Agility is outstanding, aided by a low centre of gravity, and so is traction, which clearly benefits from the speed at which the drive can switch from front to rear and between each of the rear wheels. Both improve on those of the E-tron Sportback, itself a very impressive car in its own right.
The variable-ratio steering is lacking in ultimate feel, but the chassis is well up to the job. You can hook the E-tron S Sportback up with lurid oversteer on a circuit. On public roads, the handling proves entertainingly fluid, if perhaps not quite as whip-crack sharp as Audi would have you believe.
It doesn’t ride as calmly as the E-tron 55 Sportback, either. Firmer springs and uprated dampers do a great job of reining in body movement, but in combination with the standard 285/45-profile 21in tyres fitted to our test car, they also take the edge off the ride refinement. There’s greater vertical movement over pockmarked roads and the E-tron S Sportback is more sensitive to coarse surfaces than its more softly sprung and liberally damped sibling.
With a 95kWh lithium ion battery, the claimed range is quite respectable at 227 miles on the WLTP test cycle. Judicious use of the throttle quickly depletes energy reserves, though. Along with standard mains power, the new Audi can be charged at either 11kW via a wallbox or a rapid 150kW charger.
Visually, the E-tron S Sportback is differentiated from the E-tron Sportback by its unique front wings, which are 23mm wider than the E-tron 55 Sportback’s to house wheels of up to 22in in diameter. The car also boasts a new front bumper design.
Buyers can choose between the Sportback bodystyle here, or the more upright stance of the E-tron SUV model, which brings added versatility and a larger boot.