Final report: Audi Q4 E-Tron long-term test
25 April 2022
Author: Martyn Collins
We look back at our time with two Audi Q4 E-Tron models.
|Audi Q4 E-Tron 50 Quattro 220kW S-Line |
|P11D price:|| £51,315|
|As tested:|| £63,295|
|Official range:|| 270 miles|
|Our average consumption:|| 2.8mi/kWh|
Final Report: Future fleet success
Despite only being used for short work and family trips, it felt like the Q4 E-Tron was getting its mojo back after the festive break. It was still proving impressively relaxing to drive and after the recent worrying drop in range, that seemed to be improving too. I was looking forward to my remaining time with this all-electric Audi and taking it well past the 5,000-mile mark.
Then I had an accident and the Q4 was quickly whisked away by Audi for investigation and repair - sadly, I have not seen it since. Ironically, just as one Audi left my drive, another Q4 E-Tron, a 40, but this time with the sleeker Sportback body arrived.
The two-wheeled drive 40 is probably better suited for fleet than the 50 Quattro we had. Although I do admit, I did appreciate the 50's extra performance and traction over the five months or so that I had it. However, the 40, which still had 201hp, had more than enough poke for daily use and the throttle response felt easier to modulate. Plus, the biggest 320-mile range of the Q4 E-Tron with the 40 seems believable, as we saw two 270-mile charges during the week we had the car, in cold late-January weather.
Our 50 Quattro had the biggest 20in alloy wheels, the 40 Sportback had more modest, but still attractive in 19in alloys. I can't lie, the 20in 5-Y-Spoke alloy wheels on our Q4 looked the part, but the resulting unsettled low-speed ride, was one of the biggest demerits of this car. Dropping a wheel size equalled a more comfortable, compliant ride - especially at low speed. Road noise was significantly reduced too.
Outside, with its curvy rear styling, there is no doubt the Sportback is the more attractive Q4. However, the split glass tailgate compromises rear vision even further. This is on top of the fact that all-round vision isn't great on the standard Q4 E-Tron, either. A rear camera should be standard rather than optional in the Comfort and Sound pack, in my opinion.
Inside, the Sportback's curvy styling does rob rear headroom, but interior space is still impressive, and the sports seats are comfortable and supportive. I would still pick the Q4 E-Tron over the Volkswagen iD.3 and Skoda Enyaq sister cars, thanks to its more conventional interior with proper dials and physical controls for the ventilation. Although the interior plastics did not feel as special in the 40 and 50 as you might expect of an Audi.
Other specification items that impressed me during my time with both cars, were the optional Matrix LED headlights. This light technology is popular with other manufacturers, but even after trying many rivals, the Audi's seemed to be best in my opinion. Giving more light and security for longer - they just work, and work very well. If I was speccing a Q4 E-Tron they would be on the options list, despite the hefty £1,075 price. Another worthwhile option was the SONOS Premium Sound System, part of the Comfort and Sound package at £1,295. The sound quality and strong bass reproduction could be made the most of thanks to the lack of engine noise - and helped shrink journey times.
On the move the Adaptive Cruise control, part of the £1,425 Assistance Package Advanced, was another standout feature of our Q4 E-Tron. The fact that it detects vehicles ahead via a radar sensor and keeps them at an adjustable safe distance made for smoother more efficient motorway trips. Once I trusted the system, it was just a case of switch on and forget.
I will miss the Q4 E-Tron; it proved to me that with decent range and charging capabilities, an electric vehicle can work for me as a daily. It looked great, drove well, and deserves its inevitable future fleet success. I just hope the public charging structure improves to keep pace. with the abilities of models like this.
5th Report: Space and pace
It is only just over a month, but Christmas feels like a lifetime ago now. However, with no test cars arriving or departing over the festive period, I find it's a great time to really get to know any long-termer much better that I'm lucky enough to run.
Plan B restrictions might have come into force, but negative lateral flow tests aside, visits to family were planned - equalling more useful wheel-time with the Audi. Longest trip was a Boxing Day visit to Cambridge to see my mother-in law - with five of us on board plus party food and presents.
Every trip with an EV takes planning, so I'd already made sure the Q4 E-Tron's battery was fully charged via my 7kW wallbox on Christmas Day night. Despite being fully loaded, the trip itself was pleasingly uneventful, with the only moans being from my Mum and kids about the hard ride and sharp throttle response from the back. When we came off the motorway and on to country roads, that extra motor equalling Quattro four-wheel drive and more grip gave welcome extra confidence on what were wet and shiny roads.
The hero of the trip and the whole of the Christmas holiday must be the Audi's 520-litre boot. Bags full of presents and party food didn't even touch the sides - as there still would have been plenty of room for more. Without rear passengers and the rear seat folded, this rises to a massive 1,490-litres.
This wasn't the end of the usefulness of the Q4 E-Tron's boot over the holidays, as it was also filled with my Christmas present - a pizza oven - that was too big to go in our family car. Plus, cardboard, and other rubbish for various tip runs, and even my children when changing into their boots for a very muddy dog walk at a local park with friends. The only possible fly in the ointment, is that the charging cables live in a compartment under the boot floor and if you needed a charge, it might involve emptying the boot to get do this. Thankfully, the Audi's decent range meant we didn't have any problems this time.
Talking of the Q4 E-Tron's range, apart from that Boxing Day family trip, this Audi has spent most of its time doing local runs, which along with a cold patch in mid-January, has hit the range rather alarmingly. The official range is supposed to be 270 miles, which had already dropped to 220 miles in my December report. But, some recent mornings, it has shown just 160 miles of range - even after a full charge. This is still more than enough range to make me not worry about range anxiety, but it did make me question whether I had a problem with my home charger. I have tended to run the car in 'Efficiency mode', but it was only on further drives as we headed towards 2022 that I noticed, like the locking last month, the car appeared to have reset itself to 'Auto' mode. That, and possibly a heavier right foot might account for this further range drop. Since then, I've seen the range jump to just over 200 miles - I'll let you know how I'm getting on in the next report.
I spent some time with my Q4's sister car, the Volkswagen ID.4 GTX recently. The sportiest ID.4 might feel keener to drive than before and offers similar performance, but I still prefer the Audi thanks to its more conventional interior and more user-friendly infotainment. This Audi still gets admiring looks seven-months after launch, but I'm seeing more of them around - even locally. In a year's time I believe they will be as ubiquitous as the A3 hatch.
4th Report: Locked out!
Maybe my Q4 E-Tron was throwing a tantrum after my remarks in the last report on its infotainment glitches, as this month it locked me out completely!
I had moved the Audi off my drive, so my wife could get the family car out. It was only a matter of metres, but I noticed that even though I hadn't driven the Q4 E-Tron for a couple of days, there was still just over 100 miles left of the range, despite some cold weather. I didn't think twice when I plipped the locks and went indoors. Shortly after, it was time to go to the supermarket for some urgent shopping. So, I walked out, plipped the fob again to unlock - but nothing happened. I tried it again, but there were no welcoming lights - nothing! After a couple more goes with no effect, I thought I'd best call Audi Roadside Assistance, to see if they could help as the Q4 was seemingly marooned outside my neighbour's house!
The service, which is run by the AA, quickly despatched a patrol to my home, which I was told by text would be within the hour. In the meantime, I carried on trying to unlock the Q4 E-Tron - but without any luck. Could it be the battery, I wondered? After all, I hadn't charged it for a few days. It had been a bit lower than I'd have liked and the cold was sure to have had an effect. But the flashing LED light told me the alarm was activated, and the Audi still had power. Then literally just before the AA van arrived, I had one last go and can you believe it, the lights came on and the Q4 e-tron unlocked! After apologising to the AA man, he told me that he thought this car had reset itself and that's just what he would have done. He offered to get this car recovered to the local Audi Centre for more investigation, but I declined as it would have left me without a car and a couple of charges later, I'm pleased to report its been fine since.
I recently caught up with Claire English, Audi's new head of fleet, who has recently taken delivery of a Q4 E-Tron. We had an interesting conversation, as unlike me, she hasn't got the convenience of a home charger and is instead reliant on the public charging network. Overall, she was still very upbeat, as this Audi has decent range, meaning visits to the hit-and-miss network aren't quite so often. I've heard it before, but Claire backed up what I'd been told about EV owners seeming to look out for each other and the fact that this Audi is still so new being a real conversation starter.
Chip crisis permitting, I doubt the Q4 E-Tron will be such a rare sight on UK roads for much longer. Claire told me that as expected, there has been a massive shift to EV in fleet in 2021, with 50% of the current order bank being EVs. Of those, 60% of these orders are for the Q4 e-Tron, with 80% of those cars being for the conventional hatch, rather than the curvier Sportback. With the popular trims being Sport and S-Line.
Locking problems aside, I'm still enjoying my time with this Audi EV as it fits well into my life. After time spent in other test cars, I always come back to the Q4 and am impressed with the comfortable driving position, supportive sports seats and when on the move - it's a refined but willing drive. Hopefully, if restrictions allow I'll be able to go on some longer drives and experience the pleasure (and probable pain) of the public charging network. We will see.
3rd Report: Feeling the cold?
November saw us adjusting to the change of clocks, and the Audi to the start of autumnal frosts. This is my first winter in an EV, so I was interested to see if there were any more issues to getting it defrosted for early school runs. I usually rely on the engine to warm the cabin up and defrost the windows. Despite the lack of engine with the Q4 E-tron, I'm pleased to say the power of the heater more than makes up for this. The Q4 has a big front screen, but thankfully the heat cut through the ice on this and the side windows in minutes - with the back window taken care of by the heated rear window.
Elsewhere, the heated seats quickly warm up the always cold leatherette and the heated wing mirrors are the sharpest I've tried. So, to sum up, cold mornings are no more of an issue with the Audi Q4 E-tron than if I were driving a piston car.
Sadly, as expected the cold weather is having an effect on the Audi's electric range. We've gone from 250 mile charges (I've never seen the claimed 270 mile range) from my 7kW home charger in warmer September, to 220 miles charges now. I'm pleased to say that even with this range drop, I've not experienced any range anxiety issues - so far. However, I'm more likely now to take up the offer of a top up, if destination charging is available where I go.
More time behind the wheel of this Audi has further crystallised what I like about this car. As I mentioned before, I really appreciate its refined drive thanks to its lack of engine, which I'm sure makes me feel less tired when I get to my destination. The stiff ride is least noticeable there and, at motorway speeds, all you're aware of is a bit of tyre noise and whatever music you've got coming out of the powerful stereo. Then there's the performance, which, even in regenerative 'B' mode, I've found the acceleration is instantaneous enough to put a smile on my face without denting the range too much. The handling is tidy too. Not sporty, but I'm already feeling the benefits of the extra motor and Quattro four-wheel drive, with welcome added grip in slippery corners and roundabouts.
I still like the way it looks too, and the Geyser Blue paint seems to be resisting the road muck well. The fact that the Q4 E-Tron is still a relatively scarse sight on UK roads means it gets more attention than you'd expect. I reckon the only bad angle is from the front, straight on, as the faux grill dominates and looks ungainly.
Then there's interior, which in my opinion is the most ICE car-like of the three Volkswagen Group EVs built on the MEB EV platform. The touch-screen infotainment and satnav are easy to use and I have buttons rather than sliders to control the ventilation - which are very welcome. Some of the plastics are harder than you might expect of an Audi, but they respond well to cleaning.
Thankfully, there aren't many things I don't like about the Q4 E-Tron. After a couple of months behind the wheel I'm getting more used to the Q4's dimensions, but I still think the general all-round visibility of this Audi is poor. I used to scoff at extras such as a rear camera on test cars, but in the Q4 E-tron's case, I do believe it should be fitted as standard across the range.
The infotainment hasn't been glitch-free either. So far, I've had two instances where the whole system has frozen, then more worryingly shut down completely. I'm pleased to say on both occasions it restarted quickly, but if it persists a trip to the dealer beckons. At the same time, I've experienced random warnings on the dashboard - so I wonder if the two are linked? Then there are the illuminated controls on the steering wheel, where the voice control is all too easily operated when all I wanted to do was adjust the volume. Although, it could be that these controls were not designed for my sausage-sized fingers!
2nd Report: What fuel crisis?
Just weeks into my time with the Q4 E-Tron and the UK was plunged into a fuel crisis, with my local petrol stations dry for at least two weeks. So, it was a great relief to be running the Audi, as it certainly kept my family and I mobile during this time. It was a great comfort being able to plug the Audi into my home charger, rather than having to join a queue for petrol and be stuck there for hours.
As I mentioned in my last report, having lived with another EV with just 120 miles of range, my big worry during this time was having enough charge to get me where I needed to go. So far, I must admit I've been pleasantly surprised. As a full charge has proved to be more than enough for my daily schedule - although I've not quite seen the 295 mile quoted figure and more destination chargers would be welcome. Now it's a bit colder, it will be interesting to see if the range tails off.
Longer drives have also made me appreciate what a refined and relaxing car the Q4 E-Tron is to drive. The driving position is comfortable, the seats supportive and with no engine noise, I'm able to fully appreciate other items of kit, such as the impressively punchy optional SONOS sound system. With almost 300hp, there's ample performance, but use it heavily and it does dent the range.
The only fly in the ointment, is the low-speed ride, which can feel unsettled and pitchy. Having also spent a decent amount of time in Hyundai's impressive Ioniq 5 EV recently, I've concluded that most of the current crop of EVs suffer the same problem. With the cause being the weight of the battery pack, affecting the dynamics - as the Hyundai felt much the same. I'm sure this is something that all the manufacturers are working hard to improve and as battery technology changes, dynamic shortfalls such as this, will be eradicated.
Audi has big plans for the Q4 E-Tron, as it said at the launch earlier this year. The German company is predicting that this small SUV will be its second-best seller in the UK after the A3, with 20,000 units forecasted for the first full year of sales.
It certainly gets off to a good start in the looks department. I really like the Q4's sculpted style, short overhangs and raked front windscreen. The shape also suits the optional (£575) Geyser Blue paint and 20in 5-Y-spoke wheels finished in graphite (£150). Overall, the Q4 is familiar enough to be recognisable as an Audi - but with a modern twist.
Built on the same VW Group MEB dedicated electric platform as the Volkswagen ID4 and the Skoda Enyaq, at 4,588mm long it fits between the Q3 and Q5. Although, it feels much bigger inside - thanks to clever packaging. Head and legroom are particularly impressive.
The 40 model is expected to be the top-seller, with its 304-mile range, but we have the range-topping 50 Quattro with 295hp and a 295-mile range. Ours is in popular 'S-Line' trim and is fitted with plenty of options, some of which - because this is an early car - wouldn't normally be fitted to this trim - or even be fitted to UK cars at all.
So far, I've only been short distances, but this I'm sure will quickly change as my diary fills up. However, I've found the Q4 E-Tron a potent and responsive drive, with tidy handling.
Having lived with another shorter-range electric car for six-months, the 260 miles claimed from the Audi seems a luxury and less likely to cause worry about range anxiety. However, so far charging has been limited to my 7kW wall box. The consensus is the public charging network is improving, so now is my chance to see if this is correct.
Already, there's plenty to impress. The headlights in particular are brilliant, the way the optional (£1,075) Matrix LED headlights can keep full beam on for longer is surely going to be an asset as we head into the darker winter weather.
Electric or not, interior quality seems a match for Audi's ICE engine models. Also, I'm pleased to report that the physical buttons for items, such as the ventilation work, so much better and are far less complicated to use than the touch-screen sliders seen in the other VW Group models.
Gripes so far are limited to the lack of rear-view camera, part of the expensive Comfort and Sound package (£1,295), which sadly our car doesn't have. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but I've found the Q4's all-round visibility isn't great.
Also, I haven't seen a quartic steering wheel fitted to a car since the Austin Allegro in the 70s. The Q4's is taking a bit of time to get used to. It is nice to hold but is all too easy to catch the multi-function buttons - when you don't want to.
Still, I'm looking forward to learning more over the next few months and seeing how the Q4 E-Tron performs over the winter months.
Standard equipment on 220kW S-Line:
LED headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED rear lights, front sport seats, MMI Navigation Plus with 10.1in touch screen, Audi Virtual Cockpit, 3-zone air-con, 20in 5-Y-Spoke alloy wheels
Optional equipment (£3,635):
Matrix LED headlights (£1,075), Safety Package Plus (£650), Function Package (£325), Ambient lighting Pack Plus (£100), Technology Pack (£1,200), flat top and bottom steering wheel with paddles (£285)