When the fleet-keepers for Audi offered to drop off the new Q4 50 e-tron quattro, I had to consult the Audi website to see exactly what it was that I’d be getting. It’s not that I’m wholly ignorant of the Audi portfolio, it’s more that the marque offers so many models, in so many configurations, that I needed to parse the company’s alpha-numeric, “I’m-too-cool-to-use capital-letters” nomenclature to see just what kind of animal the Q4 is. Turns out, it’s an all-electric one.
Truth be told, I wasn’t an early adopter of electric cars. I drove some of the first ones from you-know-who, and subsequent weirdness like the Chevy Volt, yawned a little (or a lot), and figured I’d pick up the conversation when things got more interesting. They have. In some cases, really interesting, as with the Audi RS e-tron GT, a Robb Report Car of the Year contender for 2023, about which you’ll be hearing more in the coming months.
But the Audi EV persona is making its mark with the e-tron SUVs, available from mild to wild in four models, starting from roughly $70,800. There’s also the Q4 e-tron, with five models starting from $49,800. That’s a lot of electrons to sort through, and so I was surprised to experience one of the “entry” EVs of the Audi family. Our Q-ship showed up presenting the substantial proportions and sculpted lines of the Q4. The $2,200 S-line Package adds 20-inch bi-color wheels, black exterior elements and a few other aesthetic embellishments. The $6,300 Prestige package adds all kinds of bells and whistles, like an upgraded sound system and a projection light under each front door that prestigiously projects “e-tron” on the pavement at night. All in, ours had an MSRP of $59,495 and really impressed as a value proposition in the scheme of things.
Audis are so well put together, and tasteful too . . . mostly. It remains a mystery to this driver why Audi, like so many “upscale” brands, has chosen to festoon its interiors with candy-colored carnival lighting, pulsing and throbbing like a school of jellyfish. At least there are no fake crystal door trim accents and knobs popular with another German brand.
Consigning all EVs to the category of “toasters on wheels” tars the species with a broad brush. Nonetheless, what seems to matter most to everyone is, “How far does it go?” In the case of the Q4, Audi claims about 265 miles on a warm day and a level road. Charging is quick; $3.00 on a public charger juiced up our half-empty (half-full?) EV in the 30 minutes I ducked into a bookstore to pass the time.
Back on the road, the Q4’s performance is brisk, with about 295 hp with boost engaged. Audi states that the Q4 50 e-tron quattro scoots from zero to 60 mph in about 5.8 seconds. Reassuring is the all-wheel-drive, all-the-time quattro system, which keeps the car planted and will be appreciated in inclement weather. No one, though, will buy this car to carve canyons. The steering is a bit sluggish, and the whole vehicle feels heavy, like every electric car I’ve ever driven. But safe and solid it is—ideally suited for the uses to which the Q4 will undoubtedly be put, like shuttling kids, dogs and groceries.
It’s perhaps for those very reasons that there’s a whole lot of driver assistance going on, the most basic of which are distance sensors that give some clue where the outer extremities of sheet metal and polycarbonate end and an immovable object begins. Which is to say, there are a lot of blind spots in this car, though no more than encountered in most SUVs. It just goes with the territory. This is a well-designed, easy-to-live-with EV (seemingly named by poet ee cummings) that makes its owner look sharp and feel good. Just don’t capitalize its name.