2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback first drive review: Slipstream SUV serenity

Nancy J. Delong

Make no bones about it: Audi’s all-electric E-Tron SUV could have gained superior marks from specialist car reviewers and new entrepreneurs alike, but it hasn’t moved the automaker’s profits needle in the US. In all of pre-pandemic 2019, the Audi offered fewer than 5,four hundred E-Trons here — much less […]

Make no bones about it: Audi’s all-electric E-Tron SUV could have gained superior marks from specialist car reviewers and new entrepreneurs alike, but it hasn’t moved the automaker’s profits needle in the US. In all of pre-pandemic 2019, the Audi offered fewer than 5,four hundred E-Trons here — much less than an average month of Q5 profits. It’s amidst this irritating backdrop that the 2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback product whirs into dealers, its racier slope-again roofline hoping to capture equally eyes and profits.

Centered on visuals on your own, the E-Tron Sportback has been through the now market-standard 4-doorway-coupification process much more efficiently than most luxurious crossover SUVs — EV or not. From the windshield header forward, the Sportback seems to be the very same as its much more standard two-box sibling and indeed, it has just about the very same peak. However, owing to its considerably plunging rearward greenhouse and frameless home windows that cleanse up its roofline, the Sportback seems to be simultaneously decreased and arguably much more trendy, adding in a sprint of athleticism. The Sportback isn’t just slipperier to the eye, it enjoys a .28 coefficient of drag, .02 much better than its boxier relation.

Selection and charging specs are only component of the tale

On the effectiveness front, the Sportback is all but identical to the standard E-Tron, but a variety of incremental advancements across equally entire body styles raise enchantment. Among the the variations, Audi upped the accessible battery capability marginally, escalating the buyer-accessible part of this 95.three-kilowatt-hour pack to 86.5 kWh — just about three much more than initial-year E-Tron designs. This interprets to 218 miles of range and EPA estimates of seventy six MPGe metropolis, 78 freeway and seventy seven mixed. (The rest of the pack is held in reserve to protect longevity.)

When it comes time to juice up, the Sportback supports Stage three one hundred fifty-kW quick charging, which can jolt the battery from % to eighty% in close to thirty minutes. A lot more prevalent Stage 2 chargers (like those most EV entrepreneurs put in) can replenish an full pack in close to 10.5 hrs. Each individual E-Tron also comes with one,000 kWh of complimentary charging as a result of the Electrify The usa community.

Talking of filling up, the Sportback is accessible with twin cost ports, 1 on each front fender. Especially for metropolis dwellers who stay in condos or flats with restricted access to cost points, this abnormal bonus attribute could be a major good quality-of-existence enhancer.

This Plasma Blue E-Tron Sportback Very first Edition is 1 of 200 coming to our shores.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

To be clear, the Sportback’s aforementioned range figures are unremarkable — a base, Tesla Model X Extended Selection Plus has a 351-mile claimed range, but beginning at close to $eighty,000, it is really just about $10,000 pricier than a 2021 E-Tron Sportback (much more on pricing in a moment). Of program, even though lesser than the Audi, the Model Y Efficiency comes in at 291 miles for significantly much less revenue (close to $60K) and you can find a slower, much less-pricey Extended Selection spec with 316.

In my encounter, nevertheless, with equally this Sportback and with preceding E-Tron testers, Audi EVs reach their range estimates with relative simplicity, nearly irrespective of driving behavior or ambient circumstances. Conversely, Tesla’s mentioned ranges normally feel like greatest-situation eventualities. As with all points, your mileage could range, but the true-earth range gulf among these rivals is very likely significantly lesser for most motorists than these vehicles’ window stickers would propose.

Efficiency over and above the numbers

I begin with these effectiveness comparisons if only to get them out of the way. For much better or even worse, it appears difficult to review a new top quality EV of any stripe without acknowledging how they numerically stack up to offerings from Elon and Pals. That explained, I’m also here to suggest an alternate look at, which I feel provides a fuller photograph of luxurious electric existence in typical, and this E-Tron Sportback exclusively.

You’ve very likely identified that all EV opinions from the humble Nissan Leaf to the Porsche Taycan wax rhapsodic about the quick torque and silent working inherent in battery-run cars. Especially for those coming out of a convention inside-combustion-engined (ICE) product, that is certainly a valid initial perception and it is really totally the situation with this E-Tron Sportback. And even though that idea speaks to the innate serenity of electric power, this Audi requires that sense of wellbeing to a bigger degree, equally in the way this SUV goes down the street and the way its cabin and tech make you feel.

As is common for EVs, you can find not much to glance at underneath the hood. Carry that plastic lid and you’ll come across the cost wire.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

The Sportback’s two-motor powertrain routes 355 horsepower and 414 pound-toes of torque to all 4 wheels by default, mounting to a momentary 402 hp and 490 lb-ft in Strengthen Mode. The latter environment is ample to whoosh this 5,750-pound softroader to sixty mph in a drama-cost-free 5.5 seconds. That is reasonably quick, but all over again, not headline- or Instagram-worthy stuff by present-day EV criteria. What tends to make the Sportback remarkable is the utterly placid method in which this effectiveness is conjured. Sure, it is really peaceful. Sure, it is really linear. And sure, it feels endlessly repeatable without apparent degradation in effectiveness through challenging driving.

Though it feels uncharacteristically new-age-ish (and to some degree nebulous) of me to say, the tactile good quality of the E-Tron’s cabin elements and the precision of their assembly contributes to that aura of slipstream serenity. There is no question about it, the match and finish of the E-Tron Sportback’s inside is worlds much more magnificent and of significantly bigger good quality than some thing like the Jaguar I-Tempo, enable on your own anything at all Tesla has ever designed. The previous new Tesla Versions X and Y that I drove dazzled with their accelerative urgency, but their superior-effectiveness spells had been momentary damaged by shocking amounts of wind sound and the occasional mysterious creak or graunch from over and above the firewall and rear hatch place. By comparison, even with frameless home windows, the Sportback is 1 of the quietest cars I have ever pushed.

The E-Tron’s other effectiveness characteristics are tuned harmoniously, way too. The standard adaptive air suspension is remarkably compliant about increased Detroit’s indifferently maintained roadways, even using atop this example’s upsized 21-inch tires. With the Drive Decide on controller established to its firmest detent, the E-Tron’s journey is much more than livable and cornering mindset is flat, doubtlessly aided by the weighty battery pack slung low in the chassis. I desire keeping the steering established to Activity for a heftier feel when charging down a winding street, but no matter the environment, the steering is specific but numb.

Like other modern Audi designs, the E-Tron Sportback feels tech loaded and quite effectively assembled.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

A term on omissions and creeps

A observe about the braking: Audi labored particularly diligently to mix the EV powertrain’s regenerative braking with standard friction binders and the results do almost nothing to erode the Sportback’s air of general effortlessness. As opposed to some EVs, they are effortless to modulate many thanks to dependable feel.

However, you can find 1 essential factor the brakes really don’t do just about as effectively as several other EVs: 1-pedal driving. Though Audi labored in a person-selectable environment with much better regenerative braking than early E-Trons, it is really not shut to remaining ample to allow 1-pedal driving. In accordance to company officials, Audi engineers deliberately selected to limit lift-off regen in the title of maximum effectiveness. Admirable as that could be, plenty of EV motorists explain to Roadshow they quickly drop in appreciate with one-pedal driving and not featuring a driver-selectable environment to accommodate this popular buyer choice feels like much more than a insignificant exclusion — it feels equally shortsighted and needlessly overbearing.

Likewise, it is really also odd that Audi’s coders haven’t designed a forward-creep environment accessible. Manual-transmission cars apart, just about just about every modern car or truck rolls forward little by little from a cease when the brake pedal is produced, as when pulling absent from a cease sign or inching forward in a left-hand switch lane. Not the E-Tron. You have to nudge the accelerator. You get used to this, of program, but if the intention is to make transitioning from a standard ICE product as effortless as doable, this is an omission.

The E-Tron comes with standard 360-degree, prime-down camera coverage for effortless parking.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Interior and infotainment tech

The cabin certainly feels a little bit much more personal and racier, but that is primarily when searching in the rearview mirror or if you might be seated in the 2nd row. TLDR: A great deal of leg, knee and toe place, but headroom is a little bit restricted for those about 5 toes, nine inches and the home windows really don’t roll down quite significantly.

As significantly as cargo volume goes, it is really mainly unaffected by the coupification process. The Sportback delivers 27.2 cubic toes of room behind the rear seats, or 54.5 with them folded (decreases of one.three and 2. compared to the standard E-Tron, respectively).

Beyond that, the Sportback’s insides are pure modern Audi, which is to say impeccably assembled, tastefully decorated and rocking an remarkable tech hand. Many thanks to a trio of massive displays, 1 for the Digital Cockpit gauge cluster and two for the touchscreen MMI infotainment method, when the power is off, the E-Tron Sportback’s cabin glance is nearly eerily minimalist, particularly when rendered in darker hues like this 1. That doesn’t suggest it is really boring inside of, though. By comparison, the Model Y’s pared-again dashboard and one show could nail the minimalist yoga-studio-on-wheels aesthetic, but many thanks to its considerably much less expensive elements and sometimes irritating controls, Fremont’s very best doesn’t deliver the very same sense of serenity and solidity as the Sportback. 

You choose the Tesla. Namaste in this Audi, mate.

2nd-row room is fairly excellent, though those taller than 5 toes, nine inches could want to slouch a little.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

E-Tron Sportback product years and pricing

Earlier, I mentioned that the E-Tron Sportback sits among the Tesla Model Y and X in cost and indeed, it does. That explained, further explanation is needed. Due to COVID-19-linked manufacturing and transport hiccups, equally 2020 and 2021 product-year Sportbacks are trickling into dealers much more or much less simultaneously and not like Staff Elon, all E-Trons stay qualified for the complete $7,five hundred federal tax credit.

A quite small 2020 product-year operate consists of two designs: A midrange High quality Plus spec that contain capabilities like adaptive cruise handle, 360-degree camera suite and sixteen-speaker Bang and Olufsen 3D audio for $78,445 (which includes $one,045 for shipping). The other choice is an all-packing containers-checked 2020 Edition A person like the illustration noticed in these pictures. It adds the Status Bundle, which features capabilities like the aforementioned twin cost ports, head-up show, massaging contour front seats, complete leather-based (which includes sprint, armrests and centre console) and even an air ionizer/fragrance dispenser. Just 200 Edition A person designs will be offered in the US and you’ll be in a position to spot them on the street by their special Plasma Blue metallic paint and the 21-inch bi-coloration wheels shrouding orange brake calipers. Cost? A heady $89,540 with destination.

Interestingly, for the 2021 product year, Audi considerably retooled the E-Tron Sportback’s product line, enabling a much decreased beginning cost. A new entry-degree High quality trim starts at $70,145 delivered and it is really relatively effectively geared up, which includes standard capabilities like 4-zone weather handle and twenty-inch alloys. Mid-trim High quality Plus designs incorporate ventilated 12-way power seats, matrix LED headlamps, B&O audio, wi-fi charging and a driver-guidance package, among other capabilities for $seventy nine,045 delivered. Go total hog on a Status to net just about all of the capabilities from the Edition A person and you might be searching at $83,345 in your driveway ahead of any federal, state and local tax incentives.

Modestly slicker than its much more upright E-Tron sibling, Audi is hoping this Sportback can jumpstart their EV profits.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

It’s worth noting that a base Sportback is $three,seven hundred much more pricey than a regular E-Tron, a method that is in-line with the industry’s “4-doorway coupe” SUV pricing pattern: Similar car or truck + various style – usable room = much more revenue. Though this value calculus perplexes your creator, individuals have been supporting this variety of math given that the 2008 BMW X6, so much more power — and revenue — to ’em.

Total, the new E-Tron Sportback combines remarkable luxurious with a fluid, unflappable feel. What this SUV doesn’t genuinely muster, nevertheless, is an encounter that is materially much various than the standard E-Tron. The thought that the Sportback is sportier is mainly an illusion and it would’ve been appealing to see what might’ve resulted had Audi elected to give this product its own driving character. No matter, if you might be searching for luxurious, good quality and serenity now, the E-Tron Sportback provides like couple cars — electric or normally. 

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