The Audi e-tron Sportback tries to do it all – and it mostly succeeds.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens. There are always more photos at the end of my reviews.
Pricing: 2023 Audi e-tron Sportback
Base price (Technik 55 quattro trim): $98,242
Options: $2,100 S-line Black Package; $1,200 22-inch 5 spoke rims; $350 rear side airbags with illuminated seatbelt buckles; $4,850 Luxury package; $500 Dynamic Orange brake calipers; $800 Black optics package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $110,842
It starts off with the spaciousness and functionality of an SUV, and combines this with a sleek and sporty silhouette thanks to the Sportback styling. Underpinning it all is a powerful electric drivetrain that balances performance and efficiency perfectly.
The elegance of the Sportback’s tapered roofline and four-door coupe styling is immediately evident, blending flowing lines and sharp creases for a look all its own. Fusing sleek modern lines and muscular aggression, the e-tron Sportback’s visual identity is completed with a set of staggering 22-inch rims and massive 265/40-sized tires that fill the wheel wells to perfection.
The drag coefficient is 0.28 Cd, making this an incredibly slippery vehicle when it comes to aerodynamics. That of course helps minimize resistance and therefore maximizes the vehicle’s range.
The drama starts before you even get in – locking and unlocking the car greets the driver and passengers with ultra-cool animations from the matrix-design head- and tail-lights. Everyone loved this!
Climb into the roomy cabin and you’ll find a plush modern world crafted of world-class materials – gorgeous Valcona leather, ultrasuede, chrome trim, stitched panels and beautifully textured soft plastics – and a sleek design with the latest technology throughout.
Behind the perfectly-shaped steering wheel is a fully digital dash allowing the driver to choose exactly what they want to see. I found the options very useful and easy to read, and worlds apart from most other digital dashes out there.
The seats are very comfortable and incredibly adjustable, including the side and thigh bolsters. They’re heated, ventilated and offer a massaging function as well.
Centered above the console are two touchscreens – one that handles the Bang & Olufsen audio system (which is excellent), navigation and vehicle functions and a second one that is dedicated to the climate control system. Even the headlight panel is a miniature “screen” and all of them function with haptic feedback. It works well, but obviously requires you to take your eyes off the road and wait for the screen to tap your finger back with feedback as you’re using the screens.
Driver assistance technology includes anything you can think of, including very high resolution surround cameras and all matter of electronic interventions to keep the driver and passengers safe. It all worked very nicely and never felt intrusive.
Rear passengers aren’t second-class citizens – all the wonderful touches and finishes continue to the back, and there are charging plugs (2 USB-C plugs and a 12V plug) and a separate climate control panel for each passenger in the back. Adjustable air vents are found at the back of the console and on the B-pillar. The outboard seats are heated of course.
There’s plenty of legroom and adequate headroom – at 5’10” and sitting behind my own driving position, I had 5″ of spare legroom, and about an inch and a half overhead, so taller passengers may run out of headroom. The middle position isn’t a great place to sit but its seatback folds down to become a nice armrest with dual cupholders and a carpeted storage bin.
The large panoramic sunroof overhead lets in additional light, making the space feel a bit airier, and manual sunshades keep the rays out of the side windows. There are two sets of child seat anchors.
I really enjoyed the flexibility of the centre console. The armrest slides forward and back. Open it to reveal a small carpeted bin. Then there’s an open area in the middle. Within it is a scrolling lid that can cover the two cupholders – between them is a slot to stand your phone in. Very handy. There are two USB-C plugs and a 12V plug here as well. At the left side of the open area is a spot to clamp your phone into place where it can wirelessly charge too.
The e-tron Sportback isn’t just luxurious, it is also practical. With a large cargo hold (660L) and plenty of flexibility thanks to the 40/20/40 split folding rear seats (increasing capacity to 1,726L when folded), the Sportback happily functions as a road trip partner or hockey practice taxi. The load floor is higher than expected but that doesn’t impact the usefulness of the space.
There are a couple of cargo nets and tonneau covers included, along with significant underfloor storage and an actual spare tire.
As with most EVs, the e-tron has a frunk, but it’s pretty laughable in terms of capacity. I would say it will hold the charging cable and that’s about it. It would be nice to see more storage up front.
Under the Hood
The e-tron Sportback uses two asynchronous electric motors to create an electric version of Audi’s world-famous Quattro all-wheel drive, the motors combining to make a maximum of 402 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque.
The gear selector is a whole new way of doing things. Jutting out of the wrist rest is a metallic squared-off puck that you swing forward to put it in Reverse or swing back towards you to put it in Drive. There’s a button for putting the vehicle into Park. It’s a new way of doing things, but you get used to it quickly.
The car’s character can be controlled using drive modes – you can pick from Efficiency, Comfort, Automatic, Dynamic and Individual, which the driver can use to save their favourite settings.
There’s plenty of oomph off the line, although you really need to step on it (there’s a Boost mode when you put the accelerator past a little detent in its travel) to really feel the ample power available – otherwise it feels pretty sedate and frankly somewhat hesitant around town. Putting it in Dynamic mode brings it to life. Then you’ll become more aware of that instant electric torque of which there is plenty and because there is no drama, no gears to wind through and virtually no noise, you can surprise yourself with how quickly you’ll be at illegal speeds. If you care about numbers, the etron can rocket from standstill to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds I did feel it ran out of steam when passing at highway speeds though – it’s more than enough, but at that point, it feels like it’s working hard.
Handing all that the driver can throw at it is the remarkable adaptive air suspension that adjusts each corner continuously, reacting to the road and the driver. This makes for perfect driving dynamics – a buttery smooth ride as well as incredibly competent handling. As good as the handling is, there is absolutely no way of getting by the 5,765 pound (2,615 kg) curb weight. You always feel it and while it makes the vehicle feel substantial and planted in a straight line, you can sense it being carried into and through the corners. Another air suspension trick – the car’s height can be adjusted to suit the driver’s needs and the road conditions.
Those massive brakes (and their beautiful calipers!) bring things back down to earth and regenerate power and charge the battery when being applied.
And if your lifestyle requires some toy hauling, the e-tron Sportback can be equipped to tow up to 4,000 pounds.
Range anxiety in electric vehicles is a real thing – but it does not have to be with the e-tron Sportback. Its 95 kWh battery boasts a range up to 362 km and using a DC fast charger, the battery can be topped off from 5% to 80% in about 30 minutes. Using a standard Level 2 charger at home, it would take about 10 hours and if you have to use a normal Level 1 household plug, you’re looking at 3 days. Haha! It’s important to note that the competition is easily matching and surpassing the e-tron’s range with its latest offerings.
The regenerative brakes are a tad squishy, but they feel mostly normal. You can use paddles on the steering wheel to increase the resistance and brake using the electric motors, however it’s not enough for one-pedal driving. You’ll still need to actually step on the brakes, unlike some of the competition.
I loved the optional second charging port on the passenger side – it’s so nice not to have to care which way you pull up to a charging station. And the doors are powered so it’s super cool when you get out and tap the button and the door silently moves out of the way to reveal the charge port.
My long-term average in terms of efficiency was 8.7 kwh/100 km.
There is a lot of gloss black trim on the console – it’s an instant dust magnet, and the screens, in particular the upper one, show fingerprints instantly. I took a picture of the screen after I had cleaned it with a micro-cloth and used it with freshly washed hands/fingertips – honestly it is disgusting and very distracting. They don’t show up nearly as much on the lower climate control screen – I believe it is due to the placement and that there is less light glaring off that screen.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very high. She loved the styling (coupe-style SUVs are generally not her thing) and she enjoyed the driving experience, as well as the luxurious interior.
Even though this model is several years old, it still manages to feel wholly modern in most ways. It’s not as competitive as it once was in terms of range and power for the price, but it’s still a very compelling vehicle in terms of its ability, luxury, build quality and performance.
There is nothing the Audi e-tron Sportback can’t handle. It does it all – in luxurious silence.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Audi Edmonton North.
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