What the road ahead for the luxury car manufacturer looks like
The war is on! After much speculation, budgeting and R&D, the world’s biggest car manufacturers are finally here to battle it out with Tesla for world dominance in the electric car market. Most of these automakers have even dedicated sub-brands, like Audi for instance which has the e-tron range. To me, this sounds apt, simply because the word ‘tron’ means ‘instrument’ in Greek and ‘e’ stands for ‘electronic’ in the modern world.
Now, under the e-tron umbrella, exists the GT sedan, the e-tron conventional SUV, and this… the e-tron Sportback, (or SUV coupe, as they call it). And after hours of noiseless and emission-free driving, we finally have a picture of how ready the 2022 Audi e-tron Sportback 55 is for the UAE market and whether it is worth its Dh445,000 price tag!
The simplified Audi aesthetic is written all over this crossover SUV of midsize proportions as observed in the familiar set of straight lines and wedge shapes. But the e-tron gets a little extra in the form of the signature parallel-line motifs seen in a few places like the DRLs under the powerful Matrix LED headlamps, on the ‘Singleframe’ grille, and in the rear lamps as well. The real distinction, however, comes from the seamlessly executed fastback roofline (unlike some Merc and BMW vehicles), the end-to-end LED rear lamp, and, most importantly, the curiously shaped winglets on either side of the vehicle, which have replaced the side-view mirrors. Our car also had the S-line package that added a few other visual niceties and sporty 21-inch wheels as well.
The win for Audi here is that it embodies the understated elegance that is typically Audi, but the negative is just that, as rival EVs usually tend to stand out a little. But the interiors will certainly sway you back in its favour.
Yes, that sloping roofline may be a concern for some of you, so let me start by stating that the rear cabin is a commodious space with plenty of leg and headroom. The backbenchers never felt neglected, thanks to the view of the skyscrapers through the panoramic sunroof, the liberty of setting their own temperatures via the 4-zone climate control system, and access to their social channels on their smartphones via the car’s WiFi hotspot. If you have a child, know that the rear seat comes with ISOFIX child seat mounting points, and if you have luggage know that the boot at 615-litres is large enough for any regular family and can be extended to 1,655 litres, if needed.
This takes us to the front cabin, and it is here you see where all that money was spent. It’s a dark-themed future-forward design with ample samples of chrome trims and precision-cut strips of LED lights which create an ambience worthy of the novelty i.e., the electric car. The selection of high-quality materials, like soft plastics, wood trims and leatherette surfaces is top drawer and the coming together of parts is a lesson on fit-and-finish. And all seats were upholstered in supple Okapi Brown leather, which add to the overall richness. Specifically, from the driver’s perspective, I commend it for its chunky 3-spoke steering wheel and the comfortable shift lever that also doubles as a hand rest, one of the largest we have seen.
The e-tron Sportback also satisfies the tech gen by hosting a multitude of screens. The winglets we saw on the outside house HD cameras whose view shows up on two small displays on both front doors, thereby completely eliminating the use of conventional side-view mirrors. And these views can be easily adjusted on the screen itself. However, the positions of these ‘side view’ screens are awkward and perhaps should have been located on either side of the steering wheel. Then you have a customisable 12-3-inch instrument cluster and a stacked set of screens on the centre console, the larger 12.1-inch one is designated for sat nav, multimedia, and vehicular settings while the smaller 8.8-inch unit serves climate control adjustments for the aircon and seat. And although we quite prefer the tactility of physical controls, this Audi does well with its touch screen response and its reception to “natural language” inputs. The vertical slot for the wireless charger wasn’t in the most intuitive location though.
Electric cars have been made famous by their acceleration figures and not necessarily by how much they offset one’s carbon footprint. So, the big question here is how quick is the e-tron Sportback 55? On every outing, we tested the potency of its 2 electric motors (one on each axle) and we can say that with every dip of the “gas” pedal, it sprinted ahead with purposeful power getting to 100 km/h in an adequately brisk 6.6 seconds. But with 561 Nm on tap, you would expect it to be a tad quicker in a straight, but the e-tron is deceptively heavy. The onboard, or unfloor rather, 95kWh battery pack makes it about as hefty as the 8th generation Rolls-Royce Phantom. And if you are used to the loud engine noises while accelerating hard, you may be disappointed. I suggest you turn up the volume on the optional but fantastic Bang & Olufsen audio system. But I actually enjoyed the Zen-like silence for a change.
Despite its weight, it stops in a linear and predictable manner. And the vehicle also comes with paddle shifters, quite surprisingly! Wait, paddle shifters? Yes, you can adjust the rate of regenerative braking, thereby taking the load off the large 18-inch rotors and even allowing one pedal driving in most situations.
The e-tron Sportback lives up to its luxury nameplate by achieving a great level of waftability over road imperfections, courtesy of the adaptive air suspension and library-like silence thanks to a well-insulated cabin. Add to this the convenience of adaptive cruise assist and the reassurance of a multitude of safety features like pre-collision braking tech and seatbelt pretensioners, and you can enjoy a truly relaxed journey be it in the city or on the highway.
Again, from the driver’s seat, thanks to the great level of all-around visibility, well-weighted steering feel and the traction offered by the quattro all-wheel drive system, I always felt in control even around tight turns or high-speed sweeping corners. Its city-friendly size and bird’s eye view also helped navigate cramped parking lots with ease.
We didn’t have the opportunity to take it to a track or go dune bashing, but we assume it would fare moderately well in those extreme environments, although they are agreeably beyond the scope of its design.
While you may enjoy not frequenting the petrol station, you still have to keep an eye on the range and the proximity of chargers at all times. The claimed range of 373- 452 kms isn’t class-leading by any means but it’s certainly got juice for everyday use and will do a Dubai-Musandam run on a single charge.
The Sportback 55 can be charged with direct current at up to 150 kW at fast-charging stations. In just under half an hour, the battery can go from 5 to 80 per cent, and in another 20 minutes, a full charge can be achieved. But if a DC station is hard to find, you can always plug it into a 230-volt home connection for which you’d have to leave it charging overnight, or better still, use a 400-volt 3-phase outlet with an industrial plug which would shave off several hours. And the good news is, you have charging ports on either side which makes things easy as well.
By downloading the free myAudi app owners can manage several processes remotely. These include querying the battery and range status, programming timers, displaying driving statistics, preheating/precooling functions prior to departure, and so on and so forth, but I’ve heard rival apps are quicker.
With every new product out there, it is always better to have one with a longer warranty period. And as per Audi spec and website, on offer is a noteworthy 5 year/75,000 kms warranty overall and 8 years /160,000 kms limit for the battery alone. The cell packs can also be repaired individually, which is important.
The 2022 Audi e-tron Sportback 55 is a well-rounded argument with a deserving luxury badge in the EV debate. It isn’t as quick or doesn’t have as much range as some of its rivals, but it’s not far behind. It also keeps Audi’s promise of delivering exceptional build quality and cabin comfort. But for its hefty price tag and for a place like Dubai, it could use a little more bling.
When braking from 100 km/h (62.1 mph), the Audi e-tron Sportback can recuperate a maximum of 300 Nm (221.3 lb-ft) and 220 kW
GOOD — Elegant, but understated styling; build quality; creamy smooth ride and top-notch cabin insulation; fancy Virtual Exterior Mirrors
BAD — Lacks the visual distinction of an electric car; could be quicker; pricey
EDITOR’S RATING — 7.5/10 stars
Body type — 5-seater; 5-door premium mid-size SUV coupe
Powertrain — 140kW (front) + 125kW (rear) motors w/ 95kWh (36-cell) battery; all-wheel drive
Transmission — 1-speed automatic
Peak output — 355 bhp / 402 bhp (w/ boost) — 561 Nm
0 to 100km/h — 6.6 seconds (claimed)
Top speed — 200 km/h (electronically limited; claimed)
Price —Starting at Dh375,165
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