Buzzing about the e-tron
The all-electric Quattro ticks all the right boxes in luxury, refinement and quality, writes Philip Hedderman
It's more than a little ironic that Audi chose one of the epicentres of crude oil production to launch its first all-electric vehicle, simply called the e-tron Quattro.
Seasoned motoring journalists who landed in Abu Dhabi last week for the much-anticipated launch had heard rumblings that something seismic was about to happen and sure enough, parent company VW announces that its final internal combustion engines will be phased out from 2026.
By 2025 every third new Audi (or around 800,000 vehicles) will be electrified.
So, the future is well and truly here and it's pretty stunning - coming in the guise of a mid-sized SUV which will slot in between the Q5 and Q7.
Powering this hulking all-wheel drive beast are two electric motors generating a massive 402bhp (300kw), and will sprint from 0-100kph in a sprightly 5.7 seconds.
But, most important of all is the range - tipping the scales at 400km in real world (WLTP) testing and 80pc battery capacity or 300km on a fast charge (150kW), which takes just 30 minutes. Home charging will take around 8.5 hours on 11kW.
It's a big machine, too, with plenty of space for the average family spanning 4.9m in length, 1.9m in width and 1.6m in height. That translates into executive saloon-like head and legroom and a decent boot - boasting a total luggage capacity of 660 litres. And because the batteries run the entire floor of the chassis, there are no intrusive bumps in the cabin while giving the perfect 50/50 weight distribution for sharper handling.
The futuristic design of the car is evident with an EV signature single frame grille in platinum grey, yellow brake callipers and the super slinky wing mirrors - or should I say wing cameras.
You see, these space-age gadgets are indeed high-definition cameras which show, in full technicolour, the road behind on 7-inch OLED screens in the upper doors.
They also come equipped with indicators and blind spot alarm which proved a godsend as it is quite difficult to judge the actual distance of a moving vehicle behind.
Inside it's a sumptuous affair with wall-to-wall leather, heated and air conditioned seats and the same best-in-the-business digital cockpit found in the current A6, A7 and flagship A8 and Q8.
The almost-buttonless centre console is dominated by two state-of-the-art touchscreens - a 10.1in in the upper dash, 8.6in in the lower.
Both have crystal-clear graphics and respond to pinch and swipe commands just like a mobile phone.
A touchbar menu runs across the bottom while a scribble pad instantly recognises names (for phone) or places for the unrivalled Google 3-D maps in the Virtual Cockpit.
Like its fossil fuel brothers and sisters, the e-tron has a start button which illuminates the dash to signal it's ready for the off. Select drive and it will creep away tentatively and in total silence - only the muesli-like crunch of the gravel under the massive 20-inch alloys gives any hint that we are moving.
Take it out on tarmac and the serenity in the cabin is Zen-like with the reading on our internal smugometer reaching 9.9 when we leave a Porsche Cayenne for dead at the traffic lights.
Switching back into Comfort mode from Sport and we waft along the sublime six-lane highways confident in the knowledge that the recuperation technology is extending our range as we cruise.
Climbing what can only be described as the most spectacular mountain roads in the Al Ain region - close to the border with Oman - the range read 106ks remaining.
With over 60 corners, the Jebel Hafeet route climbs 1,200m above sea level and stretches over 10km, which the e-tron absolutely relished.
Thanks to the clever coasting mode, the rear axle motor replenished the battery when braking, while the on-board tech monitors the environment and slows the car automatically when approaching roundabouts or junctions.
When we arrived at our next stop (Emirates Park Zoo, 35km away) the range had effortlessly increased to 126km.
Impressive? Yes, but how would this "proper off-roader" handle the deserts on the outskirts of the city - where camels have reigned supreme for decades?
Considering its almost 2.5 tonne bulk, the Quattro did its job with gusto and once you gave the soft sand and cliff-like dunes a wide berth, I don't think it's going to worry our four-legged friends as much as the oil sheiks.
What it does do is tick all the right boxes in luxury, refinement and quality, but be warned you'll need shares in Opec to buy one as the e-tron 55 Quattro starts at €91,750 - and that's after the government grants.
This is the future though, and I, for one, am literally buzzing about it.