With the 2019 Audi e-tron, the all-electric SUV category enters the big leagues. Launching in Mzansi midway through next year, the new five-seater promises the Audi style and luxury we’re familiar with from the Q5 and Q7, along with the off-roading abilities, but with zero emissions along the way.
The big range question is still unanswered
Pitch an electric car and you’re going to run up against one question from the get-go: how far can it drive on a full charge? That’s something Audi isn’t quite ready to answer, at least for the SA market.
What we do know is the battery size, and the range estimates on the European cycle. The 2019 e-tron has a 95 kWh battery, and in Europe the preliminary numbers suggest up to 400 kilometers of driving on a full charge.
It bears remembering, however, that the European test is different. In fact, there are two tests: up until recently, the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) was used, but that’s being replaced with the tougher Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP).
Home charging should be easier
Unlike many EVs, Audi’s supplied charger in the e-tron can handle 240-volt outlets as well as 120-volt domestic outlets. It means that, if you have a NEMA 14-50 / 40 amp outlet, you’ll be able to charge at up to 9.6 kW. With a regular 120-volt outlet you’re looking at 1.2 kW at most.
If you want a fully installed Level 2 charger, however, Audi is partnering up with Amazon for installation in the Americas, while local partners are yet to be announced. It’s intended to be a one-click affair, and for a single price: Amazon will arrange the electrician to come out and handle the installation. What we don’t know, exactly, is how much that single price will be.
Even with that caveat, Audi’s approach is a welcome one. With the exception of Tesla, automakers offering electric vehicles have so far been reluctant to get involved in the charger installation process. At best, it’s left to the individual dealers to recommend a service; at worst, the car buyer is left to do their own research, shop around electricians, and figure out how they’re going to maximize their time plugged-in when at home.
No Superchargers, but something potentially better
If there’s one thing Tesla is known for, it’s the Supercharger network. So far, we’ve only seen one mainstream automaker attempt to build it own EV infrastructure, Jaguar SA, but that doesn’t mean the 2019 e-tron won’t have places to charge.
It’s priced to compete
The luxury electric SUV space hasn’t had much competition so far, but that’s all set to change over the next couple of years. Tesla’s Model X has been the heavyweight so far, but Jaguar’s I-PACE joined the party earlier this year, and the e-tron will arrive in Q2 2019. Sometime next year the Mercedes-Benz EQC will go on sale, while the BMW iX3 won’t hit dealerships until 2020.
Larger, and with a third row of seats, the Model X carries a bigger sticker too, and starts out at R1 250 000 before incentives. The I-PACE is closer in size and spec to the Audi; it starts at a sub R1 200 000, though the e-pace’s higher level of standard equipment makes the R1 125 00 I-PACE SE a more comparable car.
Indeed the 2019 e-tron Premium Plus is aggressively equipped. 20-inch wheels, four-zone climate control, a 705W Bang & Olufsen audio system, heated/cooled front seats, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, and leather seats are all standard.
It’s a legitimate off-roader
As you’d expect, Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive is a key part of the e-tron offering. In fact, it’s the first implementation of quattro electric, with an asynchronous electric motor on both the front and rear axels. Typically, the e-tron favors the rear for economy reasons, but it can bring both into play in a split-second for maximum traction.
With air suspension as standard, the e-tron can adjust its height by up to 3.0-inches across the different drive modes. In “offroad” mode, for example, it lifts 1.4-inches compared to normal. A separate “Raise” option lifts it a further 0.6-inches. Combined with a lower center of gravity compared to a traditional SUV, courtesy of the battery pack being slung down within the wheelbase, and brake-based torque vectoring, it adds up to an EV that should be capable across unpaved surfaces, snow, and ice.
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