Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Despite the Sportback’s, erm, ‘sporty’ aesthetic, it never feels particularly quick from behind the wheel. Part of this is down to the car’s hefty 2480kg kerb weight, and the large amount of energy required to get it rolling, but it’s also to do with the Sportback’s surprisingly firm accelerator pedal.
Compared with the Jaguar I-Pace’s almost hair-trigger response, you have to really stab at the Sportback’s accelerator pedal if you want access to the car’s full performance. Do so and it will accelerate from 0-62mph in an impressive, if not exactly thrilling, 5.7 seconds, but don’t forget, both the I Pace and Tesla Model X can reach 62mph from rest in under five seconds. Plus the E-tron only gives you the full beans (402bhp, to be precise) if you’re in S mode, and even then, you only get it in eight second bursts.
However, it doesn’t take long behind the wheel to recognise that Audi has clearly prioritised refinement over outright driving thrills with the Sportback. Not only are the electric motors almost silent under acceleration, but once you’re up to motorway speeds, there’s very little road noise, and virtually no wind noise, thanks in part to the use of highly aerodynamic camera-based door mirrors (see visibility section for more on the latter) that help it slice more cleanly through the air than the I-Pace.
What’s arguably even more impressive, though, is what happens when you slow down. Despite juggling between regenerative braking (this effectively uses the electric motors as dynamos to charge the battery) and regular friction brakes, the middle pedal offers a reasonable amount of feel and makes it quite easy to slow your progress smoothly. That’s quite a rare thing in hybrid and electric cars.
This, combined with the progressive accelerator pedal, makes smooth driving easy, while the standard sport air-suspension does an impressive job of wafting you along, especially in comfort mode. Indeed, the Sportback deals with all manner of lumps and bumps better than a Model X or a Mercedes EQC, and is roughly on a par with the I-Pace for comfort.
If you switch the suspension to Dynamic mode, things become noticeably more jiggly over broken city streets, but it’s the setting you’ll want to engage on faster undulating roads, because it keeps vertical body movements more tightly controlled and reduces the extent to which passengers are thrown around, to the benefit of driver confidence and passenger comfort alike. It’s important to highlight, though, that despite the Sportback’s linear steering and impressive body control, it still feels rather heavy during quick changes of direction – you’ll detect more body lean than you would in an I–Pace and the Audi’s front end will wash wide at lower speeds than it does in the Jaguar.
We doubt spirited country-road driving will be a priority for many E-tron drivers, though, especially when you consider that even with a full charge, you’ll only see a maximum range of 241 miles – that’s enough for most frequent journeys, but it still falls some way short of the of the I-Pace’s 298 miles and the Model X’s 314miles.
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