Before I continue, perhaps I should add a sentence to the headline of this article – “if you have roughly Rs 1.5 crore to spare.” Whatever else it may be, the e-tron isn’t going to be cheap, since it will be a fully built up vehicle when it’s imported into the country by Audi; the target customer will almost certainly have two or more (IC-engined) luxury cars in their garage already. With that out of the way, let’s get on with it.
If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you will know that the buzz about electric vehicles is everywhere. The government seems dead set on India being a 30 per cent EV market by 2030, which is a mere 11 years away; additionally, it wants only electric three-wheelers sold from April 2023 and only all-electric sub-150cc two-wheelers sold from April 2025. Hyundai is gearing up for the launch of its Kona EV on the 9th of July; Maruti has the Wagon R EV coming up; other electric cars set to be launched by 2020 include the MG eZs, the Nissan Leaf and the Mahindra eKUV100, not to mention the variety of electric two-wheelers already available in the market from the likes of Hero, Okinawa, Ather, Indus, Avon, Ampere and Tork, with more to come. Clearly, electric vehicles are the flavour of the season – and the future.
This brings us to the e-tron, Audi’s first EV. It’s a full-fat, no-slim stuff SUV, running on huge 21-inch wheels and being just a few mm off the Q7’s dimensions, so it’s not messing about when it comes to road presence. Audi clearly wants to appeal to its existing customer base, which is not likely to take to a too-radical approach to design; thus, the e-tron looks like it could be another SUV in Audi’s lineup, not a look-I’m-so-different EV. Pretty much the only design elements that stand out are the wing mirrors (which are slim stalks with cameras in them), the closed off air slats in the front grille and the flaps above the front left and right wheel arches, which cover the charging connectors. Otherwise, you could simply be looking at a modern SUV with an internal combustion engine.
The specifications are at IC engine levels, too. The e-tron has a massive, 700 kg, 95 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and an electric motor at each axle, producing a combined 355 bhp and 561 Nm of torque (which can go up to 402 bhp and 664 Nm in boost mode); the 0-100 kph sprint takes a claimed 6.6 seconds (5.7 with boost), and it has a 200 kph top speed. The vehicle also comes with Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel drive system, which should be a major handling plus point. A standard 11 kW charger (with a regular 2-pin plug) takes about 8 hours to fully charge the battery, whereas an optional 22 kW fast charger halves that time. The e-tron can also be charged at a 150 kW station, which zaps the battery to full in just over half an hour. Audi claims a 400 km range with a full battery, but in Indian conditions, about 350 km or so is probably more realistic, so long drives will have to be carefully planned. Other than the chargers supplied to customers, charging points will also be set up at Audi showrooms, and travel adapters will be available.
On the inside, the e-tron displays all the high quality that Audi interiors are known for. There’s the usual complement of leather-everything, tasteful metal inserts, a digital instrument cluster, digital infotainment and climate control screens (which are separate), a 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, a wireless phone charging pad, a sunroof and various other creature comforts. The things that stand out immediately are the wing ‘mirrors’ – the stalks on the front doors have cameras in them, which transmit feeds to touchscreens on the front left and right doors that act as digital mirrors. It takes a little while to get used to the concept, but Audi claims that the screens are intuitive. Space-wise, the e-tron is a 5-seater (the third person in the back will feel a bit cramped for room), and the boot has a capacity of 660 litres (1725 with the rear seats folded flat).
As I mentioned earlier, when launched at the end of 2019, the e-tron will cost a substantial Rs 1.5 crore or thereabouts, making it the kind of niche car that the wealthy will buy in order to flaunt their green credentials. In a broader sense, there’s also the question of access to electricity – India barely produces enough power for its homes and industries (most of which is produced by ‘dirty’ coal-fired plants), so what will happen if/when 30 per cent vehicle electrification is achieved by 2030 is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, it’s clear that electric vehicles are here to stay, regardless of the infrastructural concerns, and the Audi e-tron is currently the cream of the EV crop.
WHAT WE LIKE
Looks just like a ‘regular’ car, high on tech
WHAT WE DON’T
Expensive AF, range anxiety
95 kWh lithium-ion battery
Rs 1.5 crore (estimated)
ON THE INSIDE
Digital instrument and infotainment screens, digital mirrors, sunroof, Bang & Olufsen audio system, adaptive cruise control, ambient lighting, surround view cameras, wireless phone charger, smartphone interface, 4-zone A/C