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QUICK DRIVE: Audi e-tron Sportback

Few weeks ago I saw an Audi e-tron Sportback extended test drive offer advertised on social media. Audi must have picked up my cross shopping searches when I bought my wife’s Jaguar I-Pace a few months ago. Since I am always shopping for a new car, I didn’t pass up on this test drive opportunity. I cleared my calendar and planned my day running errands around town with the Audi e-tron for the day. However my day didn’t go exactly as planned.  

I started my day with 6am meetings and then got my toddler ready for pre-school at 8am. Totally out of the blue, he decided to play hooky for the day and refused to get out of the car at school drop off.  With the Audi representative 30 minutes away from my house, I had no choice but to take my toddler back home with me.

My wife was tied up all day with zoom meetings so I was left with Daddy Daycare duty. Trying to be a responsible parent, I couldn’t let my child skip school and watch TV all day so the next best thing is to take him on the test drive adventure with me. I quickly installed our spare Diono Radian RXT and off we went. 

The Drive

When I first started the vehicle, I immediately received a Facetime call on the pre-installed iPad in the vehicle. The Audi virtual representative gave a brief overview of the features in the 2021 Audi e-tron Sportback Prestige, along with a $90,000 sticker shock.  (I was shopping for a normal e-tron Premium Plus, which was 70k-ish)  I drove along the Mulholland Dr to test out the long list of Drive Select as follows:

  • Off-Road: Puts the vehicle on tippy toes and simulated locker to 4 wheels
  • All-Road: Raised suspension but with normal AWD
  • Efficiency: Snooze mode
  • Comfort:  Numb and Floaty
  • Dynamic: Sport mode with everything heavy 
  • Auto:  Adaptive mode based on your madness
  • Individual:  Preset user adjusted mode

I ended up using Auto mode the most because the vehicle is smarter than I am and I can access the Dynamic’s Power Boost mode as needed by toggling the shifter back and forth between D and S mode. 

Combination of adaptive dampers and the wonderful MLB chassis make for a very compliant and responsive large EV crossover.  The suspension comfort was there when my toddler was napping and it stiffened up when I started driving like an idiot. The acceleration and power delivery was very progressive, which is very different from the usual kick in the boot feeling I am used to from Tesla and Jaguar. This can be viewed as either a good thing, for comfort and for saving the motor mounts, or it could be viewed as Audi sandbagging the performance to leave headroom for the RS models and future products from Porsches.  

After driving the nicely paved surface of Mulholland Dr. (LADOT does fix the roads during COVID) I decided to test the Audi e-tron on some rougher surfaces.  I visited Nike Missile Control Site LA-96 which has some dirt/gravel road.  I set the e-tron Drive Select on All-Road mode and slowly drove up to the missile battery trailhead. The ride was so comfortable that my toddler didn’t bother waking up until we were parked at the gates. 

After we finished hiking the towers and different battery sites, I set the e-Tron back down the road on Hill Descent Control, capping the speed under 10mph which other hikers appreciated as the vehicle gently drove past them without kicking up a dust cloud. I recalled the previous experience on this road with my wife’s old GLC350e and that was as bouncy as a rodeo ride. The Audi e-tron truly shines on this road.  

Cabin Space 

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While Audi may not boast a competitive battery range, of just 215 miles, it can certainly blow the competition away with interior space and quality. It looks and feels premium with the mix of leather and suede material on the doors and dash.  The new Audi MMI with tiles is a huge improvement over the previous generation with rotary menus. Wireless Apple CarPlay works well with the new touchscreen. However the touchscreen’s haptic feedback takes a bit to get used to.  New users will mistake the screen for being unresponsive if they don’t give it a hard press. 

Since the Audi e-tron Sportback is based on Audi’s MLB architecture there is plenty of rear legroom and headroom. Massaging seats on the Prestige trim level is also absolutely amazing. I am surprised that this fastback SUV has a decent size trunk and still managed to carry a compact emergency spare tire.  

Overall Impression

This Audi e-tron Sportback is like a Swiss Army knife of the EV world.  It does everything well while looking pretty stylish in a sea of 2 box SUVs.  My wife dismissed the regular e-tron because it looked too much like a station wagon and we already have a Mercedes E450 4Matic in the garage (For the record… The only wagon that matters is the Audi RS6 Avant). At the end of the day, my toddler liked the car enough that he gave it a bath and wanted to keep it. 

 

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