Wednesday 23 October 2019

Electric days of romance

Audi claims its big EV is 'concept clarity' in action. Campbell Spray agrees and uses it as a wedding car

FUTURE MEETS CLASSY HERITAGE: The Audi e-tron, outside Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel
FUTURE MEETS CLASSY HERITAGE: The Audi e-tron, outside Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel

Campbell Spray

After our wedding last Wednesday week, there was time to reflect on the quip in Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan by Lord Darlington that a cynic was ​"​a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing".

I had been adding up how much it had cost to stay in The Shelbourne Hotel for a night, have a Champagne lunch for five and go to dinner in The Ivy while the Audi e-tron was valet parked by the hotel overnight after we had driven round from the civil registry office.

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But then I binned the figures in my head. We deserved the night - especially my wife, who takes very few holidays - had saved for it and it was such a memorable time that a cost-benefit analysis was insulting to the occasion.

It's a bit like that with the e-tron, Audi's first fully electric car, which is a large good- looking, five-seater SUV.

The price might be starting around five figures but the value of what the car shows in the development and smoothness of EV driving is more extraordinary.

This is a car of style and refinement. Yet it isn't perfect. The rear load is very high off the ground and therefore, while claiming some 605 litres, isn't as nearly as big or convenient as it should be for the size of the car. Also the comfort for the person in the middle of the back seat is compromised.

There is adaptive air suspension, LED headlights, 360 degree cameras, and, very usefully, charging points on both sides of the vehicle. There is also a whole range of cables for doing this in all situations available in a special container under the bonnet. One option that is getting attention are side cameras instead of mirrors.

However they are apparently about €1,700 extra and I was happy enough that the test model didn't have them. Each axle gets an electric motor - the rear one is more powerful - and both are linked to a large battery pack housed in the floorpan between the wheels. That pack can be charged from 0-80pc in around 8.5 hours from a home wallbox, with rapid charging at service stations taking about 45 minutes, and the next generation of 150kW chargers will bring that down to just 30 minutes.

However, this three-tonne beast with an 0-100km of 6.6 seconds is rather sedate compared to Tesla and the Jaguar I-Pace. It isn't a car to throw around or expect exciting sports car handling from.

The e-tron is very much a gentleperson of the road; solid, confident and extremely comfortable.

Audi claims it is an example of "concept clarity"; in other words, a car that isn't trying to do anything too radical but simply nudging regular premium SUV buyers into trying the new technology. The range of the test car seemed about 350km. Good but not groundbreaking.

The car is totally new in all its parts. Brilliantly well-built and lots of very refined touches. After a combined VRT rebate and SEAI grant, private buyers will get €10,000 off the on-the-road €101,750. Crazily expensive, about €20k above what it should be. But even if few early adopters show leadership and get out of their diesel guzzlers the value of cars like e-tron outweighs such trifles!

In between getting married, I drove two e-trons. I did prefer a more expensive higher-specced one in a rather nice Galaxy Blue than the white one above, however this one seems more appropriate. I won't be staying at the hotel for a bit but it was worth it. Happiness can't be valued. And, as Geraldine Herbert reported here last week from Frankfurt, Volkswagen, Audi's parent,will have a good electric car at under €30k by the end of next year.

But you can't put a price on a good future.

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