The changes in car technology certainly aren’t slowing either. Autonomous, self-driving cars are on their way and electric cars are already here and in growing numbers too. Sales of alternatively-fuelled vehicles were up 22 per cent in 2018 and the likes of Jaguar’s I-Pace and the electric Hyundai Kona already have lengthy waiting lists. It’ll be the same in 2019 with the Mercedes EQC and Audi’s new E-tron arriving in showrooms.
On the face of it, this Audi E-tron looks totally of the moment. It’s an SUV and fits into the German firm’s line-up between the Q5 and Q7 but, like the latter, it also looks slightly elongated in an estate-style way.
There’s also an element of a jacked-up A6 Allroad about it too, which is no bad thing as it adds an air of practicality to electric motoring which is often considered impractical.
There are also hints of the E-tron’s electric nature in the aerodynamic wheels, LED lights and the absence of wing mirrors, which have been replaced on the launch edition models by door-mounted rear-facing cameras, more on which later.
The E-tron’s power – all 402bhp of it, which might surprise EV sceptics – comes from a 95kWh battery pack.
The Audi e-tron does 0 to 60mph in 5.5 seconds
The electricity from this pack is fed to a pair of motors at each end, which gives the E-tron four-wheel drive and enables a 0 to 60mph time of 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 124mph.
Indeed, the off-the-mark turn of speed is as impressive as we expect from an electric car. The difference with this E-tron though, is that it can sustain that pace beyond the first few hundred metres.
Having an all-electric powertrain means that the E-tron is extremely quiet and refined, with just the faint high-pitched whirring sound of the motors to be heard, along with a little road noise. Wind noise is also minimised, thanks to the large wing mirrors usually found on modern SUVs being replaced by those cameras.
Of course, the big question everyone has about any new electric vehicle is its range.
The new Audi E-tron has an elongated estate-style look
Audi says that the E-tron can cover 248 miles (calculated using the latest real-world tests) and our test saw the range fall on a largely mile-for-mile basis, even at motorway speeds.
That suggests that even without really trying to be as efficient as possible, which current EV drivers tend to have to be, over 200 miles should be easily attainable.
Charging should be possible at 50kW chargers in around 90-120 minutes, with an 80 per cent charge possible in 30 minutes from a 150kW ultra-rapid charger.
These higher-powered chargers are very rare in the UK at present but by the end of 2019 there should be some at locations including BP filling stations.
The E-tron also has a very useful energy recuperation system too, enabling drivers to top up the batteries when braking, especially when going downhill. At two and a half tonnes, the E-tron is a heavy car and, as an SUV, quite high-sided. But the weight of the batteries under the floor means that the Audi has a low centre of gravity, helping to offset any bodyroll when cornering.
Door-mounted rear-facing cameras replace wing mirrors
The car therefore handles well, with plenty of grip and a good sense of balance, while the steering is sharp and accurate.
It also feels comfortable, with that battery weight helping to settle the suspension when the car encounters any bumps.
That also includes when heading away from the road, as the E-tron can also deal with some light off-roading duties. The interior is equally comfortable, with its high-quality materials and supportive seats, along with all the accoutrements of a high-tech car, such as three screens – one in the instrument panel and two, stacked one above the other, in the centre console.
There are two other screens, in the doors, which relay pictures from the rear-facing cameras.
Manufacturers have featured such cameras for years on concept cars. But this is the first proper application of them and the reality takes some getting used to.
Looking at the door, instead of through the window, takes some getting used to.
Plus they are affected by the glare of the sun and adjusting them (by scrolling your fingers on the driver’s door screen) is a bit of a pain. In short, they’re a nice idea, but as a £1,250 option on the base model, the execution isn’t quite there yet.
On the plus side, the cabin is spacious, with more than enough head and legroom in the rear for adults, while there is also a 600-litre boot which extends to 1,725 litres when those seats are folded down.
This taste of the future isn’t cheap however, with prices starting at £71,490, which compares well with the Jaguar I-Pace and comfortably undercuts the Tesla Model X. This is expensive premium EV early adoption.
For that money, though, you get an accomplished, comfortable, environmentally friendly SUV with impressive performance and the kind of range that starts to make an EV a practical proposition for most car buyers.
If the E-tron is any guide, the future is going to be here sooner than you might think.
Model: Audi E-tron
Price range: £71,490-£82,240
Engine: Electric – 95kWh
Power: 0 to 60mph in 5.5 seconds, 124mph top speed
Range: 248 miles
Rivals: Jaguar I-Pace, Tesla Model X