Audi’s belated move into full electric is now gathering pace with a host of models scheduled for launch by 2025.
Its latest, the e-tron S, is a little out of reach for most user-choosers but is still expected to attract interest from the corporate sector thanks to the 1% BIK (2021/22 rate). This high-performance offshoot of the standard e-tron – available as SUV and Sportback – starts at £87,620.
Audi predicts the SUV version will account for around 10% of the e-tron’s 6,000-plus annual sales, with half of those going to fleet. It’s not going to transform Audi’s model mix, then; that’ll begin in early summer with the launch of the Q4 e-tron, taking Audi into the mid-grade user-chooser market.
Nevertheless, Audi has already seen a shift from traditional diesel towards its full battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models. Just 1% of its true fleet registrations were BEV and PHEV in 2019; last year that increased to 20%, with the e-tron making a significant contribution.
By 2025, when Audi will have introduced 20 electric models, true fleet volumes will reach 50%.
While the e-tron S may be small on volume, it’s big on innovation. It is the first Audi to use three electric motors: two power the rear axle and can apply torque individually to both wheels; the third sits at the front and steps in if traction is lost or a boost is required.
Everyday power is 435PS, rising to 503PS in ‘S’ booster mode. All you really need to know is it’s fast – 4.5 seconds 0-62mph fast to be precise, and equally as potent in mid-range with instant reaction to the accelerator.
It is also exceptionally smooth, riding on 21-inch wheels and air suspension, with impressive refinement and very little road and wind noise. The battery pack is located between the passenger compartment resulting in both a low centre of gravity for improved handling and generous boot space of 660 litres in the SUV (615 in the Sportback), plus another 60 litres under the bonnet.
The e-tron S has Audi’s usual high levels of equipment, interior quality and technology, including dual touchscreens, voice control, matrix LED headlights, lane departure warning and rear-view camera, plus seven driving profiles, from efficient to dynamic to off-road.
It can also receive over-the-air software updates, a feature that will be activated later this year. Battery warranty is eight years/100,000 miles.
The SUV range is 221 miles, the Sportback is 223. Note that 30% comes via the recuperation system which harvests energy from coasting and braking. This is available at three levels of recovery – the highest enables the car to be driven largely using one pedal.
Charging at 150kW from 5% to 80% takes 30 minutes, or empty-full in 50 minutes. Charging 5%-80% from a 7kW home charger takes seven to eight hours.
As with all Audi electric vehicles, e-tron S company car drivers are offered a free Pod Point home charger. However, Audi’s research shows that for the e-tron, fewer than 40% of drivers had one installed prior to delivery. Better communication, by both Audi and leasing companies, and a simplified ordering process should see greater uptake for the e-tron S.
Drivers also benefit from the e-tron Charging Service with a one-year free subscription providing access to a charging network of 18 providers with 8,700 stations, plus £150 of fuel charge. From year two, the monthly tariff is £16.95.
Cap has set a strong residual value forecast of 52% for three years/30,000 miles and 43% for three years/60,000 miles on the SUV (53%/45% for the Sportback).
There are several worthy rivals notably the Mercedes-Benz EQC and Jaguar iPace – both substantially cheaper on P11D and running costs, but far less powerful – and the similarly priced, but longer range Tesla Model X as well as plug-in hybrid options such as the Range Rover Sport PHEV and Volvo XC90 T8.
However, the e-tron S is an impressive option for high level executives keen to show their green credentials but without compromising the driving enjoyment offered by a powerful premium car.