Audi Q4 e-tron review: Electric SUV falls short of greatness
Recently I spent a bit of time with the Audi e-tron GT - the German marque’s all-electric super saloon.
The sleek four-door fastback packs 523bhp, can hit 62mph in 4.5 seconds and the one I tested costs a cool £105,000 before options. So lovely as it is, it’s hardly an option for most family buyers,
Audi is okay with that though, because while the GT is the flagship of the e-tron family, it has a growing pool of all-electric models aimed more at the regular car-buying public.
Cars like the Q4 e-tron. As the number suggests, this is an SUV that slots neatly between the Q3 and Q5 models but, unlike them, is a pure-electric model.
Even without the badge, you’d certainly be able to place it. The exterior definitely has the cookie cutter Audi SUV appearance. It’s a little sharper in places than a Q3 or Q5, especially around the headlights, bumper and huge faux grille, but a quick glance is enough to know that this is an Audi SUV. It’s a criticism that can be thrown at Audi’s key rivals as well.
So it’s not a design classic but it does look neat and compact on the road thanks to short overhangs and some clever sculpting. And that slightly stocky appearance belies an impressive amount of space inside.
Those up front have room to stretch out and a range of adjustability that’ll get anyone comfortable but even rear-seat passengers will find a decent amount of space, aided by the flat floor and high roofline.
I’ve long been a fan of Audi’s interiors and the Q4 hits all the same notes as its stablemates. Materials are generally top-drawer and the fit and finish is what you’d expect from a premium brand. The knurled metal finishes, high-gloss plastics, nicely damped controls and soft, comfortable leather seats all have that feel of quality. And the design is a little more adventurous than the exterior. There’s the squared-off steering wheel for a start, the dash that angles sharply towards and away from the driver and the bold metallic panel that overlays part of the dash.
Yet, surprisingly, after a week with both the Q4 and a Ford Mustang Mach-e on my drive, I was more drawn to the Ford. The Audi has the edge on quality but in comparison to Mach-e’s simple layout and less-is-more instrumentation, the Q4 feels a bit busy. It’s not cluttered but from the myriad buttons and switches to the overly complex instrument options it somehow feels a little old-fashioned next to the Mustang. I’d also take the more pared-back approach of the Skoda Enyaq over the more traditional cabin of the Q4.
I’d also take either of those car’s equipment list over the Audi. Our £51k Launch Edition spec featured fancy touches such as tri-zone climate control, a head-up display and matrix LED lights but somehow omitted more “mainstream” fare such as keyless entry or a reversing camera.
You can, of course, pay less for a Q4 e-tron. Prices start at around £43,000 for an entry-level Sport 35. Sport denotes trim, 35 denotes that it has the smaller battery and lower-powered motor. Our car, however, came with the mid-range “40” drivetrain, packing an 82kWh battery and 201bhp motor driving the rear wheels.
It’s probably the sweet spot in the range, the official 305 miles of range (around 250 in the real world) is the best of the Q4 line-up and the power is a sensible middle ground between the 167bhp of the 35 and the 50’s 295bhp. Cars with the larger battery also come with faster 125kW DC capability so if you’re away from home you can add up to 80 miles in as little as 10 minutes, which helps dispel the last vestiges of range anxiety.
Like all EVs, the way the Q4 delivers its power instantly is impressive as is the near-silent and totally linear progress you make. It's not as quick as some alternatives but you have to question how vital a manic 0-60 time is in a family SUV compared with a smooth easy drive.
The driving experience is similarly sensible. There’s a decent weight to the steering but it drives like any other mid-sized SUV with a solid, steady feel rather than any real engagement. Thankfully, Audi’s days of dodgy ride quality are long gone and the Q4 manages to handle most conditions well. Only sharp edges such as bad road repairs catch it out slightly.
Audi has high hopes for the Q4, expecting it to rapidly become one of its best-selling mainstream models. It certainly has all the mainstream bases covered - conventional looks, space for an average family, a high-quality interior and a proven drivetrain with good range.
However, it also has the Audi price premium, which sets it apart from models that share the same platform - the VW ID.4, Skoda Enyaq and Seat Born. And the problem is, it doesn’t do enough differently to stand apart from those related models.
It’s a perfectly good electric SUV but so is the Enyaq, which has the same drivetrain, a neater interior and more equipment for £10,000 less. And against a £50,000 Mach-e, the Audi’s range and driver engagement is lacking.
For some that won’t matter and the iconic four-ring badge will be enough but if value is important, there are better options out there.
Audi Q4 e-tron Launch Edition
Price: £49,875 (£51,165 as tested); Motor: Single 150kW; Battery: 82kWh; Power: 201bhp; Torque: 229lb ft; Transmission: Single-speed, rear-wheel-drive; Top speed: 100mph; 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds; WLTP range: 304 miles ;WLTP vonsumption: 3.4 miles/kWh; Charging: Up to 125kW