Audi Q4 e-tron first drive: A is at the top of the B family, if you see what we mean

David Linklater
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Apologies in advance, but to cover the Audi Q4 e-tron we need to talk very briefly (again) about MEB: Volkswagen Group’s battery electric vehicle (BEV) platform. Just like we did with the VW ID.4/5, Skoda Enyaq and Cupra Born.

Audi Q4 e-tron same as Cupra, Skoda and VW models underneath. Not that you'd know.

Yep, the Q4 is another one of those, based on the same BEV “skateboard” platform, 77kWh battery and 2.8m wheelbase. The entry 40 e-tron Advanced model shares its rear-mounted 150kW electric motor with all of the above, too.

This is the posh one, though. The Q4 starts at just under $100k and depending on powertrain and body shape (there are two of each), tops out at just over $130k.

So why buy the Audi when its sister brands all have MEBs starting at under $80k?

The company would argue there’s much more to a car than simply the platform. That’s a fair point: what’s happening with MEB is pretty much what VW Group has been doing for quarter of a century with its internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, taking a shared platform and adjusting design, chassis tuning and specification to suit each brand.

Audi Q4 e-tron comes in Advanced RWD or S line quattro AWD.

For example, the MQB platform is under basically every small-medium ICE Audi, Cupra, Skoda and VW on the market.

Audi argues it’s a compact SUV on the outside, with the cargo capacity of a medium SUV and the rear-seat space of a large SUV.

VW Group is a master at this kind of thing. We’ve found it’s done a great job at making the Born, Enyaq and ID.4 feels different on the road, and the same is true of the Q4 e-tron. They all have their own subtle dynamic flavour.

But it’s also a lot about the look, right? We reckon the Q4 e-tron’s styling is pretty sharp. Certainly very Audi, including a massive grille which is totally unnecessary for an EV but lends a lot of brand identity; and is flush enough that it still looks like an electric car.

The Q4’s MEB trump card (for now) is the 50 quattro S line version, which adds an extra 80kW motor up front for 220kW/460Nm.

There’s loads of clever aero detail, like a “pre-spoiler” (which pushes air back towards the car) and adaptive cooling vents in the front bumper, door-mirror “turbulators” and wheel-arch deflectors.

The interior is also stunning. You expect high quality fit and finish from Audi, but the design is also fantastic. It’s all cockpit-style angles, with the touch screen neatly integrated into the centre console, rather than standing proud, tablet-style.

The steering wheel haptic-touch buttons (you can swipe, or just press in the conventional way) feel a bit weird at first, but you get used to them pretty quickly. And Audi has taken a leaf out of Skoda’s book by retaining physical controls for often-used functions like climate control.

This is the Audi Q4 e-tron SUV, but you can also have a coupe-style Sportback.

Love the bottle-holders nestled high up in the doors, just ahead of the release handles. Like we said… attention to detail.

It’s impressively practical. Audi argues it’s a compact SUV on the outside (4.6m long), with the cargo capacity of a medium SUV (520l) and the rear-seat space of a large SUV, thanks to that long wheelbase and flat floor.

The 40 Advanced SUV opens at $99,990 with the single-motor 150kW/310Nm specification: 0-100km/h in 8.5sec and 528km range.

The Q4’s MEB trump card (for now) is the $126,990 50 quattro S line version, which adds an 80kW motor up front for 220kW/460Nm, 0-100km/h in 6.2sec and a slightly lower 511km range. This is the same powertrain that’s coming in the VW ID.4/5 GTX next year; be interesting to see what price difference VW NZ can achieve, given its top single-motor models are already climbing up towards $100k.

You get a bit more than extra power for that Q4 e-tron 50 quattro S line money. You certainly get a nice long badge.

But it also adds three-zone climate control, steering-wheel paddle-shifting (to adjust the regen), variable-height boot floor, a full Park Assist setup, a massive augmented reality head-up display, extra traffic-jam functionality for the adaptive cruise, slightly different exterior styling detail including larger 20in wheels and an upgraded interior with sports seats in nappa leather (the 40 is still leather though) and the fancier “Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus” dashboard.

The quattro also gets full matrix LED headlights with one cute feature that’s a first for Audi and MEB generally: selectable digital signatures for the daytime running lights, meaning you can have different illumination to the other three people on your street that own Q4 e-trons. Check out the video above to see the different designs and some other light-show stuff.

Either model can be ordered in the coupe-style Sportback body shape, for an extra $4k. Superior aero for the sleeker body shape (including that split-window rear spoiler) means the Sportback offers superior range: the 40 Advanced RWD achieves the best WLTP figure at 542km, while the 50 S line offers 522km.

We had a quick run north from Auckland in the 50 quattro, including a bit of twisty stuff as we headed towards a break at Te Arai Lodge near Mangawhai; proper review to come a little later, of course. As expected it’s a sweet, smooth drive, and the 50 is calibrated to deliver its extra kW in a very linear way. No neck-snapping EV antics here, just lots of seamless traction when required.

In normal driving it doesn’t feel a whole lot different to a single-motor model, because the front freewheels to cut down on drag. The beauty of BEV technology is the speed at which an electric motor can fire up, meaning you have instant AWD when you need it.

Fun fact to finish: Audi now has three separate BEV platforms on the go, soon to be four. There’s the original e-tron SUV, the e-tron GT (same as the Porsche Taycan) and now the MEB Q4. On the way is PPE, a premium BEV platform that underpins the new Q6. Audi just likes to have a bit more than the other VW Group brands.

AUDI Q4 E-TRON
MOTOR: 77kWh battery with single electric motor (40 e-tron Advanced) or dual electric motors (50 e-tron quattro S line)
POWER: 150kW/310Nm or 220kW/460Nm
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, RWD or AWD
RANGE: 511-542km, 16.6kWh-20.2/100km (WLTP)
PRICE: $99,990-$130,990

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