First drive: Audi's electric e-tron

A car that has been a long time coming has wasted no time demonstrating its capabilities in New Zealand driving conditions. Audi New Zealand has immediately switched on to showing off the new e-tron fully-electric SUV as an ideal zero emissions solution for New Zealand drivers.

Driven is in the Southern Lakes district for a two-day first taste of e-tron driving on highways, gravel roads and snowy surfaces.

Each environment has been chosen to highlight the skills of an SUV that Audi is calling uncompromising, unapologetic and designed to conquer any terrain.

The highway run from Queenstown through to Cromwell confirmed the e-tron as very quiet, highly refined and comfortable as an open road touring machine.

The big SUV has a surefooted stance with a low centre of gravity and an air-suspended ride that combines initial suppleness with progressive roll control.

The e-tron feels relaxing and the immediate torque from the twin electric motors achieves strong part ``throttle’ response on hills and for overtaking.

The second stint put the e-tron’s quattro all-wheel-drive skills to the test on the Hawksburn Rd starting near Bannockburn.

Signposted as ``Not Suitable for Cars’’, it’s a twisty run on lightly gravelled and narrow tracks that traverse deep gullies and pass rocky outcrops while climbing steadily before a sharp descent into the town of Clyde. As a rough road and loose surface – rather than offroad - test, the e-tron felt as confident as any accomplished conventional SUV.

 

New Zealand has earned an early position in the supply chain for the e-tron, following closely on the European launch in March and North America in May. We’re well ahead of many global markets for two reasons.

Audi New Zealand began preparing for its first full-electric car more than five years ago and New Zealand’s status among nations that generate electricity from renewable resources – we are ranked second only to Norway with about 85 per cent renewable electricity generation – helped position New Zealand as an important launch market for the e-tron.

That sustainable power generation was reinforced with a visit and photo opportunity at the Clyde dam yesterday afternoon.

And to add one more twist of Kiwi flavour to the e-tron introduction there was a chance to sample EV towing capability with electric torque making easy work of having a 1.6-tonne trailer attached.

We can report some initial efficiency numbers from yesterday’s e-tron run. The total route of just over 180km saw the car return to Queenstown with 42 per cent of its battery capacity remaining.

Average consumption over the four-hour trip was 28.9kwh/100km and the car showed 132km of range remaining at the end of the day.

The Audi e-tron is a five-seat SUV that is sized between Audi’s existing Q5 and Q7 models. It has a 95kWh lithium-ion battery driving the twin electric motors that achieve quattro all-wheel-drive.

It develops 265kW output and 561Nm of torque. In eight-second bursts of ``Boost’’ those numbers step up to 300kW and 664Nm.

The e-tron can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 5.7secs using boost mode and combined cycle energy consumption is rated between 26.2kWh/100km and 22.5kWh/100km.

Audi claims a range of 417km based on the WLTP consumption test cycle – a number that’s most likely to be achieved in the lower speed, high regeneration environment of city driving rather than where we ventured yesterday.

But even with the rough track and highway running today the e-tron was on schedule to provide about 315km of driving range.

Audi New Zealand is launching with two versions which are badged as the e-tron 55 quattro.

The two models are identical in terms of powertrain, performance and driving range with the standard model priced from $148,500 while the Advanced grade with additional equipment is $157,000.

Weather permitting there’s a chance to drive the e-tron on snow and ice today – a world first for New Zealand motoring journalists as its first time anyone apart from company engineers have driven the e-tron in an ice driving situation.

 

Giltrap Audi - e-tron