AUDI entered the world of electric vehicles in 2019 with its impressive SUV, the e-tron, but now there is a sportier coupe-styled version and it aims to take on the big hitters.
Aptly called the e-tron Sportback, this five-door model is very easy on the eye with dynamic styling. And credit to Audi designers because it looks like a standard car without the need for impractical gull-wing doors or ridiculous badging. It simply goes about its business in a very ‘Audi' way, but much quieter.
Like the e-tron, the Sportback model features a distinctive grille housing the company logo, along with large wheel arch cladding, narrow light clusters with LED daytime running lights and dynamic front and rear sweeping indicators. There are LED Matrix lights that offer superb illumination at night, privacy glass, a panoramic sunroof and smart alloys with orange brake calipers that match the e-tron badging on the front wings.
The Sportback version tapers off at the rear to give the car a more athletic appearance and the stand-out feature are the stalk cameras that replace traditional door mirrors and project an image on screens built into the doors. I'll get to these later.
Move inside and the car oozes Audi quality through and through with soft-touch surfaces, smart trim and inlays, powered seats, high-end leather upholstery and twin display screens with sharp graphics. The top screen is for all infotainment functions such as smartphone connectivity, navigation, audio and car settings while the bottom one is for the climate control set-up and seat heaters.
Powering this 55 quattro sportier derivative is a 95kWh battery delivering a whopping 402bhp. There are electric motors on the front and rear axles and the vehicle has a range of 241 miles between charges depending, of course, on driving style and conditions.
It can power its way to 62mph from a standstill in a very rapid 6.6 seconds or 5.7 in boost mode and the top speed is 124mph.
The e-tron Sportback in S line trim costs £79,185, but customers can fully personalise their car with a wealth of optional extras. Our model finished up with an £89,470 price-tag.
One of those options was the virtual door mirrors costing £1,250 extra. These are being greeted with mixed reactions. Instead of looking at the standard mirrors, you view the image on screens positioned in the door panels. It seems unnaturally low down and certainly takes some getting used to.
The outer edge of the screens light up green when it's clear to pull out or amber if there is a vehicle in the way similarly to blind spot detection. Yes, it's all very clever, but for me, a touch too smart for its own good and not an option I would fork out for. I should add that the Honda e has similar camera mirrors but the screens are positioned each end of the dashboard which works much better.
However, when it comes to performance, the e-tron Sportback impresses on all counts with instant power and acceleration at the touch of the throttle. The road holding is perfectly balanced meaning tight bends can be attacked with confidence and there is next-to-no sign of body movement.
The steering is perfectly weighted with ample driver feedback and this is a car that effortlessly eats away at the miles on long motorway journeys.
There are drive modes called Off-road, All-road, Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual to alter the car's handling and characteristics. And there are steering wheel mounted paddles, not for changing gears, but to alter the level of regenerative braking.
The e-tron Sportback is agile and easy to manoeuvre in busier town centres with a turning lock of 12.2 metres, but it measures just shy of five metres so you will need to find a large parking space.
The suspension set-up does a very good job of smoothing out bumps and dips along the way, and the cabin is well insulated so protected from any outside noise.
Comfort levels are excellent, and with ample seat and steering wheel adjustment, finding the ideal driving position takes a matter of seconds. The visibility is okay, but the sloping tail end design of the Sportback results in a narrow rear screen.
There is plenty of space for a trio of passengers in the back and the boot can swallow 615 litres of kit - a limit that increases to 1,665 litres with the rear seats dropped flat.
Charging the car from 10-80 per cent on a 150kW public charger takes about 30 minutes or from empty to full on a 7kW domestic wallbox takes about 14 hours. For convenience there are charge ports on both sides of the car.
And being an Audi, the e-tron Sportback is packed with a comprehensive range of safety features and driver aids. It also has quattro all-wheel drive to keep you moving in more challenging conditions.