Audi's impressive progress on the EV route
I wonder what we will make of these changeover times in years to come?
The conversion from petrol-diesel to electric is a massive change, arguably the biggest ever seen in the motor industry since its creation a century or so ago.
There have been improvements and developments over the years but they have been gradual. They have made cars safer, cheaper in real terms and more efficient but few have happened as quickly or as radically as the advent of electric power.
The Government may have been slow to give us an infrastructure to cope with EVs but the 2030 deadline for the switchover has focused minds and allowed swift-thinking companies like Audi to progress.
Audi – like every premium manufacturer – is making progress down the EV route. It has created e-tron, its own suite of electric and hybrid vehicles which since 2009 has been building momentum.
The first e-tron was a concept car which was shown at the Frankfurt motor show. Few then realised how this brand would grow. There is now a fleet of e-trons mirroring the Audi family of petrol and diesel models.
Tested here is Q4 e-tron 40. It is a smart sporty crossover. The list price doesn’t mean much, for few people buy it outright, but if you did it would cost just over £40,000.
It is stylishly solid and much bigger inside than it looks. The bootspace can be up to 1,490 litres with the seats down.
The outside is restrained compared to the interior which is impressively flashy. In fact, part of it reminds me of the Austin Allegro. OK, before writs start flying from Ingoldstadt, I should mention it is only in one respect that this model resonates with British Leyland’s finest.
It has a square steering wheel, a gimmick which I recall – vaguely, for I was only just a teenager at the time – caused much merriment when Allegro came on the scene.
Allegro was – if I recall correctly – warmly welcomed. Only later did it come to be much-maligned as BL sank under a volley of cheaper cars with more quality from the Far East.
But the Audi is in a different league altogether. While Allegro’s squared wheel was a cheap novelty, Audi is a classier brand. The squareness in this model is a mark of confidence and sportiness.
It is a compact SUV crossed with a sports car. It has space, height and a lofty driving position on the one hand and zipalong performance redolent of a sports car.
Early electrics seemed to many of us to be dull cars but actually they are usually quick off the mark. The nature of electric is fizzily fast, unlike petrol and diesel engines which take a while to build up a head of steam.
So even modest electrics can pass 60mph in seven or eight seconds. Quick ones like this chunky beast do it in 8.5 seconds.
In fact, the Q4 e-tron comes in two forms – standard and Sportback priced from £40,750 and £42,250 respectively. In fact, such is the depth of choice that these models offer, they can cost up to £66,000.
The test model is as spacious as many full-sized SUVs, which is impressive given the relatively compact shell. Storage space also abounds, with around 25 litres of capacity available throughout the cabin, including particularly useful bottle holders integrated in the upper section of the doors that can hold bottles of up to one litre in size safely.
The luggage compartment accessible via the powered tailgate which is standard for all variants also offers more space than is generally found in the compact class, and actually bears closer comparison with a midsize SUV.
Many electric vehicles have a different feel or style to petrol and diesel versions, but this model is very much an Audi at heart. It feels advanced, solid and highly-equipped but it also has those qualities which Audi enthusiasts love: it is easy and fun to drive.
Audi Q4 e-tron 40
Engine: A motor producing 310Nm or 150kW
Transmission: One-speed gearbox via rear wheel drive
Performance: Top speed 99mph, 0 to 60mph in 8.5 seconds
Economy: Range of up to 316 miles
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles