Motor Review: Electric shock

You can’t fail to have noticed the number of battery-powered cars appearing on our roads.

But cars which are purely powered by electric from a battery are increasingly popular – and one of the latest to arrive is the Audi e-tron. Graham Courtney takes a closer look…

This is Audi’s first all-electric car…and it’s a belter.

Depending on your preference for styling, whereas some electric cars are given a rather unique appearance (think Nissan Leaf) the Audi e-tron fits fair and square into traditional Audi styling.

To be honest, it looks like a sleeker version of the Audi Q7. Which, of course, is precisely what Audi wants to achieve. They want the e-tron to appeal to buyers who want the traditional Audi attributes of build quality, driver enjoyment, performance and premium interior but who are also looking for a car that will be extremely economical and, yes, kind to the environment.

Oh, and they’d rather not have something which instantly makes you stand out as driving an electric car.

£71,520 gets you into the Audi e-tron, although the government’s plug-in car grant of £3,500 means you can knock a slice off that amount.

No matter which e-tron you go for, you’ll get air suspension included as standard, along with quattro all-wheel drive. There’s electronic climate control, which includes remote preconditioning that allows you to heat or cool the car before you enter to the temperature you left it at.

There’s satnav, a cracking audio system including DAB radio, a rear view camera and 360-degree parking sensors. It’s crammed full of safety kit too.

If you upgrade to the Launch Edition model you get leather front sports seats, privacy glass, panoramic sunroof and virtual door mirrors where cameras replace conventional door mirrors and project an image directly onto small LED screens.

What about the power plant? There’s a large battery under the passenger floor which, because of the low positioning, actually helps the car handle really well.

Power is fed to a pair of electric motors… one for each axle. A full charge will give you a total range of close to 250 miles depending on your driving style. The range will also drop in cold, wintery weather.

If you have a special charging wall box at home or work, the Audi e-tron will charge from zero to 80% in about eight hours. If you use a rapid charger such as those at local authority car parks or motorway service stations, you’ll get 80% in about 45 minutes.

For most people, the average journey to work is about 15 miles, which equates to a weekly commute of, say, 150 miles. Throw in some shopping trips or a ride out over the weekend and you should manage everything on a single charge. At current rates, that will cost you about £3. Not bad for a week’s motoring.

Plug the e-tron into your charger on a Sunday night and you’re ready for a further week of commuting. Longer journeys require a bit of planning but, if you’re driving for 250 miles you need a break in any case, so grab a coffee while you plug in the Audi. Simple.

Performance is excellent because you have 100% power instantly. The two electric motors develop 402bhp, working in tandem if you use the Sport setting. This gives you a lively 0-60mph time of 5.7 seconds. Audi could have made it quicker but they preferred to err on the side of sensible range rather than outright performance. Top speed is 124mph.

The ride is great and the handling is spot on. Remember, this is a big car, but it’s surprisingly agile. You also drive along in near silence.

The Audi e-tron is terrific. It’s a real-world electric car that will get you from Teesside to Manchester and back for around £3.

Once you get into the routine of charging the e-tron, you’ll wonder why everyone isn’t driving one.