► Audi’s all-electric SUV
► Goes against the Jaguar i-Pace
► We’ll drive it later this year 

This is the Audi e-Tron, Ingolstadt’s first all-electric SUV, and probably one of the most important cars to come from the brand in the past decade or so. We haven’t been able to drive it just yet, but Audi has let us sit in the passenger seat. What follows is our first impressions on the new electric SUV, including interior impressions, ride quality and everything else we could glean. 

What’s the Audi e-Tron like to drive in? 

We’re shotgun here, so we’re not about to make any definitive verdicts about how Audi’s e-Tron drives, though we can say it’s very quiet. That’s if it wasn’t for Brothers In Arms on the premium audio system, Audi’s sound engineers loving the opportunity EVs bring for creating the crispest, most detailed 3D stereo systems.

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That’s why we’re here, apparently – that and to demonstrate how quiet and refined the e-Tron is.

Strange, really, when we already know that all EVs are pretty silent.

What’s the e-Tron interior like?

We’re here to see the interior, too. Audi isn’t going too radical with its plug-in model, the pair of stacked centre screens and Virtual Cockpit familiar enough – save their e-Tron specific details – but the pair of additional OLED screens in the doors are a bit different, though.

They’ll replace door mirrors if you option them, assuming you’re in a country with enlightened enough lawmakers to allow them. They’re a new ‘digital reality’ for Audi’s first production plug-in, which will reach UK customers early in 2019.

Size and specs

In scale, the new 2019 Audi e-Tron sits between the Q5 and Q7 models, rides on a unique EV-specific platform, its 700kg, 95kW battery powering a pair of motors with a combined output of 265kW. That increases to 300kW momentarily if you select Sport on the automatic transmission, allowing maximum acceleration for a 0-62mph time of around six seconds – and a 124mph top speed.

With four wheels being driven, it’s a Quattro, even if the only link between the axles is digital. Think Quattro Ultra for an electrified age, and you’re not far off.

While the intention of today’s ride-along is to demonstrate the interior and all its touchscreen, neatly designed Audi-ness, it’s impossible to ignore the Drive Select function, the hill descent control button and the ability to raise and lower the air suspension for ease of entry and loading.

Unlike some of its plug-in SUV competition, the e-Tron is intended to go off-road; indeed, the Drive Select settings offer Offroad and Allroad modes included among the Efficiency, Comfort, Dynamic and Individual modes (that last one configurable).

There’ll be even more chances to fiddle with how the e-Tron drives, with a Range Mode allowing you to absolutely maximise range by losing air-con, while the regeneration on the motor can be varied to allow sailing at speed or one-pedal levels of generation in stop-start traffic.

The refinement among that traffic is, somewhat unsurprisingly, impressive. Audi promises it’s similarly hushed at speed, thanks in no small part to the 0.28 drag figure. Those trick cameras for door mirrors help here, as does optional acoustic side glass – all get acoustically optimised windscreens as standard.

Charging up: how long to top up the Audi e-Tron’s batteries?

Audi quotes a WLTP figure of 248 miles on a full charge, that charge taking as little as 30 minutes should you have a 150kW charger to hand, which is currently pretty unlikely. They’ll come, Audi promises, indeed it’s saying as many as 200 will criss-cross Europe’s highways – each with six plug-in points – in the next year, and double that by 2020. 

The infrastructure chicken-and-egg problem is an ongoing hurdle for electric car makers, but it’s slowly coming good, it seems.

Where to charge your electric car

At home it’ll be slower, think about eight hours on a high-output wall box, the e-Tron managing its energy draw depending on your preferences, tariffs, your solar panels – really – and more.

Clever stuff, but as promising as that real-world range sounds, time will tell whether it’s accurate in daily use.

What is undeniable is that even this early prototype has the performance, comfort, quality and space to give the existing and forthcoming competition a tough task. Now it’s just a case of finding a charger that’s going to be up for the task of a group test early next year…

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