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

Make no bones about it: Audi’s all-electrical E-Tron SUV may possibly have been given higher marks from skilled automobile reviewers and new owners alike, but it has not moved the automaker’s sales needle in the US. In all of pre-pandemic 2019, the Audi sold less than five,four hundred E-Trons in this article — fewer than an average thirty day period of Q5 sales. It is amidst this frustrating backdrop that the 2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback design whirs into dealers, its racier slope-again roofline hoping to catch both equally eyes and sales.

Dependent on visuals by itself, the E-Tron Sportback has gone through the now sector-regular 4-doorway-coupification course of action far more productively than most luxurious crossover SUVs — EV or not. From the windshield header forward, the Sportback appears the identical as its far more common two-box sibling and certainly, it has almost the identical top. Having said that, owing to its significantly plunging rearward greenhouse and frameless home windows that thoroughly clean up its roofline, the Sportback appears simultaneously decreased and arguably far more classy, incorporating in a dash of athleticism. The Sportback isn’t really just slipperier to the eye, it enjoys a .28 coefficient of drag, .02 improved than its boxier relation.

Selection and charging specs are only aspect of the story

On the overall performance entrance, the Sportback is all but identical to the regular E-Tron, but a selection of incremental enhancements throughout both equally body styles maximize enchantment. Amongst the modifications, Audi upped the out there battery potential a bit, raising the client-accessible portion of this 95.3-kilowatt-hour pack to 86.five kWh — almost 3 far more than 1st-yr E-Tron versions. This interprets to 218 miles of assortment and EPA estimates of seventy six MPGe metropolis, 78 freeway and 77 merged. (The relaxation of the pack is held in reserve to maintain longevity.)

When it arrives time to juice up, the Sportback supports Amount 3 150-kW rapid charging, which can jolt the battery from {394cb916d3e8c50723a7ff83328825b5c7d74cb046532de54bc18278d633572f} to eighty{394cb916d3e8c50723a7ff83328825b5c7d74cb046532de54bc18278d633572f} in close to thirty minutes. More prevalent Amount two chargers (like these most EV owners set up) can replenish an complete pack in close to ten.five hours. Just about every E-Tron also arrives with 1,000 kWh of complimentary charging by the Electrify America community.

Speaking of filling up, the Sportback is out there with twin demand ports, one particular on every single entrance fender. In particular for metropolis dwellers who live in condos or flats with limited accessibility to demand points, this unusual reward attribute could be a major good quality-of-life enhancer.

This Plasma Blue E-Tron Sportback Very first Version is one particular of two hundred coming to our shores.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

To be very clear, the Sportback’s aforementioned assortment figures are unremarkable — a base, Tesla Design X Long Selection In addition has a 351-mile claimed assortment, but setting up at close to $eighty,000, it is almost $ten,000 pricier than a 2021 E-Tron Sportback (far more on pricing in a moment). Of training course, even though lesser than the Audi, the Design Y Performance arrives in at 291 miles for considerably fewer cash (close to $60K) and you will find a slower, fewer-high-priced Long Selection spec with 316.

In my encounter, nonetheless, with both equally this Sportback and with previous E-Tron testers, Audi EVs obtain their assortment estimates with relative ease, pretty much irrespective of driving conduct or ambient ailments. Conversely, Tesla’s said ranges typically experience like very best-case scenarios. As with all points, your mileage may possibly differ, but the genuine-globe assortment gulf between these rivals is probably considerably lesser for most drivers than these vehicles’ window stickers would counsel.

Performance past the numbers

I get started with these overall performance comparisons if only to get them out of the way. For improved or even worse, it seems not possible to overview a new top quality EV of any stripe with out acknowledging how they numerically stack up to choices from Elon and Mates. That explained, I’m furthermore in this article to suggest an alternate look at, which I think delivers a fuller image of luxurious electrical life in common, and this E-Tron Sportback especially.

You have probably observed that all EV assessments from the humble Nissan Leaf to the Porsche Taycan wax rhapsodic about the prompt torque and silent managing inherent in battery-driven motor vehicles. In particular for these coming out of a conference internal-combustion-engined (ICE) design, that is certainly a legitimate 1st effect and it is definitely the case with this E-Tron Sportback. And even though that idea speaks to the innate serenity of electrical energy, this Audi takes that feeling of wellbeing to a better degree, both equally in the way this SUV goes down the highway and the way its cabin and tech make you experience.

As is common for EVs, you will find not much to seem at underneath the hood. Elevate that plastic lid and you are going to locate the demand wire.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

The Sportback’s two-motor powertrain routes 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque to all 4 wheels by default, rising to a momentary 402 hp and 490 lb-ft in Increase Mode. The latter placing is ample to whoosh this five,750-pound softroader to sixty mph in a drama-cost-free five.five seconds. Which is fairly rapid, but once more, not headline- or Instagram-worthy stuff by present-day EV expectations. What tends to make the Sportback extraordinary is the utterly placid method in which this overall performance is conjured. Of course, it is tranquil. Of course, it is linear. And indeed, it feels endlessly repeatable with out clear degradation in overall performance for the duration of tricky driving.

Even though it feels uncharacteristically new-age-ish (and fairly nebulous) of me to say, the tactile good quality of the E-Tron’s cabin components and the precision of their assembly contributes to that aura of slipstream serenity. You can find no question about it, the suit and finish of the E-Tron Sportback’s interior is worlds far more magnificent and of significantly better good quality than a thing like the Jaguar I-Pace, let by itself nearly anything Tesla has ever created. The past new Tesla Products X and Y that I drove dazzled with their accelerative urgency, but their higher-overall performance spells ended up momentary damaged by astonishing amounts of wind noise and the occasional mysterious creak or graunch from past the firewall and rear hatch place. By comparison, even with frameless home windows, the Sportback is one particular of the quietest motor vehicles I have ever driven.

The E-Tron’s other overall performance characteristics are tuned harmoniously, as well. The regular adaptive air suspension is remarkably compliant in excess of larger Detroit’s indifferently managed roads, even riding atop this example’s upsized 21-inch tires. With the Generate Pick controller set to its firmest detent, the E-Tron’s trip is far more than livable and cornering mind-set is flat, doubtlessly aided by the weighty battery pack slung lower in the chassis. I like maintaining the steering set to Activity for a heftier experience when charging down a winding highway, but no make a difference the placing, the steering is precise but numb.

Like other modern day Audi versions, the E-Tron Sportback feels tech wealthy and really perfectly assembled.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

A word on omissions and creeps

A be aware about the braking: Audi worked specifically diligently to mix the EV powertrain’s regenerative braking with common friction binders and the benefits do nothing at all to erode the Sportback’s air of general effortlessness. As opposed to some EVs, they are simple to modulate many thanks to regular experience.

Having said that, you will find one particular critical factor the brakes do not do almost as perfectly as several other EVs: one particular-pedal driving. Even though Audi worked in a person-selectable placing with more robust regenerative braking than early E-Trons, it is not shut to being ample to help one particular-pedal driving. In accordance to firm officers, Audi engineers deliberately selected to limit elevate-off regen in the name of highest performance. Admirable as that may possibly be, tons of EV drivers inform Roadshow they swiftly drop in love with solitary-pedal driving and not presenting a driver-selectable placing to accommodate this preferred client desire feels like far more than a minimal exclusion — it feels both equally shortsighted and needlessly overbearing.

Equally, it is also odd that Audi’s coders haven’t created a forward-creep placing out there. Manual-transmission autos apart, almost each modern day vehicle rolls forward gradually from a stop when the brake pedal is unveiled, as when pulling absent from a stop signal or inching forward in a left-hand transform lane. Not the E-Tron. You have to nudge the accelerator. You get utilised to this, of training course, but if the target is to make transitioning from a common ICE design as simple as attainable, this is an omission.

The E-Tron arrives with regular 360-degree, top rated-down camera coverage for simple parking.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Interior and infotainment tech

The cabin certainly feels a bit far more intimate and racier, but that is largely when searching in the rearview mirror or if you happen to be seated in the next row. TLDR: Loads of leg, knee and toe room, but headroom is a bit limited for these in excess of five feet, nine inches and the home windows do not roll down really considerably.

As considerably as cargo volume goes, it is mainly unaffected by the coupification course of action. The Sportback gives 27.two cubic feet of room driving the rear seats, or 54.five with them folded (decreases of 1.3 and two. as opposed to the regular E-Tron, respectively).

Outside of that, the Sportback’s insides are pure modern day Audi, which is to say impeccably assembled, tastefully adorned and rocking an extraordinary tech hand. Many thanks to a trio of big displays, one particular for the Digital Cockpit gauge cluster and two for the touchscreen MMI infotainment program, when the energy is off, the E-Tron Sportback’s cabin seem is pretty much eerily minimalist, specifically when rendered in darker colors like this one particular. That isn’t going to imply it is monotonous within, though. By comparison, the Design Y’s pared-again dashboard and solitary screen may possibly nail the minimalist yoga-studio-on-wheels aesthetic, but many thanks to its considerably much less expensive components and often frustrating controls, Fremont’s very best isn’t going to provide the identical feeling of serenity and solidity as the Sportback. 

You acquire the Tesla. Namaste in this Audi, pal.

Next-row room is fairly superior, though these taller than five feet, nine inches may possibly want to slouch a small.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

E-Tron Sportback design yrs and pricing

Previously, I talked about that the E-Tron Sportback sits between the Tesla Design Y and X in rate and certainly, it does. That explained, even further clarification is vital. Because of to COVID-19-related manufacturing and shipping hiccups, both equally 2020 and 2021 design-yr Sportbacks are trickling into dealers far more or fewer simultaneously and as opposed to Crew Elon, all E-Trons continue to be qualified for the complete $7,five hundred federal tax credit history.

A really limited 2020 design-yr operate consists of two versions: A midrange Premium In addition spec that incorporate attributes like adaptive cruise management, 360-degree camera suite and 16-speaker Bang and Olufsen 3D audio for $78,445 (including $1,045 for shipping and delivery). The other alternative is an all-boxes-checked 2020 Version One like the illustration witnessed in these images. It adds the Prestige Deal, which incorporates attributes like the aforementioned twin demand ports, head-up screen, massaging contour entrance seats, complete leather (including dash, armrests and heart console) and even an air ionizer/fragrance dispenser. Just two hundred Version One versions will be sold in the US and you are going to be ready to location them on the road by their special Plasma Blue metallic paint and the 21-inch bi-shade wheels shrouding orange brake calipers. Price tag? A heady $89,540 with location.

Curiously, for the 2021 design yr, Audi considerably retooled the E-Tron Sportback’s design line, enabling a much decreased setting up rate. A new entry-degree Premium trim begins at $70,a hundred forty five shipped and it is instead perfectly geared up, including regular attributes like 4-zone local weather management and twenty-inch alloys. Mid-trim Premium In addition versions incorporate ventilated twelve-way energy seats, matrix LED headlamps, B&O audio, wireless charging and a driver-aid deal, among other attributes for $79,045 shipped. Go total hog on a Prestige to net almost all of the attributes from the Version One and you happen to be searching at $eighty three,345 in your driveway before any federal, condition and community tax incentives.

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

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

It is worthy of noting that a base Sportback is $3,seven hundred far more high-priced than a common E-Tron, a approach that is in-line with the industry’s “4-doorway coupe” SUV pricing pattern: Exact vehicle + different type – usable room = far more cash. Even though this value calculus perplexes your writer, shoppers have been supporting this kind of math due to the fact the 2008 BMW X6, so far more energy — and gains — to ’em.

Over-all, the new E-Tron Sportback combines extraordinary luxurious with a fluid, unflappable experience. What this SUV isn’t going to actually muster, nonetheless, is an encounter that is materially much different than the regular E-Tron. The idea that the Sportback is sportier is mainly an illusion and it would’ve been exciting to see what might’ve resulted experienced Audi elected to give this design its own driving character. No matter, if you happen to be searching for luxurious, good quality and serenity now, the E-Tron Sportback delivers like couple motor vehicles — electrical or or else. 

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