Audi Q4 e-tron 50 quattro: long-term test review
In what’s becoming a crowded EV market, the Q4 e-tron is one of the best and well worth considering. Avoid the firmer-riding S line models and this is a car that you’ll find very easy and very enjoyable to live with.
It’s amazing how much has changed over the past couple of years. Take our central London office, for example. As you can see from our main picture, the street outside has been transformed into a park to be used by those who still venture into town.
We’re only in the office once or twice a week now, but when I do go into London, driving an EV is essential to avoid the £15-a-day Congestion Charge. And my Audi Q4 e-tron is the perfect companion.
Most of my 22-mile commute is along the A40, where I make use of the Audi’s driver-assistance features, combining adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.
I set the cruise at the speed limit, which the car automatically adjusts and sticks to (very handy along the 30mph elevated section of the A40), and sit back letting the car deal with the ebb and flow of traffic. I’m still very much in charge, but much more relaxed than I might otherwise be.
City driving has also helped improve the car’s efficiency, now up to 3.2 miles per kWh, which means a usable range of around 250 miles. I’ve only put that to the test a couple of times, with a 200-mile motorway round trip to Coventry leaving 35 miles left in the battery. Then there are days when, fully charged, I’ve actually seen the range increase as I start driving.
The brakes do their bit to feed energy back into the battery, but there are myriad calculations that affect the predicted range, including temperature (batteries don’t like the cold) and driving style. And on that point, as many owners have observed, driving an EV has turned me into a more relaxed, patient and slower driver. I spend far less time in the fast lane these days.
I much prefer being on twistier routes, where I never tire of the swift acceleration of the Q4, while the quattro four-wheel-drive system is reassuring when the roads are wet and helps with slingshot acceleration out of corners. This is no sports car, but it does a good impression sometimes.
The small steering wheel, with its flat top and bottom, adds to the sporty feel, while my S line model sits 15mm lower than other Q4s and has more dynamic settings for the suspension. That’s something I could do without; S line makes the car look great, but the payoff is an already firm ride made even firmer, especially on our roads. When I carry my adult ‘kids’ in the back, they’re full of praise for the legroom and the flat floor, but the bumpy ride is described as “really uncomfy”.
Someone else who isn’t that happy with life in the back is our Goldendoodle, Sky. Although she found jumping into the Audi’s 520-litre boot a breeze, thanks to the low lip and flat floor, the car’s tailgate is actually more sloped than it appears – the roof spoiler disguises it remarkably well – and Sky always has to be wary when the electrically operated tailgate swings shut.
Otherwise, the underfloor storage for the charging cables is handy, as are the two recessed areas either side of the boot. And as with the rest of the car, even the quality of the boot is impressive.
Back in issue 1,717, we put the Q4 e-tron alongside our Skoda Enyaq and Volkswagen ID.3, which share much of their running gear with my car. And it’s clear Audi has had more freedom to raise the quality (and the price), whether that comes with the way the doors thud shut or the infotainment system.
The Q4 is much more different from its siblings than they are from each other and I’d go as far as saying it’s the best-built EV at its price – living up to the Audi reputation.
The gadgets help with this, with special praise going to the wireless smartphone connection and charging, the Sonos sound system and the lights – from the rear LEDs that dance when you open the car to the front light signature that you can personalise.
It’s difficult to point to one thing I’ll miss most about the Q4 e-tron – this is a car that does pretty much everything really well.
EV is set to be Audi’s biggest seller, and we can see why after the Q4 e-tron joins our fleet
If you wanted to know how important the Q4 e-tron is to Audi, the fact that it’s set to become the brand’s biggest seller should tell you all you need to know. And that’s exactly why we’ve added one to our fleet – what can it tell us about Audi’s present and its future?
Shooting to the top of the brand’s sales chart is a pretty impressive feat for an all-new model, especially one that is not powered by any sort of combustion engine. But that’s why the Q4 e-tron is such a key model: it’s the first Audi to sit on the MEB bespoke platform (unlike the larger e-tron SUV, which uses regular underpinnings converted to EV). And as such, the new arrival is every bit the counterpart to mainstream Audis like the Q3 and A3.
Our Q4 e-tron arrived in its striking Aurora Violet metallic paint just as October’s fuel crisis was ending, but it’s already proving its worth when it comes to saving cash.
As fuel prices rise, and even accounting for a hike in electricity bills, a full charge of the Audi from my home charger costs around £12, and that gets us around 220 miles of range in this cold winter weather – well under half the price of a petrol Audi Q3 doing the same mileage.
It should also save me £15 in Congestion Charge when the latest Covid-19 wave subsides and I end up visiting our central London office again. That could add up to more than £100 per month – another figure to consider if, like so many people, you’re looking at the monthly lease rates of an EV.
So that’s a pretty good start to life with our Q4 e-tron, and there are plenty of other aspects I’m enjoying, too. The most noticeable one is the quality.
We’ve also got a Volkswagen ID.3 and Skoda Enyaq on our fleet at the moment and, in true Volkswagen Group fashion, the Audi shares much of the electric running gear with those cars. MEB is a common platform across many brands, after all.
However, my car feels more different from its siblings than other Audis of late, and that comes down to two things. First, Audi has gone its own way when it comes to infotainment, so the Q4 does without the much-criticised and soon-to-be-upgraded system used in the Volkswagen (and the Cupra Born). Secondly, the fixtures and fittings inside the car are also a cut above those of the Audi’s contemporaries.
Then there are the doors, and I’ll admit to becoming a bit obsessed here. Audi has engineered a heft to them that the other VW Group cars just don’t have. Every time I open or close them, it reminds me that I’m in something just that little bit more special – and more expensive.
With winter upon us, I opted for the Q4 e-tron with the biggest 82kWh (77kWh usable) battery powering electric motors on the front and rear for a total of 295bhp and giving quattro four-wheel drive reassurance. It’s quick, too, with the 0-62mph sprint achievable in 6.2 seconds.
One thing the Fowler jury is still out on is the S line trim with its 20-inch wheels and slightly lowered suspension. My daughter, Gemma, has complained about the ride comfort in the back; she says it’s a bit too bumpy, echoing the verdicts on many a review of conventionally powered Audis. S line usually brings lots of appealing kit, but is known for having a more fidgety ride.
I’ll concede that my Q4 does feel firmer than the aforementioned VW, but I have to be honest and say it doesn’t bother me up front. I’ll have to get someone else to drive so I can have a go in the back, too.
What nobody has complained about is the space in the rear cabin; it’s huge. There’s plenty of room, even behind me, and the flat floor enhances the feeling of airiness. These really are key benefits of an EV designed on a bespoke electric-car platform.
The panoramic roof lifts the cabin, too; it’s one of a host of options on our car, including an excellent head-up display and an even better Sonos stereo – the brand’s first foray into car audio systems.
*Insurance quote for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.
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