Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron: Eye-catching electric crossover but I expected more from
SUV/Coupe has range, comfort, space... but for the driver, it’s a bit short on verve
The Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron has a lot going for it as a mid-size electric crossover, but there’s work to be done in some key areas.
That’s my blunt, and slightly inelegant, assessment of it after driving this powerful-looking eclectic mix of curves and straight lines a fair bit in the course of a week’s acquaintance.
As a mix of SUV and coupe, the Sportback has a certain presence in the car park, sitting relatively low, its crescent shape roof ending high at the rear. (That’s because the roof slope is more accentuated in this version than it is in the case of the standard Q4 e-tron.)
My e-tron on test had its own unique S Line styling and sported a set of special-looking 20in alloys.
And it has this huge, mega front grille. Most decidedly in-your-face, it joins the ranks of several marques now setting a trend for gaping grilles.
The likes of BMW, Lexus and a few others are masters of the art for how to create major impact. Some are a tad over the top. Audi’s Q4 sets out its stall without over-stretching.
For some reason, maybe it was that sloped roof on the e-tron, I was surprised to find the inside to be so roomy, especially at the back.
The special seats were particularly comfy – and broad – though I was disappointed to find they didn’t have electrical adjustment. There should be on a car of this nature – not to mention price. Having to use plasticky seat-side levers smacked of needless parsimony. Almost as a token there was four-way lumbar adjustment for the front seats.
Inside was capable of taking five adults: three long-legged young people found the rear seats passable for the course of a couple of small-journey drives in their company. All in all, an impressive show.
Boot space was decent too; it can take 520 litres of luggage. Fold down the rear seats and you get 1,490 litres and an appreciation of how much inner space that lies in wait.
All that’s grand in its own way, so far.
The infotainment system took a bit of acquainting ourselves with even by someone whose intelligence, intuition and ease-of-use of some systems far outstrips mine.
Particularly baffling was a lack of response to audio controls from the central panel which were at the mercy of the controls on the steering wheel.
There were positive elements to factor in for the driving side of things. Power eased seamlessly, delivering the sort of acceleration only an electric power source can give you from the very start.
I wouldn’t say it excelled on the open road as far as handling and ride were concerned but that element of the drive was rewarding enough as the roads were smooth and there were no sharp bends to bother with.
It was when I tried it out over tighter and twistier roads that not-so-positive results emerged. Even with the sports suspension working for me and having it in the most energetic drive mode (there are several) it came across as being less than the taut drive I hoped it would be.
The up-and-down movement wasn’t well dampened at all – there had been hints at that on the open road – and combining that with its tendency to need more steering effort left me disappointed.
With all that technology around me, I expected more from a driver’s perspective. I know taller cars have higher centres of gravity but that wasn’t the issue with this; body roll wasn’t notable that much.
I usually attach a caveat to criticism of that nature because the logic in me (what’s left of it) argues that few family folk behind the wheel are going to demand-drive as much as I did. It just wouldn’t be right if they had passengers on board, especially. My main reason for mentioning it is that I expected more; that’s all.
On a more positive note, this Q4 got me around town a lot – all those little journeys that rack up the kilometres. That’s where it showed real potential to save the battery with energy regeneration especially. And, despite its size, it posed no problems in parking or, indeed, fitting into the narrow corrals of roads such as those between south Co Dublin and Heuston Station.
I know Audi claims 529kms of range between charges. You can usually trim such figures by 50km to 70km for real-world driving. I’d knock 50km – leaving impressive potential to get you decent distances. It imbued confidence in me over longer trips – so much so I only checked in now and again on what was left in the battery. In some EVs I’d be checking every couple of kilometres.
So there you have it. Audi have come up with a car that’s more than good to look at; has plenty of room, is well specced (it would want to be for the price) but is let down somewhat by its handling and ride.
Factfile – Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron
Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron 40 S Line mid-size electric SUV/Coupe. Car tested €64,130; with extras €68,133. 82kWh battery, 200hp output, 529kms range. Standard spec includes 20ins alloys, front sports seats (heated), sport suspension, drive select, reversing camera, parking system-plus, adaptive cruise control, swerve/turn assist, comfort package, LED rear lights, 4-way lumbar support for front seats.
Options include panoramic glass sunroof, tinted rear windows, SONOS premium sound system.