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The new Audi e-Tron: Narrowing the gap between comfort and dynamics

The new Audi e-Tron: Narrowing the gap between comfort and dynamics


When you think massive gobs of smoothness, you generally think equally massive old-school engines that reside in huge engine bays in front of very large heavy luxury sedans. Those huge engines are to a large extent well past the point of big jumps in development, at least in today’s world and environment. Even sports cars and the engineers behind them put their faith in lighter, tighter, often crazier power plants that are kept civilized by large amounts of computer control.

Enter the electrics. We have seen full electrics as an answer for economic and environmental concerns, such as with the less expensive economic cars. We have seen full electrics as the answer for putting massive power down for grin-producing acceleration runs. But there is a world in between.

And for the Audi e-tron SUV, that world is quite comfortable.

It makes sense, we have internal combustion engines maximized for efficiency or for power, yet it is the smoothness of power delivery that may well be the key attribute of the all-electric engine. In the case of the Audi e-tron SUV, the power comes on appropriately smoothly. You will be extremely happy with the power delivery and torque, but it isn’t neck-snapping. Which is fine, the e-trong being a two and a half ton SUV. The 300 kW of power (408 hp) is delivered by two electric motors out to all four wheels as needed and demanded. The power delivery is always on hand if you need it, but it never unsettles the car. And we tried. We accelerated hard as we turned the wheel quickly, the vehicle stayed stable and planted. No oscillation or bouncing or big mass shifts, which is of course testament to the excellently tuned air suspension. You have all the modes you would want, on road or off road or “what the heck is that.” It will eat up terrain exactly as you would expect from a big Audi SUV. With comfort and style, but always with technical mastery.

The e-tron SUV is in most ways just what you would expect. It is supportive rather than intrusive. It has the familiar external aesthetics of the Audi SUV line, but is a little bit sleeker especially when lower to the ground as chosen via the mode choices. Inside the cabin is the familiar look and feel of what you expect from Audi, technically and ergonomically spot-on but wrapped in intelligent luxury. Don’t expect a bleeding-edge dashboard design, everything is really more holistically Audi than over-screened or anything. Technology here is meant to support rather than define.

Perhaps that is the whole idea. Technology, as masterful as they may be with it, is really meant to be supportive to the ends. In sports cars and GT cars like the e-torn GT and the still-roaring R8, technology serves to push the experience of speed and handling past limits you thought existed. With the e-torn SUV is in service to the appropriately isolated and comfortable drive while still being able to behave within the parameters of what is expected of an Audi.

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If you decide to bring one home, you are looking at a stated range of just over 400 kilometers. You are also looking at your own charging station, because the e-trans are delivered with two chargers. One is to be installed in your home, another fits in a bag that can go under your hood because, well, there is no more engine there. That flexibility of design, by the way, is what makes the SUV so deceptive. The designers and engineers are able to put things together far more efficiently, so there is more internal space than you would expect given what seems to be a tighter body design. The first big Audi SUVs were visually huge and imposing. The e-tron SUV gives off more “lithe” than “lumbering.” And it has the handling to back it up.

Overall, the new SUV from the guys with the four rings is less about electricity itself and more about what the technology can deliver. More flexibility in design and engineering, in balance and weight distribution, in the balance of comfort and dynamic driving. Basically, electricity lets everything else sparkle a little bit better.