BY BRIAN BYRNE
WITH more than 10% of Audis sold in Ireland last year being electric, it’s clear that Volkswagen’s premium brand is playing its part in the push by the group towards an all-electric future. Nearly half of those sales were of the Q4 e-tron, the newest and smaller of the three Audi EVs available.
My review car is newer still, as the Sportback version of the Q4 e-tron, and I was quite taken with the softer rear roofline compared to the full SUV version’s. It has the style of a coupe liftback, but without sacrificing any of the passenger space, and only mildly diminishing boot capacity. In size it not surprisingly is close to the VW ID.5 equivalent and a bit more compact than key competitor Hyundai’s Ioniq 5. I thought the car’s shape was very well displayed in the non-metallic grey — they call it Pebblestone – of the review car.
The Q4 e-tron stylists held on to the sense of a grille front end, which I still think gives an EV more presence than some of the flat fronts of other models. Obviously there’s no need for a cooling air intake, but the pattern in the black element provides a texture that to my eye works well.
And of course the strong brand icon of the four interlinked rings is unmistakeable. There’s also a strong ‘eyebrowed’ effect in the front lights design and enough interest in the other shapes to provide a distinctive ‘face’ to the car. At the back, the spoiler is nicely integrated — though it does combine with the steep rake of the back window to curtail rear vision from inside.
The step up in the interior style and quality from the Q4 e-tron’s Volkswagen cousins is as strong as we have come to expect from Audi, and of course that’s part of why owners are paying more.
The dashboard design is highly sculpted with various angles and shapes and finishes that could have come out as a mess, but in fact are visually and ergonomically coherent. It’s a techy look, as befits a techy kind of car, the whole thing set off by a hexagonal style to the steering wheel. The central screen and the driver’s information one are both set well into the dashboard and free from glare.
A bank of switches and buttons below the middle screen manage a number of regular actions for climate and comfort.
Below them again is a ‘floating’ outcrop for the transmission and drive mode selection. It all falls together well to hand. While there’s no manual volume control, the ‘thumb-slide’ action on the steering wheel is accurate and easy to use.
The S-Line medium-sporty seats are comfortable for front occupants, and the room for those in the rear ample and adequate for three adults if necessary. Even someone behind me would have plenty of knee space. All door fittings have both style and robustness. The cargo capacity is 520 litres, only 15L less than the full SUV and anyway plenty.
The Q4 Sportback e-tron for my review came with an 82kWh battery and was rear-drive — there is an AWD version available which as well as being more surefooted in bad weather also allows 200kg more towing weight than the RWD’s 1,000kg.
The rated range of the car is 529km, but over my several hundred kilometres of driving, it was coming out closer to 420km. In part that is to do with driving in winter — which will cut efficiency with any powertrain — and partly, I think, because the WLTP protocol doesn’t seem to work as accurately with EVs as it does for internal combustion-powered cars.
A one-day typical commute to Dublin from mid-Kildare gave me a consumption of 17kWh/100km while the overall figure for my time with the car was 19.5kWh/100km.
Needless to say, like every EV, the drive was smooth and relatively silent, and the Q4 e-tron handled nicely on a variety of road configurations and surface qualities. A solid car with a sporty, quality feel. There were €4,000 worth of options on the review car, which included big-ticket items like the panoramic glass roof and a Sonos premium sound system.