2022 AUDI e-tron SPORTBACK TEST DRIVE
2022 AUDI e-tron SPORTBACK TEST DRIVE FOR TOP SPEED BY STEVE HAMMES
2022 Audi e-tron Sportback Prestige quattro
Audi’s original e-tron, its first fully-electric SUV, debuted in 2019 and was joined by the sexier Sportback variant the following year. Since, e-tron has grown into a family of electric vehicles including a sports sedan and a compact-sized crossover with many more EVs planned over the next several years. In Audi parlance, Sportback is defined as a coupe-styled four-door with a plunging rear roofline thus the e-tron Sportback sacrifices some range and practicality in the name of vanity.
With a pillow-soft ride, luxuriously quiet cabin and ample accommodations I really enjoy driving the e-tron Sportback. Add to that some seriously seductive design and the attraction is strong. It’s a midsize SUV with quick-acting, electric quattro all-wheel drive powered by a motor at each axle. Total output is 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque with a quick-hitting boost function briefly bumping those numbers to 402 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque. But even using launch control delivers a 0-to-60 MPH time of only 5.5 seconds. Of course, that’s plenty quick but in a dual-motor EV with a sizeable price tag it’s far from spectacular. Ditto for the driving range. Despite the large 96 kWh battery this 5,787-pound e-tron is rated at a scant 218 miles, a number that just doesn’t cut it anymore regardless of price. So, these are the Sportback’s warts. Beyond those, this is a wonderful SUV owners will surely enjoy.
BLACK OPTIC TREATMENT
Available in three trim levels, all with identical powertrains, pricing starts at $70,295 but one that looks as awesome as this tester costs quite a bit more. Equipped with the Prestige and Black optic plus packages, black Audi rings and badges and the e-tron beam logo projection, this Sportback is poster-worthy material. In the upcharge Daytona Gray Pearl Effect with Dynamic orange brake calipers and 22” titanium-finish wheels, it is absolutely gorgeous with the Sportback styling and animated lighting contributing a progressive, sporty flair. MSRP of this top-of-the-line example is $88,765, a $3,200 premium over the flat-roofed e-tron, and it still qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit.
EXCEPTIONAL RIDE QUALITY
At that price, expectations are raised and the e-tron delivers the goods. An adaptive air suspension makes for an ultra-smooth ride, the soft leather seats provide a supportive hug and Audi’s virtual cockpit plus still dazzles after all of these years. It’s a dark but clean cabin design with a dual center screen setup angled towards the driver, boutique Volcano Gray Ash Natural Wood inlays, and a funky gear shift that somewhat resembles an airplane throttle lever with a thumb-controlled switch to choose drive and reverse. Having recently tested the smaller Q4-e-tron, this one feels considerably brawnier from behind the wheel. It’s wider and considerably longer affording more rear seat legroom but the cargo volume, both behind the second-row and with all seats folded, is nearly identical. So, I’ll give you some food for thought: unless the e-tron’s additional 1,350 pounds of towing capacity is critical the Q4 e-tron and its $17,000 discount is very much worth considering.
That’s not to say this one doesn’t feel more substantial and drive with more sophistication because it does but the Q4 has its own advantages – driving range, charge time, less weight – plus a steep reduction in price. The e-tron can recharge its lithium-ion battery to 80% capacity at a maximum rate of 150 kW leading to a 30-minute plug-in time at a DC fast charger such as those found at Electrify America. Audi provides owners with 250 kWh of complimentary charging at EA stations, equivalent to about 4 fill-ups. A home charger, taking 10 hours to recharge, can be purchased separately and professionally installed, something I would highly recommend with a driving range this short. During this week’s sub-freezing temps, the e-tron has only been giving me about 190 miles on a full charge. As part of the Prestige package, the e-tron has second motorized charge port door on the passenger side for Level 1 and Level 2 connections. DC charging is reserved for the driver’s side port.
SEARCHING FOR THE RIGHT REGEN
From a driving perspective, I don’t love the regenerative braking setup. In Automatic mode there’s far too much coasting or free-wheeling for my tastes so I often find I’m inadvertently exceeding the speed limit. The regen controls via the paddle shifters can be triggered at any time or set to a specific rate up to 0.3g yet I can’t seem to find the sweet spot. One key advantage of the e-tron is its air suspension. Not only does it float over road irregularities but it allows the body to be raised by nearly two inches at speeds up to 22 MPH in the Offroad setting. Going down, there’re allroad, efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual drive modes with the ground clearance adjusting appropriately. Summer tires are included with the Black optic package but because it’s winter in Upstate New York Audi has fitted this e-tron with Continental ExtremeContact DWS 06 Plus ultra-high performance all-seasons, capable of light snow and ice duty but far from great even with quattro.
GENEROUSLY SIZED, HIGHLY EQUIPPED
As Prestige would imply, the e-tron’s feature level is quite high. Heated rear seats, soft closing doors, ventilated and massaging front seats, a head-up display and multicolor ambient interior lighting are just some of the highlights. The infotainment is very strong in terms of content and ease of use, the driver display is highly customizable and the Google Earth mapping is a wow moment. Dual-pane acoustic side glass contributes to the cabin’s hushed nature while an integrated toll module in the rearview mirror means no unsightly E-ZPass is required. Even in the Sportback body style, rear seat headroom is fine for taller adults with a bump out in the headliner and cargo room, though reduced by a couple of cubic feet, is greater than that in the Q5 Sportback at 27 cubic-feet with the rear seats upright, 54 cubic-feet with them folded.
MAKE ROOM FOR THE Q8 E-TRON
Audi has announced that the e-tron and e-tron Sportback’s confusing names will be changing midway through the 2023 calendar year to the Q8 E-tron when both will be refreshed with updated, more aerodynamic styling and an optional, larger battery with over 300 miles of range. Until then, the e-tron Sportback serves as a stellar, albeit expensive, electric SUV for those without range anxiety.