Audi has distilled the various qualities for which its revered brand is known and given all of them a new future-proofed home in its first series-production electric car: the E-tron Quattro SUV.
Sized to fit in between the firm’s existing Q5 and Q7 models but offering interior space to rival the latter, the E-tron is powered by a separate electric motor per axle and develops 402bhp and 487lb ft of torque in ‘boost’ driving mode. A Jaguar I-Pace is smaller, lighter, torquier and faster – but interestingly the E-tron beats its close British rival on overall battery capacity, offering 95kWh of storage, which is good for a claimed WLTP combined range of 249 miles.
Our first taste of the E-tron came in late 2018, on roads out in the Middle East, where the car impressed most with its classy and refined cabin ambience, its quiet cruising abilities and its Audi-brand-typical apparent build quality. The driving experience was impressive too, not least for its responsiveness and muscular feel up to motorway speeds, while precise and well-balanced handling completed the picture. Subsequent tests in the UK – not least with the recent Sportback variant – show that the car’s ride quality is also a selling point.
So the regular E-tron’s strong suits make it a superb luxury car, although it doesn’t have quite as much driver appeal as certain rivals. Audi’s solution to this has been to launch the 496bhp E-Tron S Sportback, whose sensationally versatile rear-axle drive unit gives it a degree of adjsutability beyond the basic E-Tron. At nearly £90,000 it’s pricey, but potentially worth it for pace, panache and the novelty factor of safely and intuitively sending an electric SUV sideways on a whim.
The sheer size and bulk of Tesla’s biggest model, the seven-seat Model X SUV, is what penalises it relative to its range-mates.
It’s currently in a league of one as far as all-electric seven-seat SUVs are concerned, and so it seems a bit churlish to criticise it in some ways. Nonetheless, if you’re expecting Model S range and performance in a bigger, more versatile package, you’re headed for disappointment. Our testing suggests even range-topping 100kWh versions of the car won’t go much further than 200 miles at typical UK motorway speeds, with the cheaper ones struggling to pass 150 unless you’re conservative with your cruising speed.
Still, if that kind of range suits your purposes, you’ll find an awful lot to like here. With upper-level versions packing more than 600 horsepower, the Model X is well capable of beating 4.0sec to 60mph and can feel fast in a way you wouldn’t believe possible of such a large and heavy car. Handling is dulled somewhat by the car’s mass, but still more than credible enough to make the Model X feel coherent at pace.
Meanwhile, until you’ve seen a pair of all-electric gullwing doors opening automatically in a multi-storey car park and cleverly avoiding any nearby cars or masonry while doing it, you won’t fully appreciate the Model X’s party trick.