This is the best version of VW’s ID.4 yet, almost seamless to live with
It's a bit too much of a family car. Does it look cool enough from the outside?
What is it?
This is Audi’s smallest electric SUV, until it inevitably shoehorns a smaller one into the lineup. The Q4 e-tron sits between the Q3 and Q5 in Audi’s increasingly complex range of SUVs: 100mm longer than the former (and 40mm shorter than the latter), a smidge taller and wider, but with a smaller boot thanks to its pesky battery. It’s also £10k more expensive thanks to its pesky battery, so Audi needs to put some effort in to make the Q4 e-tron feel a bit more special.
A sleeker Sportback version of the car with a more sloping roof and a jaunty hatchback is also available. It’s one of the modern automotive world’s more perplexing features – for a slight premium you can get mildly reduced practicality. Funny how that works.
Isn’t this just a more expensive VW ID.4?
That’s the other way to look at the Q4 e-tron. It shares its undercrackers with the rest of its Volkswagen family and it’s built on the MEB electric platform that has been deployed across the company. Essentially it is an Audi-skinned version of the ID.4, along with Skoda’s Enyaq, and it’s even built on the same production line as the Volkswagen in Zwickau – they really are a close family. But Volkswagen’s electric smarts combined with Audi’s interior panache? Consider us interested.
There are two basic starting powertrains to choose from: the 40- and 50-badged models. The two-wheel-drive 40 e-tron gets a 77kWh battery, 300-mile WLTP range and a 201bhp motor, while the 50 e-tron quattro has the same battery set-up as the 40 but with an extra front motor to give the car four-wheel drive, boosting available power to 295bhp but reducing the official range to 292 miles. Those cars can then be chosen in three trims – Sport, S Line and Edition 1.
Will I be stuck for ages charging?
Rapid charging comes as standard on the Q4 e-tron, so if you’re in a rush, the battery charges at up to 125kW – not as fast as some recent new launches onto the market, but enough to get you back on the road fairly sharpish. It’ll take about half an hour to get you from 5 per cent to 80 per cent charge.
So what sets the Q4 apart from the other VWG cars?
Perhaps not the car’s looks – the Q4 is fairly handsome and well proportioned, but from the side you’d be hard pressed to recognise it as an Audi. There are clear benefits to the disciplined platform sharing that the Volkswagen Group has introduced, with the downside being that it’s clearly tough sometimes for the different brands’ designers to carve out a unique identity. Still, they’ve done a marvellous job on the inside of the Q4 e-tron, with an angular interior that showcases the solid quality that we’ve come to expect from Ingolstadt.
What physical buttons there are all move with a pleasing tactility, and the driving experience communicates a sense of solidity. The pedals are all well weighted and the steering is firm and accurate. Audi’s done a good job too of disguising the car’s heft, with a well damped ride that mostly smooths out the road’s imperfections.
You haven’t mentioned the touchscreen yet…
We don’t like to go on about these things for the sake of it, but with a company as relentlessly competent as the Volkswagen Group, it’s very surprising when it wanders as astray as the carmaker has with its latest generation of interior electrics.
Audi has managed to avoid the worst of VW’s electronic excesses, retaining a smattering of useful buttons in the cabin, but the infotainment is still a touch laggy, the phone connection occasionally unreliable and the whole thing randomly prone to freezing. In this bright new age of over-the-air updates they can sort these things out over time, but such niggles are a measure of how reliable the company has always been.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Audi is pursuing a policy of relentless ordinariness with most of its electric cars – it sounds damning with faint praise, but it’s a genuinely interesting moment that the latest space age technology or controversially distinctive looks aren’t a focal point here.
The Q4 e-tron is a useful family SUV that just happens to be electric. It’s relentlessly capable and easy to live with as a car full stop. If you’re making the switch to electric it’s a great place to start, a deft blend of EV glamour and SUV practicality.
The small SUV is the best blend of big-enough-to-squeeze-in-a-load-of-batteries and small-enough-to-be-manageable, and gingerly sidesteps the inherent tension in going electric to try and save the planet but doing it in a ginormous SUV. There’s enough range here too that you can forget about the driving and cut loose a little.
The Q4 e-tron is the perfect car for those punctual adopters who have watched others try things out. You’ll probably still get on better with it if you’re able to charge at home, but the UK infrastructure is improving all the time – it’s definitely the moment to consider the switch.