Audi e-tron Prototype reviewed by Autocar

While we don’t really need to look at prototypes of the Audi e-tron anymore, as the new electric SUV was officially unveiled already, prototypes are all that’s been driven by journalists as of right now. Audi decided to take a group of journos to Namibia for the e-tron drive, which is not typically where car companies want to test electric cars, and we’re hearing that it handled it quite well.

In this new review from Autocar, we get answers to a lot of the questions about how the e-tron will drive. We also learned quite a bit more about its underpinnings that we already knew. For starters, it’s based off of a modified MLB-Evo platform, the same that underpins the Audi Q7, but it has bits from other Audi SUVs. For instance, its steering rack is from an Audi Q5 but its subframes and mountings are from a Q7. So it’s a bit of a mix of other cars, which helps Audi keep the cost down and production quantities high.

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However, the powertrain/drivetrain is all its own. Two electric motors power the Audi e-tron, one at each axle, which combine to make 350 hp and 414 lb-ft of torque under normal circumstances. Though, a temporary overboost function allows it to make 402 and 487 lb-ft. Normally, 0-60 mph happens in 6.4 seconds, with overboost allowing it to do the sprint in 5.5 seconds.

But we already know its specs. The real question is: How does it drive? “We didn’t want to build a car that drives like a computer,” Michael Wein, an engineer for the e-tron, told Autocar. “There is a lot of computerised technology in the E-tron but, at the end of the day, it should drive like a car. The driver should be the captain.”

Encouraging to hear but of course Audi engineers are going to talk up their project. What did Autocar think? According to Ronan Glon, who drove it in deep, slippery Namibian sand and dirt, “I took my first lap in Auto mode, which lets the car read the ground and distribute torque between the axles as it sees fit. The numerous electronic driving aids worked in sync to keep me pointed in the right direction even after I entered a turn slightly faster than advised. So far, so good.”

But what happens when you want to drive it hard and have some fun? Can a two-ton-plus electric SUV actually be fun? “I turned the ESC system completely off – an unexpected feature in an electric family car – and took advantage of ground as slippery as snow to present my most convincing impression of Walter Röhrl in his Sport Quattro, minus the flames, the noise and the rabid supporters. In these conditions, the e-tron becomes a car you dance with, not one you wrestle against, which is impressive considering its size and presumably not insignificant weight. The low center of gravity helps erase body roll while the electric Quattro system multitasks to direct torque to the wheel with the most traction and power the car through a bend. The motors deliver quick, linear acceleration out of turns. The e-tron is a lot more fun on dirt than a family-oriented luxury SUV ought to be.”

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Shocking to say the least. We didn’t expect to hear phrases like “the e-tron becomes a car you dance with” or “is a lot more fun on dirt” about the e-tron. It seems that it’s going to be a lot more fun than your average electric SUV and we can’t wait to drive it.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.