Cycle 2 National and California ZEV Investment Plans and expects to install or have under development approximately 800 total charging station sites with about 3,500 chargers by December 2021. Over this 30-month investment cycle, Electrify America will expand to 29 metros and 45 states, including two cross-country routes.”
So the anxiety can be quelled, especially as when DC fast charging is deployed, 80% of the e-tron battery can be recharged in 30 minutes.
No, this not about talking to a vehicle’s head unit.
Audi is working with Amazon—specifically through its Home Services—to provide a 240-volt charging system in one’s home or other specified area.
OK. Yes, there is Amazon Alexa integration so you can talk to the e-tron head unit.
Return to Start
Although I had but a short amount of time in the vehicle, I can honestly say that it really is an impressive execution, not just of an EV, but of a premium SUV.
Yes, it has a starting MSRP of $74,800, but were it to have an internal combustion engine powering it, odds are the price wouldn’t be that much different.
Which is to say that not only is this a good car, but a good value, contextually speaking.
While you are probably familiar with origami, the classic art of paper folding that results in things like birds that flap their wings when you pull the tail, or plot devices in one of the Blade Runner films.
Airbags are seemingly everywhere on the interior of vehicles. But what about on the outside? One day we could see them there, too.
The thing about the Wrangler Willys Wheeler: It is a toy for a grown-up boy.