Road test: Audi Q4 e-tron, a new German standard for affordable electric cars?
Audi’s introduction of the Q4 e-tron represents the fourth local variant of the Volkswagen MEB platform, following the Skoda ENIAC, Volkswagen ID.4/ID.5 and Cupra Born. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the affordable German electric offerings, although they weren’t perfect. However, Audi’s handling of this should improve things in one key measure.
The interior of other MEB vehicles never sat well with me. It’s not a lack of quality or a lack of features (although the lack of over-the-air updates is a bit of a miss), it’s an excessive stacking of apps and shortcuts on the screen and a fascination with touch. Menu tactile feedback buttons.
Fortunately, the Q4 gets Audi’s standard interior, which means a cleaner MMI infotainment system and nice physical air conditioning controls. There are still touch controls on the steering wheel, but they feel more precise and easier to use than other Volkswagen products. I’ve always enjoyed the e-tron models’ two-spoke steering wheel (or is it four-spoke?) as well.
However, the touchscreen is quite vulnerable to fingerprints, and I had a few questionable moments maintaining a connection to my phone, especially upon startup.
Although there’s not much that can be done about fingerprints, the infotainment system can be updated over the air (OTA) to fix small bugs like the connectivity thing. Well, that might be the case if we lived in Europe. New Zealand doesn’t get over-the-air capabilities because our networks aren’t ready for them yet. It also means that our Q4 cars are not ‘connected’ – this is not the fault of Audi or Volkswagen, but rather a result of New Zealand not being able to support them at the moment.
This Q4 is model number 40 but with a few boxes checked, namely the Style Pack and the Sonos premium sound system. The former adds a panoramic sunroof, 21-inch Audi Sport wheels, black accents spread around the exterior, and privacy glass. It adds $7,000 to the price, but considering you’re already knocking on the door of $100,000, that’s not a bad thing to consider. It significantly increases the premium factor of the car, especially with those wheels and the glass roof.
I totally recommend Sonos Sound as well. Another common problem I have with modern VW products is that the primary stereo has an annoying habit of automatically tuning itself if it thinks the music is too loud, or the bass is too heavy. Paying a couple of bucks for the upgraded system is totally worth it if you like belting out tunes without hearing yourself sing (like me).
As for the engine, the Q4 is possibly the best in the MEB range. The 40 gets a single rear-mounted 150kW/310Nm electric motor, just like the ID.4/5 and Enyaq, which is enough to get to 100km/h in around 8.5 seconds. It’s remarkably well planted, requiring no electronic assistance except when taking it out of a corner in the wet, and even then it’s fairly unintrusive. Of course, if you want a little more power and assurance in wet weather, the Q4 50 quattro gets another electric motor with 220kW/460Nm of output and all-wheel drive.
The steering is precise and well-weighted depending on which drive mode you choose (heavier in Sport, lighter in Comfort) but it’s actually closer to home when cruising on the highway or in town.
All Q4s get an 82kWh battery, enough for a maximum range of 511km, or about 480km in the real world. It doesn’t start with five but that’s still enough to get you through a week or two.
Things are as quiet in the cabin as you might expect with an electric powertrain, but road and wind noise are also kept to a minimum. Although the seats are a bit flat, they could use a little extra support. The aforementioned 50 also comes with an S line trim by default, which includes better seats, among a host of other things.
But what if we extend the comparisons beyond the Volkswagen Group? There are plenty of electric SUVs priced around $100,000 these days, from the popular Tesla Model Y ($97,500 in Performance trim) to the very attractive Hyundai Ioniq 5 ($99,990 in Elite 2WD trim), plus models The most powerful. BMW iX1 xDrive30, priced at $98,200.
Of these models, the Model Y is the fastest, the Hyundai is (arguably) the best, and the BMW is the best to drive. These are just the first three I thought of, and there are many more. Kia EV6, Volvo XC40 Recharge, Mercedes-Benz EQB… The competition is intense in this segment, which also indirectly shows that the electric field is no longer really a niche.
This means that Audi has gone the extra mile. The Q4 may be the best of the Volkswagen range, but it’s a big bad world, and the New Zealand market doesn’t have much room to participate. Especially if the clean car deductible goes up and we see more variants around $100k popping up…