2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback first drive review: Slipstream SUV serenity

    Make no bones about it: Audi’s all-electric E-Tron SUV might have obtained excessive marks from skilled auto reviewers and new homeowners alike, nevertheless it hasn’t moved the automaker’s gross sales needle within the US. In all of pre-pandemic 2019, the Audi bought fewer than 5,400 E-Trons right here — lower than a mean month of Q5 gross sales. It’s amidst this irritating backdrop that the 2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback mannequin whirs into sellers, its racier slope-back roofline hoping to catch each eyes and gross sales.Based on visuals alone, the E-Tron Sportback has undergone the now industry-standard four-door-coupification course of extra efficiently than most luxurious crossover SUVs — EV or not. From the windshield header ahead, the Sportback seems to be the identical as its extra conventional two-box sibling and certainly, it has almost the identical peak. However, owing to its dramatically plunging rearward greenhouse and frameless home windows that clear up its roofline, the Sportback seems to be concurrently decrease and arguably extra fashionable, including in a splash of athleticism. The Sportback is not simply slipperier to the attention, it enjoys a 0.28 coefficient of drag, 0.02 higher than its boxier relation.
    Audi E-Tron Sportback First Edition is one slick electrical SUV
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    Range and charging specs are solely a part of the storyOn the efficiency entrance, the Sportback is all however similar to the usual E-Tron, however various incremental enhancements throughout each physique types improve enchantment. Among the adjustments, Audi upped the out there battery capability barely, growing the customer-accessible portion of this 95.3-kilowatt-hour pack to 86.5 kWh — almost 3 greater than first-year E-Tron fashions. This interprets to 218 miles of vary and EPA estimates of 76 MPGe metropolis, 78 freeway and 77 mixed. (The remainder of the pack is held in reserve to protect longevity.)

    When it comes time to juice up, the Sportback helps Level 3 150-kW fast charging, which may jolt the battery from 0% to 80% in round 30 minutes. More frequent Level 2 chargers (like these most EV homeowners set up) can replenish a complete pack in round 10.5 hours. Each E-Tron additionally comes with 1,000 kWh of complimentary charging by the Electrify America community. Speaking of filling up, the Sportback is offered with twin cost ports, one on every entrance fender. Especially for metropolis dwellers who reside in condos or residences with tight entry to cost factors, this uncommon bonus function could possibly be a significant quality-of-life enhancer.

    This Plasma Blue E-Tron Sportback First Edition is one among 200 coming to our shores.
    Chris Paukert/Roadshow
    To be clear, the Sportback’s aforementioned vary figures are unremarkable — a base, Tesla Model X Long Range Plus has a 351-mile claimed vary, however beginning at round $80,000, it is almost $10,000 pricier than a 2021 E-Tron Sportback (extra on pricing in a minute). Of course, whereas smaller than the Audi, the Model Y Performance is available in at 291 miles for a lot much less cash (round $60Okay) and there is a slower, less-expensive Long Range spec with 316.

    In my expertise, nevertheless, with each this Sportback and with earlier E-Tron testers, Audi EVs obtain their vary estimates with relative ease, nearly no matter driving habits or ambient situations. Conversely, Tesla’s said ranges often really feel like best-case eventualities. As with all issues, your mileage might fluctuate, however the real-world vary gulf between these rivals is probably going far smaller for many drivers than these autos’ window stickers would counsel.Performance past the numbersI begin with these efficiency comparisons if solely to get them out of the way in which. For higher or worse, it appears inconceivable to overview a brand new premium EV of any stripe with out acknowledging how they numerically stack as much as choices from Elon and Friends. That mentioned, I’m likewise right here to suggest an alternate view, which I feel delivers a fuller image of luxurious electrical life typically, and this E-Tron Sportback particularly.You’ve doubtless discovered that each one EV evaluations from the standard Nissan Leaf to the Porsche Taycan wax rhapsodic concerning the prompt torque and silent operating inherent in battery-powered autos. Especially for these popping out of a conference internal-combustion-engined (ICE) mannequin, that is actually a sound first impression and it is completely the case with this E-Tron Sportback. And whereas that notion speaks to the innate serenity of electrical energy, this Audi takes that sense of wellbeing to the next stage, each in the way in which this SUV goes down the street and the way in which its cabin and tech make you are feeling.As is typical for EVs, there’s not a lot to have a look at underneath the hood. Lift that plastic lid and you will find the cost wire.
    Chris Paukert/Roadshow
    The Sportback’s two-motor powertrain routes 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque to all 4 wheels by default, rising to a brief 402 hp and 490 lb-ft in Boost Mode. The latter setting is sufficient to whoosh this 5,750-pound softroader to 60 mph in a drama-free 5.5 seconds. That’s fairly fast, however once more, not headline- or Instagram-worthy stuff by immediately’s EV requirements. What makes the Sportback spectacular is the completely placid method through which this efficiency is conjured. Yes, it is quiet. Yes, it is linear. And sure, it feels endlessly repeatable with out obvious degradation in efficiency throughout laborious driving. While it feels uncharacteristically new-age-ish (and considerably nebulous) of me to say, the tactile high quality of the E-Tron’s cabin supplies and the precision of their meeting contributes to that aura of slipstream serenity. There’s little question about it, the match and end of the E-Tron Sportback’s inside is worlds extra luxurious and of noticeably increased high quality than one thing just like the Jaguar I-Pace, not to mention something Tesla has ever made. The final new Tesla Models X and Y that I drove dazzled with their accelerative urgency, however their high-performance spells had been momentary damaged by stunning quantities of wind noise and the occasional mysterious creak or graunch from past the firewall and rear hatch space. By comparability, even with frameless home windows, the Sportback is among the quietest autos I’ve ever pushed.The E-Tron’s different efficiency attributes are tuned harmoniously, too. The normal adaptive air suspension is remarkably compliant over larger Detroit’s indifferently maintained roads, even using atop this instance’s upsized 21-inch tires. With the Drive Select controller set to its firmest detent, the E-Tron’s experience is greater than livable and cornering angle is flat, doubtlessly aided by the weighty battery pack slung low within the chassis. I choose retaining the steering set to Sport for a heftier really feel when charging down a winding street, however regardless of the setting, the steering is exact however numb. Like different trendy Audi fashions, the E-Tron Sportback feels tech wealthy and really effectively assembled.
    Chris Paukert/Roadshow
    A phrase on omissions and creepsA word concerning the braking: Audi labored notably diligently to mix the EV powertrain’s regenerative braking with conventional friction binders and the outcomes do nothing to erode the Sportback’s air of general effortlessness. Unlike some EVs, they’re straightforward to modulate because of constant really feel. However, there’s one key factor the brakes do not do almost in addition to many different EVs: one-pedal driving. While Audi labored in a user-selectable setting with stronger regenerative braking than early E-Trons, it is not near being sufficient to allow one-pedal driving. According to firm officers, Audi engineers intentionally selected to restrict lift-off regen within the identify of most effectivity. Admirable as that could be, a lot of EV drivers inform Roadshow they rapidly fall in love with single-pedal driving and never providing a driver-selectable setting to accommodate this in style buyer desire seems like greater than a minor exclusion — it feels each shortsighted and needlessly overbearing. Similarly, it is also odd that Audi’s coders have not made a forward-creep setting out there. Manual-transmission automobiles apart, almost each trendy automobile rolls ahead slowly from a cease when the brake pedal is launched, as when pulling away from a cease signal or inching ahead in a left-hand flip lane. Not the E-Tron. You need to nudge the accelerator. You get used to this, after all, but when the aim is to make transitioning from a conventional ICE mannequin as straightforward as doable, that is an omission.The E-Tron comes with normal 360-degree, top-down digital camera protection for simple parking.
    Chris Paukert/Roadshow
    Interior and infotainment techThe cabin actually feels a bit extra intimate and racier, however that is largely when wanting within the rearview mirror or for those who’re seated within the second row. TL;DR: Plenty of leg, knee and toe room, however headroom is a bit tight for these over 5 toes, 9 inches and the home windows do not roll down very far.As far as cargo quantity goes, it is largely unaffected by the coupification course of. The Sportback affords 27.2 cubic toes of area behind the rear seats, or 54.5 with them folded (decreases of 1.3 and a couple of.0 versus the usual E-Tron, respectively).Beyond that, the Sportback’s insides are pure trendy Audi, which is to say impeccably assembled, tastefully adorned and rocking a formidable tech hand. Thanks to a trio of enormous shows, one for the Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster and two for the touchscreen MMI infotainment system, when the ability is off, the E-Tron Sportback’s cabin look is nearly eerily minimalist, notably when rendered in darker colours like this one. That doesn’t suggest it is boring inside, although. By comparability, the Model Y’s pared-back dashboard and single show might nail the minimalist yoga-studio-on-wheels aesthetic, however because of its considerably cheaper supplies and infrequently irritating controls, Fremont’s most interesting does not ship the identical sense of serenity and solidity because the Sportback. You take the Tesla. Namaste on this Audi, buddy.Second-row area is kind of good, although these taller than 5 toes, 9 inches might need to slouch a little bit.
    Chris Paukert/Roadshow
    E-Tron Sportback mannequin years and pricingEarlier, I discussed that the E-Tron Sportback sits between the Tesla Model Y and X in value and certainly, it does. That mentioned, additional rationalization is critical. Due to COVID-19-related manufacturing and transport hiccups, each 2020 and 2021 model-year Sportbacks are trickling into sellers kind of concurrently and in contrast to Team Elon, all E-Trons stay eligible for the complete $7,500 federal tax credit score.A really brief 2020 model-year run consists of two fashions: A midrange Premium Plus spec that embrace options like adaptive cruise management, 360-degree digital camera suite and 16-speaker Bang and Olufsen 3D audio for $78,445 (together with $1,045 for supply). The different alternative is an all-boxes-checked 2020 Edition One like the instance seen in these photographs. It provides the Prestige Package, which incorporates options just like the aforementioned twin cost ports, head-up show, massaging contour entrance seats, full leather-based (together with sprint, armrests and middle console) and even an air ionizer/perfume dispenser. Just 200 Edition One fashions shall be bought within the US and you can spot them on the road by their particular Plasma Blue metallic paint and the 21-inch bi-color wheels shrouding orange brake calipers. Price? A heady $89,540 with vacation spot.Interestingly, for the 2021 mannequin yr, Audi considerably retooled the E-Tron Sportback’s mannequin line, enabling a a lot decrease beginning value. A brand new entry-level Premium trim begins at $70,145 delivered and it is relatively effectively geared up, together with normal options like four-zone local weather management and 20-inch alloys. Mid-trim Premium Plus fashions add ventilated 12-way energy seats, matrix LED headlamps, B&O audio, wi-fi charging and a driver-assistance package deal, amongst different options for $79,045 delivered. Go entire hog on a Prestige to internet almost the entire options from the Edition One and also you’re $83,345 in your driveway earlier than any federal, state and native tax incentives. Modestly slicker than its extra upright E-Tron sibling, Audi is hoping this Sportback can jumpstart their EV gross sales.
    Chris Paukert/Roadshow
    It’s value noting {that a} base Sportback is $3,700 dearer than an everyday E-Tron, a technique that is in-line with the {industry}’s “four-door coupe” SUV pricing development: Same automobile + completely different fashion – usable area = more cash. While this worth calculus perplexes your writer, shoppers have been supporting the sort of math because the 2008 BMW X6, so extra energy — and earnings — to ’em.Overall, the brand new E-Tron Sportback combines spectacular luxurious with a fluid, unflappable really feel. What this SUV does not actually muster, nevertheless, is an expertise that is materially a lot completely different than the usual E-Tron. The concept that the Sportback is sportier is basically an phantasm and it could’ve been attention-grabbing to see what would possibly’ve resulted had Audi elected to present this mannequin its personal driving character. Regardless, for those who’re on the lookout for luxurious, high quality and serenity now, the E-Tron Sportback delivers like few autos — electrical or in any other case. 

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