Audi debuts its first production BEV

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Words: Peter Louisson   |   Photos PL/Supplied
7 Jun 2019

The auto industry is in no doubt that the future is electric. They’ve kind of had that thrust upon them in the form of ever-tightening emissions regulations.

Nissan was the first company to get the ball rolling with its Leaf, the second-generation model about to touch down here, but Tesla was the first cab off the rank in terms of mass producing BEVs (battery electric vehicles) only. Of the big German luxury car makers it’s Audi who wins the race to sell a pure electric high-riding model here first, being this e-tron SUV. Reminding somewhat of the Q8 for styling, it also features a dash architecture reminiscent of that vehicle’s. Audi’s first-ever battery electric vehicle goes on sale here for $149k, coincidentally the same price as the Q8. The vehicle hits the shelves mid-July but evidently all of this year’s allocation has been spoken for, such is the demand for an electric performance Quattro machine.

NZ Autocar joined the rest of the inquisitive media for a brief drive acquaintance, setting out in pouring rain from the Morningside event location where the night before enthusiastic Audi fans had the chance to get up close and personal with the e-tron, albeit in left-hand drive form. Three had been flown in for evaluation purposes prior to the onsale date and it was these we got to drive briefly.

Push the button to start ‘er up and there’s literally no sound but if you lean on the ‘gas’ (guess that will have to be renamed the power pedal), the instant hit of torque from zero revs has you up and away immediately. During the deluge we were stopped at a major intersection and after selecting Dynamic mode we were urged to plant the power pedal when the flag dropped, er, the lights turned green. Acceleration off the mark is intense and we’d gapped the rest of the traffic as effortlessly as a motorbike pulls a 100m advantage without trying. Not a hint of wheelspin either, just the effortless surge of 664Nm and 300kW driving you forward. And little noise from up front, just some whirring like a jet engine.

There are two motors, one for each axle, and in between these mounted low in a “skateboard”-style chassis is the 95kWh battery back, comprising 430-odd individual cells. It’s said to weigh around 700kg, which partly explains why the e-tron weighs in at 2490kg. Not that you’d know that by the way it jumps off the mark. Evidently zero to motorway speed takes 5.7sec. Top speed is limited to 200km/h, for those wondering.

That big battery isn’t just there to enable stoplight grand prix antics either. Audi reckons it offers real world range of 417km. Add another 30km-odd if you option in external cameras instead of regular mirrors. Range is evidently all about aerodynamics once you get above town speeds. The big battery can be half charged overnight using the standard 7.5kW box that lives in the ‘frunk’ (front trunk). But fast charging - it’s capable of being hooked up to 150kW DC units - takes a bit over half an hour. When these bigger units become available here charging in around 13 min should be possible, about the same time as it takes for a fuel refill and a coffee order.

This is a reasonably large vehicle, 4901mm long, and the generous five-seater offers luggage capacity of 660-1725L. It will tow too, up to 1800kg braked. Ground clearance, if you plan on a little offroading, is 172mm.

Want to check it out yourself? You can, because these three left-hand drive e-trons are doing a whirlwind New Zealand tour of the main centres, kicking off in Auckland this weekend, and heading south, ending up in Dunedin on Sat Jun 22.

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