As the number of EV (Electric Vehicle) selections increase throughout the marketplace, consumers encounter a wider range of purchasing choices in this quickly emerging market.
Audi, an upscale, luxury brand under Volkswagen’s umbrella, offers the tempting, all-new-for-22 Q4 e-tron (e-tron represents all-electric vehicles under the Audi nameplate). Other Volkswagen properties marketed in America include Lamborghini, Porsche and Bentley.
The Q4 e-tron enjoys a strong backstory as underpinnings share with the popular and well-received Volkswagen ID.4. Both base upon Volkswagen’s flexible MEB modular electronic drive matrix platform used exclusively when assembling zero-emission EVs. The uniquely Audi exterior is notably different then the rather conservative style of Volkswagen’s ID.4 thanks to a muscular profile with short front/rear overhangs enhanced by large tires. Character lines wave through the exterior including backside rear fender swishes arching over rear strap-like door handles.
In Audi speak, the letter ‘Q’ stresses crossover-type exteriors no matter if powered by all-electric (EV) or an internal combustion engine (ICE). The current 2022 Q U.S. lineup includes a mix of ICE and EV products: the Q3, Q4, Q5, Q7 and Q8.
It’s not the first all-electric vehicle from Audi. That distinction belongs to the mid-sized Audi e-tron GT introduced in 2019. Size wise, consider the five-seat Q4 e-tron a ‘tweener’ smaller the e-tron GT but slightly larger than a conventional, gas powered compact Q3 crossover. Audi considers it a compact, although it skews towards the larger end of the spectrum. The 2022 Q4 e-tron began arriving at Audi dealers in late summer of 2022.
Two Q4 e-tron body styles await perusal, a taller-standing five-door conventional crossover build (simply referred to as SUV) or a lower slung five-door ‘sportback,’ with slightly less interior and cargo space. Three trim level/package choices arrive with each: Premium, Premium Plus and top-dog Prestige.
All electric EV underpinnings offer a simpler propulsion system when compared to ICE counterparts with a cadre of moving parts necessitating engine oil. Audi Q4 e-tron propels with two electric motors, one powering the front axle and another the rear. This provides an all-wheel drive structure. With Audi’s Quatro all-wheel drive system, the front-axle motor comes into play only when the system senses slippage or a need for stronger grip. Both body styles include this Quatro all-wheel drive delivering 295 horses and 241 electric miles when fully charged.
Some EVs may only offer one electric motor, motivating either the rear axle (rear-wheel drive) or front (front wheel drive). Looking for a Q4 with rear-wheel drive? It’s a short wait as the 2023 model year delivers the goods with 201 horses under hood (in SUV body styles only), further defined as the Q4 40 e-tron.
Starting price for a Premium trim is $53,300 for the SUV Q4 e-tron SUV, $56,300 for the Sportback. It’s midway pricing by all accounts. By comparison other luxury EV nameplates such as Mercedes-Benz EQB crossover and Tesla Model Y crossover start with slightly higher prices (and longer driving ranges). Volkswagen’s own ID.4 and EVs from Kia and Hyundai skew pricing a little less.
Our tester’s $53,300 starting price ballooned to $64,765 after factoring a $1,195 destination fee and a host of extras.
Adding to the extras, two option packages; the $7,600 Prestige (adaptive cruise control, animated head and taillights, heated steering wheel, dual-pane acoustic front/rear windows, wireless phone charging pad) and $2,200 S-Line Plus (front sport seats, larger 20-inch 10-spoke bi-color wheels, and black roof rails). Also thrown in for good measure, $275 Audi beam rings and $195 floor mats.
Audi locates the electric CCS (Combined Charging Standard) plug port and swing-out door on the passenger’s side rear fender. The CCS remains the most common and popular hook up among non-Tesla electric vehicles. Tesla designed its own unique port commonly referred to as the ‘Tesla Plug.’
The sizeable 82-kilowatt lithium-ion pack design incorporates a flat design located under the passenger compartment floor. This flat-floor design without the need for a vertical transmission hump opens up leg room in row two, allowing for three riders to sit in comfort.
Just about all electric vehicles come standard with a Level One power cord/charger used when plugging into a home’s conventional 120-volt outlet; but it’s the cord of last resort as the charging rate is an untimely two miles per hour (three if lucky). Thus, charging a 260-mile range could take 160 hours or approximately five days. It’s known lovingly as the ‘trickle’ charging choice.
Upgrading to a 240-volt Level 2 AC wall charger (which must be purchased/installed separately) takes approximately 9 hours to fully charge the 82-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack from a depleted state. The port delivers the alternating current to an onboard converter which switches the flow back to direct current for storage inside the 1,087-pound lithium-ion battery pack. Higher capacity 240-volt plugs also power household washing machines and dryers.
Not all Level 2 (240 volt) chargers are created equal. Most in-home installations include capabilities of handling 40 amps resulting in a 9-hour charge. Some public charging stations may offer a 48-amp upgrade cutting charging time down to 7.5 hours.
If traveling near or on Interstates, another option included DC (direct current) fast chargers which speed the process by delivering direct current directly into the lithium-ion DC battery and bypassing the converter. Many have popped up at Wal Mart locations adjacent to interstates. Have a credit card ready since DC charging technology costs more for the speedier convenience. According to Audi, approximately 38 minutes is needed to go from a five percent state of charge to an 80 percent state of charge when utilizing a DC fast charger providing a charging speed up to 125 kilowatts, on par with most 2022 EVs.
As an enticing extra, Audi Q4 and power partner ’Electrify America’ offers 250 kilowatt hours of complementary charging upon purchase and accessible when using a ‘myAudi’ phone application. Electrify America, one of several fast-charging franchises, became a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group during a legal outgrowth resulting from the messy diesel emissions scandal coming to light in 2015. In effect VW agreed to fund a $2 billion infrastructure of fast charging stations (i.e. Electrify America) across the U.S. What’s the net effect of 250 kilowatt hours of complimentary charging? Approximately 1,000 miles of driving range.
Approximate charging times vary depending upon certain conditions, like the ambient temperature. Historically, EV batteries enjoy temperate 70-degree days for optimal operation. Fall below freezing (a common occurrence here in Chicago) and battery range drops a couple of percentages.
Volkswagen’s MEB battery platform found in the VW ID.4 and Audi e-tron, actually builds the direct current battery pack into the floor for optimal weight distribution and optimal interior storage space, in effect building the car around the battery. It’s not exactly one huge lump, but a modular package where flat, individual electrical ‘pouch’ units stack 24 to a module, each module connected up to one another, mimicking the squares and shape of traditional Hershey chocolate bar (with or without almonds). The more modules utilized, the better the vehicle range (and the higher the price).
Inside, Q4 e-tron includes Audi-esque nuances such as an all-digital instrument panel and mid-size, 10.1-inch central touch-sensitive flat multipurpose center screen skewed ever-so-slightly in the driver’s direction. Leatherette upholstery comes standard across the three trims. A latent effect of EV platforms (requiring fewer moving parts comparted to internal combustion engines) include additional passenger and cargo space. With rear seatbacks lowered, 53.1 cubic feet of storage space becomes available, impressive for a compact offering.
From a tactile/visual perspective, the hexagonal-shaped steering wheel offers a unique design, allowing a better view of the programmable and easily digestible digital instrument cluster. Three stalks jet out from the steering column, one commanding front/rear wipers (right side), a second curating cruise control and a third turn-signal stalk (both left side).
A larger version of the hexagonal sphere adorns the front grille with Audi’s four-ringed logo near the top. It’s flanked by narrow headlight housing with customizable daytime running lights with four selectable choices. In back, a narrow, neon-gas-like light bar connects together taillights with turn signals operating in an animated fashion.
The Q4’s excellent sight lines minimize blind spots with a light-touch steering feel. An electric push-button start brings the quiet EV system to attention with an eerie silence. It’s found on a bridge, right of the steering column jetting out from the dash with a rounded endpoint. The funky illuminated transmission shifter nearby resembles a vertical toggle bar, selecting reverse with a nod forward and drive with a nod back. Summon park from an up-front push plate ahead of the bar.
Also on the bridge, a flat audio volume/station select circle (taking the place of traditional knobs), a drive mode button/selector, hazard button and traction control deactivation button. Below in Prestige trims: a wireless charging pad along with conventional Smartphone plug ports.
Regenerative braking, a staple of EVs, PHEVs and gas-electric hybrids, repurposes kinetic energy created during braking friction and delvers this energy back into the lithium-ion battery pack for reuse, literally creating additional electricity through normal braking activity and adding potential driving miles. The Q4 e-tron offers four regen levels: none, 0.06g, 0.10g and 0.15g. The higher the level, the higher the friction interplay in tapping down speeds. Levels summon via steering wheel ‘+’ ‘-‘ tabs, formally used as manumatic transmission shifts.
It’s an interesting concept and easy to master for those new to EVing. Even utilizing the highest 0.15g will not bring this Audi to a complete stop, so the brake pedal remains in play during all excursions.
Compact crossover buyers, whether behind the wheel of ICE or EV, generally prioritize practicality over performance and Q4 e-tron’s generous interior dimensions and headroom team with a comfortable, quiet ride with enough electrons to get motivated. For those new to EVing, muscle memory needed for daily driving remains largely unchanged from internal combustion engines. Refueling/recharging delivery dynamics, though, take a short learning curve.
At a Glance
Price as tested: $64,765
Battery: 82.0-kilowatt hour Lithium-ion
Electric Range: 241 miles
Wheelbase: 108.7 inches
Overall Length: 180.7 inches
Overall Width: 73.4 inches
Overall Height: 64.7 inches
Curb Weight: 4,861 pounds
Battery warranty: Eight years/100,000 miles
Assembly: Mosel, Germany