Audi Q4 e-tron Review
The mid-size SUV market has been expanding at a rapid rate for a good few years, but now the electric revolution is taking hold. WIth battery technology improving all the time, electric cars can now manage hundreds of miles to a charge, which makes them more attractive to a lot more customers than they were a few years ago. Audi’s Q4 e-tron looks set to be one of the most popular premium electric SUVs on the market, balancing smart looks, a range of up to 316 miles and a luxurious interior, all at a price within reach of lots of leasing customers.
Select's rating score* - 4.1 / 5
In case it wasn’t clear that the future of cars is electric, manufacturers have been rushing to fill their ranges with battery-powered alternatives to petrol and diesel engines. Often these are specific versions of an existing car, but now there are new, electric-only cars arriving with increasing frequency. This is Audi’s all-electric mid-size SUV, the Q4 e-tron.
As its name suggests, it fits into the existing Audi line-up between the compact Q3 and the larger Q5, but unlike those other models, the Q4 is battery-powered all the way. There’s a choice of batteries, in fact, giving a range of up to 316 miles from a single charge. With leasing customers citing ‘range anxiety’ as a major reason for avoiding electric vehicles, this potential to do long journeys without frequent stops removes a lot of barriers to entry into the EV world.
Add to that stylish looks, plenty of space inside and a very comfortable, high-tech interior – not to mention a refined driving experience – and Audi looks to be on to a winner. There’s also a sleeker version of the Q4 called the Q4 e-tron Sportback, but we’ll cover that in a separate article.
The Q4 e-tron is a family SUV that targets similar-sized electric rivals like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Skoda Enyaq and Volkswagen ID.4, as well as premium options like the Jaguar I-Pace and BMW iX3. But rather than the sportiness of the Ford or Jaguar, Audi is targeting the comfort-seeking customer – those that want to cruise and enjoy a luxurious experience. This is a car from a premium carmaker, and it’s pushing a suitably premium experience. The interior is as well-made and comfortable as Audi customers have come to expect, and there’s lots of cutting-edge tech to keep you informed and entertained. It’ll easily house a family and a selection of their belongings.
There’s also a lot of choice for potential customers, depending on their needs and budget. There are four trim levels and three different battery choices, which give different ranges and power outputs. All have decent performance.
Where lots of EVs have just one battery choice, and a few have two, Audi has given the Q4 e-tron three different power options, all of which are fairly substantial in terms of performance and driving range.
The entry-level battery comes in the Q4 35 e-tron, and it’s a 55kWh unit (of which 51.5kWh is usable) that promises a range of up to 208 miles on a single charge. Next up is the 40 e-tron, with an 82kWh battery (net 76.6kWh) that gives you the maximum range – up to 316 miles. Finally, the 50 e-tron Quattro uses the same 82kWh battery, but with boosted power from the electric motor and four-wheel drive, it has a slightly lower range-per-charge, of up to 298 miles.
The Q4 might not be going for the sporty vibe of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, but it’s actually surprisingly good to drive. To call it engaging is probably a step too far, but the low-mounted batteries give a low centre of gravity that makes for decent handling. While the steering isn’t pin sharp, it feels keen to turn in and has an agility that a lot of other SUVs would be grateful for. The ride is comfortable too; you’ll feel larger lumps and bumps from bad road surfaces as they shudder into the cabin, but the suspension easily takes the sting out of things. There are different drive modes, which adjust the reaction of the steering and accelerator, but there’s not a huge amount of difference between them.
Many customers will find that when it comes to power, the sweet spot is the middle option, which also gives the maximum range. Badged 40 e-tron, the motor generates 204 horsepower, and it makes for instant zip when you push the accelerator. That initial surge subsides a bit once you’re moving, but it’s still enough for overtakes and getting up to speed on a motorway. If most of your driving is around town and you could get away with less power then the 35 e-tron could be useful. It has 170hp and a lower range, but if you’re not doing longer journeys then that should still be sufficient.
However, if you want extra grunt (at the cost of a bit of range) then the 50 e-tron Quattro ups the power to 298 horsepower. It also has four-wheel drive, which gives it extra traction – useful in areas with inclement weather. Other models are rear-wheel drive.
You can charge the Q4 e-tron from a home wallbox or a public charger, or even using a regular three-pin socket. A cable is included for this, but it’ll take at least a full day of charging. If you have a regular 7kW wallbox it’ll refill the battery from empty in 7.5 hours, using the included type 2 cable.
Alternatively, you can use a public fast charger, which will be quicker but more expensive. Recharging the 35 e-tron will take 38 minutes using a 100kW charger, and the same time for the 40 e-tron and 50 e-tron if you use a 125kW charger.
You’ll need to plug your car into the mains to charge your Q4. However you do it, it’ll cost less than using conventional fuel, but it’s cheaper to charge at home than with a public charger. For the best results, charge overnight and sign up to a tariff that charges less at off-peak hours. When it comes to efficiency, and the electric equivalent of miles-per-gallon, expect to use around 295kWh per mile.
As there are no polluting emissions, company car drivers will pay just 1% benefit-in-kind tax during 2021/22. However, the Q4 sits in groups 25 to 39 of 50, which is higher than some electric rivals.
Audi’s interiors tend to be very well made and relatively conservative in style, but the Q4 changes things up a bit. The quality is still there – everything feels rock solid and the materials are all as premium as you’d expect – but the look is more contemporary than we’ve been used to in non-electric Audi models.
On the dashboard, sharp lines and metal-effect trim surround a huge 10.1-inch central touchscreen infotainment system, which is complemented by a digital driver display behind the steering wheel, in place of traditional analogue dials. It’s very high-tech and of-the-moment, but there are physical buttons to operate the infotainment as well as the touchscreen. This makes it much easier to use on the move than some rival systems, although those who’ve used past Audi systems with a dial-based control system may miss it. There’s no arguing with its features though, which are many and include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for hooking up your smartphone apps.
The seats are very comfortable and supportive, and are covered in cloth on lower-end versions or leather on the posher models. If you’re particularly ethically minded, you can specify synthetic alternatives instead. It’s a shame that not all models feature electrically-operated seats, considering the price point.
Visibility is generally very good, but all models have rear parking sensors to further help with manoeuvring. A rear-view camera is only an option on lower-spec models though.
There’s plenty of space for a family in the Q4, and adults shouldn't have any issues in the back either – even six-footers should have enough headroom, and there’s a good amount of legroom too. Keep the shorter occupants in the middle seat though; while the electric drivetrain means there’s no raised centre in the footwell, the seat itself is a bit higher than the outer chairs.
With a capacity of 520 litres the boot is a very decent size, with plenty of space for holiday luggage and space under the floor to store cables. It’s considerably bigger than the back of the Mustang Mach-E, although it’s slightly smaller than that of the Volkswagen ID.4. Still, if you need more space you can fold the rear seats down, which will give you up to 1,490 litres of space. You only get the flexibility of a 40/20/40 split in the rear seat in the top two trims, which is a shame.
General storage is pretty good, with a small but deep cubby hole under the front armrest and a deep bin under the drive selector panel that projects out from the dashboard. There are two cup holders in the front, and another two in the central rear armrest. The only real complaint is that the door pockets and glove box could be bigger.
The Q4 e-tron hasn’t yet been tested by independent safety organisation Euro NCAP, but Audi has an excellent history of scoring the maximum five stars with its previous cars. Cars that share the same mechanical underpinnings – the Skoda Enyaq iV and the Volkswagen ID.4 – also achieved five-star ratings.
All models are well kitted-out with some of the latest safety features, including automatic emergency braking, which will intervene if you don’t respond to an impending collision. You also get a lane departure warning to stop you inadvertently drifting out of your lane, and a “swerve assist and turn assist” feature, which helps you keep the car under control during extreme emergency manoeuvring.
More safety features are available on higher-spec models, including features to detect oncoming traffic when you’re reversing out of a space, and sensors to tell you if someone’s in your blind spot.
There’s a choice of four trims on the Q4 e-tron, starting with the Sport. That gets you LED headlights and 19-inch alloy wheels, as well as the full infotainment system with satellite navigation. You’ll get heated front seats too, and cruise control.
For a bit more swankiness, look at the S line model. This upgrades to 20-inch alloy wheels, but be aware that it has firmer sport suspension, which sits the car 15mm lower. This gives it a bit more agility in the corners, but at the cost of a small amount of comfort. You’ll also get some snazzier body styling and leatherette and cloth seat upholstery.
Next up is the Edition 1, which rides on a different design of 20-inch wheel and boasts clever Matrix LED headlights. As well as being very bright, they let you keep the main beam on at night without dazzling oncoming traffic. On the outside, you’ll get the Black Styling Pack, which essentially replaces all the chrome exterior trim with gloss block itself, for a stealthier look. Inside, you’ll find electrically adjustable seats – worth considering if you regularly change drivers.
The top-spec model is the Vorsprung, which looks great on big 21-inch alloy wheels. It also gets upgraded suspension, which can adapt its dampers to cope with different driving conditions. Other features include a head-up display to project driving information onto the windscreen, Nappa leather upholstery and a panoramic glass sunroof, as well as a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and the extra safety systems mentioned above.
Most of the features of the Vorsprung are available as paid extras across the range, as well as a choice of paint colours.
The number of electric SUVs is rising dramatically, to the point where there are probably more on the market by the time you read this. But even at the time of writing you’ve got a decent amount of choice when it comes to premium, all electric machines. BMW’s iX3 is worth checking out as a direct rival, as is the Mercedes-Benz EQA. Then there’s the Polestar 2 and the eye-catching and bonkers-fast Tesla Model Y, which has the advantage of the excellent Tesla Supercharger network for easy, quick refills. For driving thrills and kerb appeal, check out the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Jaguar I-Pace, while premium appeal at a lower price could be found with the Volkswagen ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq iV.
The Audi Q4 e-tron could be the ideal medium of electric SUVs when it comes to customer appeal. It’s spacious, but not too big. It’s got premium appeal, but leasing deals aren’t too expensive. It’s good to drive, but it’s not too hardcore. On top of all that, there’s more choice of trim and power/range than you get with almost all of the competition. Audi has really nailed the positioning of the Q4, and we’d heartily recommend it. All that said, with new electric SUVs coming out almost every week, make sure you check out the competition too, just in case there’s something even better around the corner.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Audi Q4 e-tron
**Correct as of 12/08/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,965.11 - Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.