PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
Power is up over the standard e-tron to 496bhp, which, along with 717lb ft of torque, will thrust this two and a half tonne SUV to 60mph from rest in just 4.5 seconds. But that is only in Sport mode, and only available for 8 second bursts at a time, a sort of “overboost” facility if you like. But away from that, the car does feel significantly quicker than the standard car. Its power is also delivered in a very linear fashion because the car has three electric motors. Audi has essentially put the standard car’s large rear motor on the front axle, and then two of the small motors that would normally power the standard car’s front axle on the rear.
Most of the time, the car disengages the front motor for better efficiency, making it, essentially, a rear wheel drive quattro. The front motor will spring into action when either the driver demands it through performance, or the car requires it from a traction perspective.
However, the motors go a stage even further than that with the rear two modulating power to each individual wheel as necessary, a sort of clever, electronic limited slip diff if you will, increasing grip through the car’s torque vectoring system. By using software to control this instead of mechanical linkages, you get a system that can react 25% quicker. A stage on from that, and you have the car’s ability to apply the brakes gently on the inside front wheel which tucks the nose of the car into the bend and rotate the whole vehicle much more neatly in normal use, or even, on a circuit of course, provide more enthusiastic oversteer.
Yet all this means very little if you don’t get the communication through the wheel that seems to be an Audi Achille’s heel that never seems to go away. Much like when we drove the standard e-tron, the helm doesn’t communicate the drive that you might expect from a car that delivers this much performance and dynamics, and that seems a real shame after all the effort they seem to have gone to with the rest of the chassis.
Ride quality from the air suspension is good, and despite the large 21-inch alloys, it appears to be slightly better than we remember, although both the Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC still better it in this regard.
The brakes are good however, and you can adjust the level of regeneration through two paddles on the steering wheel. You can almost use them as a form of ‘engine-braking’ as you set the car up for an upcoming bend, and it gives you as the driver another facet of interaction with the car. Although it does then highlight the issue with the steering.