First Drive: Is the Audi e-tron 55 the ultimate electric SUV?

·5-min read

What is it?

Audi e-tron 55 quattro
(Audi)

When electric vehicles first started to become popular, they’d often have quirky, characterful styling that would make it clear this was something a little bit different. However, with EVs becoming the norm, we’ve now entered the era where most try to fly under the radar.

The Audi e-tron is just that. It’s an electric SUV, but it doesn’t shout about this fact. Instead, it attempts to bring the values that have long established Audi as a premium brand – style, practicality and a premium interior.

What’s new?

Audi e-tron 55 quattro
(Audi)

The e-tron was the first electric SUV to come from Audi, bringing the firm’s premium appeal to this booming market. Late last year, updates were introduced to early models that allowed for increased range, with the German firm saying it wanted to offer existing owners the same benefits that have been developed for newer examples.

You can opt for a performance-focused S model or choose from two ‘regular’ e-trons, with the entry-level 50 and the more powerful 55 we’re driving today. It has a high-tech interior with a twin-screen infotainment system, impressive fast charging capabilities and impressive refinement that makes the most of its quiet electric powertrain.

What’s under the bonnet?

Audi e-tron 55 quattro
(Audi)

One of Audi’s USPs is its Quattro all-wheel drive system, and the firm has updated this for the electric generation. The e-tron 55 uses two motors, one on each axle, to power all four wheels. It makes 350bhp and a healthy 664Nm of torque, which provides a real kick of acceleration.

This is reflected in its performance figures, with the 0-60mph sprint taking 6.6 seconds. If you can resist the urge to make the most of the power under your right foot, official figures suggest you should be able to get up to 274 miles from the 95kWh battery.

What’s it like to drive?

Audi e-tron 55 quattro
(Audi)

Refinement is probably going to crop up a few times in this review, but it’s with good reason. Audi is well-known for building high quality, comfortable cars, but it has excelled itself with the e-tron. The silence of the electric motors makes for a relaxing drive, and the fantastic build quality means there are no squeaks and rattles, leading to a serene experience that’s perfect for longer trips.

It’s pretty quick, too. Although being a big, heavy SUV doesn’t lend itself to fun in corners, it has that hilariously exciting punch of acceleration that characterises electric powertrains. It means that motorway on-ramps and overtaking manoeuvres are completed without hesitation.

How does it look?

Audi e-tron 55 quattro
(Audi)

Audi’s SUVs typically have imposing styling, but the e-tron brings a certain subtlety that means that you’ll blend into the background more than in its combustion-engined equivalents. There’s a real classy feel to the model, thanks to a fairly simple, sleek design language.

There’s a clear intention to make this a more timeless design. It somehow manages to look futuristic and dated in equal measure. There are some lovely touches, though, such as the LED headlight design both front and rear.

What’s it like inside?

Audi e-tron 55 quattro
(Audi)

Audi’s twin-screen infotainment design has been around for a few years now but it still feels as fresh as the day it was introduced. Few other companies have managed to integrate multi-screen designs in such a seamless way – and on top of this, they’re high-resolution with great menu design and impressive responsiveness.

There are a few cheaper-feeling plastics if you really go looking for them, but overall the e-tron’s interior feels worthy of its premium pitching. The lack of a combustion engine and associated mechanical gubbins means it’s spacious, too, with lots of room in the rear for adult passengers.

What’s the spec like?

Audi e-tron 55 quattro
(Audi)

Prices for the e-tron start at £61,320 for the 50 version, but if you want the 55 we’re testing today, you’re looking at a starting price of £72,220. This is for the Technik trim, which includes 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension, LED headlights all round, and the full twin-screen infotainment screens.

There are four more trims available, called Sport, S line, Black Edition and Vorsprung. S line and Black Edition sit around the middle of the model’s price range at £79,020 and £80,570 respectively. Upgrades shared between the models over the Technik trim includes 21-inch alloy wheels, Matrix LED headlights and adaptive sport suspension. The Black Edition gets its name from some black exterior parts.

Vorpsrung sits at the top of the range, commanding quite the price premium at £94,220. For this, you get 22-inch wheels, digital matrix LED headlights, super sports seats and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Verdict

Audi e-tron 55 quattro
(Audi)

The Audi e-tron has been on sale for about three years now, and remains as relevant as ever. It has received subtle revisions in that time that have kept it relevant with newer rivals, and it’s testament to the model that it still feels fresh despite the rapid pace of development in this market.

With impressive range and an incredibly refined driving experience, there are few premium electric SUVs that are noticeably more appealing. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly family car or an electric car that’ll cope with longer commutes, the e-tron is a mighty appealing option.

  • Model: Audi e-tron 55

  • Base price: £72,220

  • Engine: Twin electric motors and 95kWh battery

  • Power: 350bhp

  • Torque: 664Nm

  • Max speed: 124mph

  • 0-60mph: 6.6

  • Economy: N/A

  • Emissions: 0g/km

  • Range: 230 - 274 miles

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