Audi e-tron Sportback review

Audi’s electric SUV has been gifted a coupe-style body, but is it worth paying more for?

Audi e-tron Sportback
£79,900 - £85,900
Electric

Pros

  • Classy interior
  • Excellent refinement
  • Reliable charge speeds

Cons

  • Expensive to buy
  • Jaguar I-Pace better to drive
  • Not as practical as standard SUV
Car type Range Wallbox charge time Rapid charge time
Electric 278 miles 14hrs (0-100%, 7.4kW) 50mins (10-80%, 150kW)

The new Audi e-tron Sportback is a more stylish version of the standard Audi e-tron premium electric SUV. To many, it’ll be the visually more attractive option, but at 4.9 metres nose-to-tail, it’s just as long, if ever so slightly narrower.

From the front, the Sportback looks identical to its standard SUV sibling. But at the rear it’s a different story; the roofline dips away sooner, while the revised beltline gives it a small lip spoiler and a taller back end.

It certainly has presence. Audi pitches the conventional e-tron as a kind of electric Audi Q7, while this Sportback version perhaps has more in common with the petrol or diesel-powered Audi Q8. The art of the e-tron Sportback’s design is that you don’t notice quite how big it is.

Audi has removed two centimetres of headroom from the rear seats and 45 litres of storage space from the boot. Still, the Sportback will swallow 615 litres of luggage in total – or 1,655 litres with the rear seats folded flat. Make no mistake, this is still a practical family car.

Our first taste of the e-tron Sportback was in 55 quattro from – the mid-range offering in a three-strong line-up. Below it sits the entry-level 50 quattro, while above it is the e-tron S – the company’s first electric 'S' performance model.

The less powerful e-tron 50 features a 71kWh battery and a shorter (216-mile) electric range, while the 55 quattro has a larger 95kWh set-up – good for a claimed driving range of 278 miles; up from the 271 miles claimed by the squarer standard e-tron. More on that later.

Performance isn’t lacking. With 402bhp, this stronger of the two standard Sportbacks shoots from 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds and will keep going to 124mph flat out. Spend much time at this speed, however, and your range will drop like a stone. The permanent quattro all-wheel-drive system is enabled by a pair of asynchronous electric motors – one on each axle. Grip, like in the Sportbacks e-tron cousin, is very good.

And yet for all this performance, you hear nothing. The way Audi insulates its cars’ occupants from the outside world has always been impressive, but the engineers appear to have stepped things up a notch with the e-tron and e-tron Sportback. It’s genuinely one of the quietest cars we’ve ever had the pleasure of travelling in. The steering is direct, and the car manages to display impressive body control through bends. The ride is excellent on 20-inch wheels – although UK cars will get 21-inch items as standard.

Quality is exemplary, too. Nothing rattles, nothing shakes and the fully digital dashboard looks and feels first-rate. Audi has stuffed its first electric car with technology; like the conventional e-tron, our Sportback test model featured Audi’s optional digital door mirrors. As we found previously, however, they’re a bit of a gimmick and take persistent brain recalibration before they feel in any way normal.

So, back to that range figure. You’re unlikely to get near the claimed number, apart from in near-perfect conditions. On the motorway, the e-tron hunkers down automatically to improve aerodynamics – but there’s no avoiding the fact that this car is nudging 2,500kg. We’d wager 230-240 miles on a charge is more realistic in normal driving, perhaps slightly more if you spend most of your time in stop-start traffic.

Still, Audi claims the e-tron’s charging system is more efficient than its competitors’. The car has four cooling circuits; a whopping 40 metres of pipes circulates a significant 22 litres of coolant to temper the batteries as they charge. The result of this effort is impressive. 

Although the Audi has a lower maximum charge rate than either a Tesla Model 3 or Porsche Taycan, research shows the e-tron charges with more consistency than its rivals. Over the range of 20 to 80% full, which is important in everyday life, the e-tron’s charging curve remains almost perfectly flat; the Sportback charges at an average rate of 149 kW – about 96% of its maximum value.

The Model 3 only reaches its peak value (190kW) at the beginning and descends early (to around 67%) with an average charge rate of 128kW. The Porsche starts strongly, but has to apply the temperature brake when the battery is only about half full.

The Sportback’s biggest negative, aside from slightly compromised practicality, is likely to be its price. A normal e-tron 55 quattro starts from just over £70,000, but like-for-like Sportback costs almost £4,000 more. Every UK e-tron Sportback will come with Matrix LED lights, 21-inch wheels and air suspension, while Launch Edition cars get unique wheels, black detailing and those virtual door mirrors. Prices for the higher-spec model start from £85,900.

Overall, the Audi e-tron Sportback takes all the best bits about the standard model – namely quality, technology and refinement, and wraps them up in a cool, coupe-styled body. It’s more expensive to buy, but that alone doesn’t make it a less accomplished family SUV.