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Audi e-tron 55 quattro: long-term test review

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Audi e-tron long termer - first report header

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20 Jun, 2019 1:15pm John McIlroy

First report: comfortable pure-electric Audi e-tron SUV makes a fine initial impression as it joins our fleet

Mileage: 200 miles
Efficiency: 2.1mi/kWh

So you’re tempted by the idea of an electric car, but still worried that when you do need to charge up mid-journey, the infrastructure will let you down? Don’t be. That’s our first lesson with the Audi e-tron, the latest addition to the Auto Express fleet and a car that has all of the comfort and tech you’d want for long trips.

Without doubt, the Electric Highway network, which is the only one available in Britain’s motorway service stops, is fickle at best. But as our header image proves, there’s an ever-increasing range of alternatives within a stone’s throw of the major routes.

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To blood our e-tron, we went to the latest BP Chargemaster hub at Milton Keynes Coachway – two minutes off the M1 and equipped with eight fast-charging bays that can be accessed through the Polar scheme.

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Audi e-tron long termer - first report John McIlroy

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The e-tron is Audi’s rival for various Teslas plus Jaguar’s I-Pace and the forthcoming Mercedes EQC. It’s a Q5-sized SUV that runs on pure electricity, has five seats and a boot that can cope with a family holiday.

Underneath, though, the e-tron sits on the same MLB Evo platform as everything from the Q5 itself to the likes of the A6 saloon. And that means that, in the kindest terms, it risks being a teeny bit of a bodge, because it’s really an EV made out of a platform that wasn’t originally conceived for a vehicle without a combustion engine.

The end result is a car that has a 95kWh battery but also one that weighs (take a deep breath) 2,490kg. As a result, the official range of the e-tron is just under 250 miles – on the modest side of impressive.

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Audi e-tron long termer - first report front

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Still, after the first few weeks with the car, I can report that this figure is slightly out of kilter with the e-tron’s strengths because it is, simply, one of the most comfortable and refined Audis that I’ve ever experienced.

Its twin electric motors are only really audible around town, yet even then they’re hardly intrusive. And once you’re up to speed, the way it isolates you from what’s going on around the car is so effective that it can be a tad unnerving at first, though that feeling soon passes, I can assure you. The ride is decidedly un-Audi-like in its sophistication, too.

Our e-tron doesn’t have the ultra-trick digital side mirrors – there are curious ‘blanks’ in the door panels where their screens would be – but it does have the second AC charging port on the passenger side, giving us a little flexibility when it comes to parking up beside any public bays.

This, in turn, brings us back to our visit to BP Chargemaster’s flagship site – and the fact that, during the couple of hours we spent there, we saw only one other EV using the Milton Keynes facility. That was a BMW i3 that turned up for about 20 minutes’ worth of juice (giving the owner enough time to go and grab a coffee at the nearby coachpark café) before heading off again.

It won’t be the only charging base on site for long, either; workmen next door were preparing to install a hub for IONITY, the fast-charging network that has big funding from car makers as it spreads across Europe.

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Audi e-tron long termer - first report dash

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As Tom Callow from BP Chargemaster explained during our visit, the firm is gearing up for another huge expansion of its capacity – and many of the points will be faster again than those at Milton Keynes, further reducing the time each vehicle needs to occupy a bay.

“The worries about public charging availability are largely unfounded,” he told us. “We know from looking at the usage patterns that there’s already huge capacity in the network, and that’s growing by the day, even as EV sales increase.”

My home charger will still account for the vast majority of the e-tron’s fill-ups – as it would with almost every EV customer, I’d wager. But over the next six months, I can still see me taking advantage of the car’s long-legged, relaxed nature. And calling on the UK’s widening charging infrastructure will be a part of that experience, too.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

4 It’s early days with the Audi e-tron but this already feels like the sort of vehicle that will soothe away long journeys – which will give us the chance to find out what the charging infrastructure is like across the UK.

  • Model: Audi e-tron 55 quattro
  • On fleet since: May 2019
  • Price new: £71,520
  • Engine: Twin electric motors, 402bhp
  • CO2/tax: 0g/km/£320
  • Options: 21-inch alloys (£950), remote preconditioning (£100), Power doors (£675), head-up display (£1,450), Storage and luggage pack (£125), City assist pack (£1,125), Tour pack (£1,950), Matrix LED headlights (£1,350), privacy glass (£475)
  • Options cont.: Illuminated door sills (£175), acoustic glazing side windows (£525), panoramic glass sunroof (£1,475), Comfort and Sound pack (£1,895)
  • Insurance: Group: 50/Quote: £930
  • Mileage: 200 miles
  • Efficiency: 2.1mi/kWh
  • Any problems?: None so far

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