I recently had the chance to drive the new Audi e-tron, which is Audi’s upcoming fully electric SUV. The new e-tron will be out in the next month or two, and it’s designed to rival other electric luxury SUVs like the Jaguar I-Pace and the Tesla Model X — and it’s a clear indication of where luxury SUVs are headed.
First, some details: the e-tron is going to start around $75,000, which places it right in between the Jaguar I-Pace ($70,000) and the Tesla Model X ($82,000) in terms of pricing. Its range is only 204 miles, which is a short of the I-Pace (234 miles) and the Model X (270 miles), but performance is strong: the e-tron boasts 400 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, along with a 0-to-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds.
On the outside, the e-tron is unremarkable — and that, in itself, is kind of remarkable. While most new EV models are practically tripping over themselves to distinguish their designs from traditional gas-powered cars, the e-tron is doing the exact opposite: unlike the I-Pace or the Model X, it simply looks like just another Audi SUV. I think this is intentional, designed to provide a more traditional look to EV shoppers who don’t necessarily want to stand out with their EV purchase.
Inside, it’s the same deal: the e-tron is largely unremarkable, though that’s a hard thing to say about a new Audi model, considering the incredible level of technology inside every new Audi. The e-tron is indeed unremarkable compared to, say, an Audi Q8, with which it shares virtually all modern features — but compared to older SUVs, the e-tron is on another planet, with two center screens, a responsive touchscreen and an enormous number of capabilities and features, including the ability for the lower screen to "morph" into a writing pad where you can type addresses or destinations for the navigation system.
Maybe more important is the e-tron’s behavior when you get it out on the road. I took it on a long test drive, and I was generally impressed by just how "normal" it is — which is to say that it drives, steers, brakes, and basically goes like a typical SUV. The only hint you’re driving an electric vehicle is the lack of noise and, of course, the acceleration, which is strong, impressive and instantaneous. Otherwise, it just feels like the next Audi Q5, or Q7, or whatever.
Whether this is a good tactic remains to be seen. These days, it seems like the EVs that sell are the ones that distinguish themselves from normal cars — the Tesla products of the world, or the upcoming Porsche Taycan, with its highly distinctive design. Not as popular are EV "versions" of normal cars, like the Ford Focus Electric, or the smart fortwo Electric. It’ll be interesting to see whether shoppers opt for an EV that doesn’t seem like an EV, at least from the outside.
For shoppers who want an electric vehicle without compromising anything they’re used to in a typical Audi, however, the e-tron will be fantastic — and for them, I highly recommend the new Audi e-tron. It’s basically a switch to electric technology without switching anything else — not your new car tech, not your Audi styling, not your SUV practicality. It’s basically an Audi SUV with an electric powertrain — and as buyers continue to gravitate towards electric power for their vehicles, it’s easy to see that this is the future of Audi’s luxury crossover lineup.