Thursday 20 June 2019

How and why e-tron from Audi is big game-changer

Audi E-Tron
Audi E-Tron
Audi E-Tron's interior

John Galvin, Abu Dhabi

The irony of testing Audi's first electric car in oil-rich Abu Dhabi wasn't lost on us, with the launch venue seeming like a statement of intent.

The e-tron is a fully fledged SUV that just happens to take power from a battery and, although it looks like a slightly smaller Q7, it's purpose-built from the ground up. Based on Audi's MEB platform, the e-tron's battery forms the floor of the car, keeping its centre of gravity as low as possible.

The 95kWh battery makes up 700kg of the car's not inconsiderable 2,500kg weight, but that's enough capacity to give a range of 400km-plus. All those amps feed two motors, mounted front and rear, which produce 300kW and 664Nm of torque.

That's enough to take the car to 100kmh in 5.7 seconds and to a limited top speed of 200kmh. Fast charging, up to 150kW DC, is supported - an 80pc charge is possible in around half an hour. 

Audi E-Tron's interior
Audi E-Tron's interior

These chargers aren't in Ireland yet, but Audi plans to introduce them, along with a single account allowing a multitude of charging solutions. 

By mid-2019, the plan is that no smart cards will be necessary - the car will self-authorise.

The charging covers, on the front wing, open and retract electrically, and for the Irish market there will be a charging slot on both sides. It's a bit strange to set off in an SUV in almost total silence. In every other respect, the driving experience is almost indistinguishable from a conventional car, and the e-tron does all you could reasonably ask of an SUV.

It even has a towing capacity of 1,800kg. Having two motors means quattro four-wheel drive, although for efficiency reasons in normal conditions most power is sent to the rear motor.

The front comes into play when necessary.  Control systems use predictive logic to adjust torque from either end even before the wheels slip.

Conditions are monitored 20 times a second. Most of our driving was on smooth motorways, and even at high speeds the e-tron was smooth, stable and eerily quiet. 

On the twisty Jebel Hafeet mountain road, with its 7km of twistbacks, the air-suspended chassis was capable and comfortable, resisting understeer well, thanks to that low centre of gravity.  On the way back down we tested the regenerative braking, which imparts 30pc of its range. Up to 0.3g braking, only the motors are used to slow down, contributing energy to the battery.

Careful aerodynamics also help increase range, but to get the best 0.27 figure, you have to specify cameras instead of door mirrors. These transmit an image onto screens at the top of the doors, but I couldn't get on with them. They're smaller than a conventional mirror, less bright, in the wrong position and only contribute 2km to the total range. Thumbs down.

As for the rest, the interior is well up to Audi's standard, with the virtual cockpit fitted from the get go. I'd like to see more details provided on energy usage and recuperation, but that's about it. Luggage space is 600 litres and there's a further 60 under the bonnet taken up with charging leads and puncture kit. The SUV won't be cheap. Prices start at €101,750 (excluding govt grants). Deliveries start early 2019. Make no mistake, it's a true game-changer.

Irish Independent

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