► Living with Audi's electric SUV
► Coupe shape and camera mirrors
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This is Audi's e-Tron Sportback, an electric SUV/four-door coupé – and I don't think I've ever been so fascinated by a long-term test car. Not because of the odd yet attractive silhouette, but because just living with it will be a challenge. A challenge I'm all too aware of, having run a Mk1 Nissan Leaf long-termer nearly a decade ago when public charging points were few (to the extent I never used one) and the range was seldom in three figures.
I'm not an EV naysayer, though. As a London resident I'm all for them, and I'm keen to live with another EV, encouraged by the knowledge that both charging infrastructure and battery technology have changed dramatically in the last nine years. I want electric cars to be viable – and in 2020 they should be – so I see the next nine months as an intriguing little brain puzzle. Plus I reckon I've mapped out enough charging options in my life that this will be the best kind of challenge: one you succeed at.
But before that, the e-Tron itself. It's the Sportback (ie swoopier) version of Audi's first full production electric vehicle, and batteries and motors aside, both e-Tron and e-Tron Sportback are relatively orthodox SUVs. Why? Because you need lots of batteries for a practical range, thus a big vehicle to fit them in, and so market tastes dictate an SUV rather than anything unconventional that would put off a family already apprehensive over making the leap to electric.
Initially there's only one Sportback powertrain to pick from, a '55 quattro' model (with a motor driving each axle), but a '50 quattro' will be on sale by the time you're reading this, and a more powerful, three-motor S version follows soon too – but as both offer reduced range, the 55 is the one to have.
The peak electrical output of the 55 is 300kW, or 402bhp, though that's via a Boost mode that also unlocks the full 490lb ft and 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. The more everyday Drive mode delivers 355bhp, 414lb ft, a still-impressive 6.6sec sprint, and the best chance of achieving the WLTP range of 241 miles.
Prices start at £80k – in part because trim levels begin with S-line and miss out on the non-Sportback's Sport and Technik options (which kick off at £60k) – and rise all the way to the top-rung £95k Vorsprung model. Our car is an S-line, which means 21-inch wheels, Matrix LED headlights and LED rear lights, adaptive air suspension and rear privacy glass. You also get heated electric front seats, a powered tailgate, a rear-view camera, keyless go, three HD infotainment screens and a plethora of airbags.
Our car is Floret Silver, which costs the same £750 as all the metallic paints. The only 'free' paint is solid black. The other options fitted include some stuff that seems like a no-brainer (acoustic side glazing, for £525), some more questionable choices (£825 for four-zone air-con that my two-year old can't reach), some kit that should be standard (a £425 electric steering column) and some features I'm intrigued to try (the £1250 virtual door mirrors that have tiny cameras on the outside and screens inside).
Audi's Virtual Mirrors: do they work?
There's a £1475 panoramic glass sunroof, upgraded Super Sports seats (£1050), a Comfort and Sound Pack (£1895 for a 16-speaker/705w Bang & Olufsen stereo, a 360º camera, hands-free boot opening and configurable LED interior lighting with 30 colour options) and a Tour Pack (£1950 of safety tech including adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and lane-departure warning).
To complicate matters, we have a few options you wouldn't otherwise be able to spec on an S-line model, because this is an early-build car for media duties. The orange brake calipers and Audi Beam (which projects the 'e-Tron' logo onto the ground when the doors are open) are only available as standard equipment on the Launch Edition and Vorsprung models, while the rear side airbags, illuminated seat buckles and additional 'Sport' and 'e-Tron' modes for the Virtual Cockpit display are reserved for Vorsprung.
So far we've bimbled around the capital in it for a handful of miles, in which it's been deeply impressive, but now the e-Tron Sportback faces a tough test: a long-ish family journey.
By Ben Pulman
Logbook: Audi e-Tron Sportback
Price £79,900 (£92,470 as tested)
Performance 95kWh battery, dual e-motors, 402bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 2.5 miles per kWh (official), 2.2 miles per kWh (tested), 0g/km CO2
Energy cost 6.3p per mile
Miles this month 25
Total miles 1222