In Review

Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron review: a smart, practical electric SUV

The Sportback version of Audi’s compact EV adds more dynamic styling for minimal sacrifice of space

Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron

The launch of the Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron was perfectly timed. The electric SUV arrived just after fuel shortages reminded drivers that range anxiety could affect petrol and diesel cars too, and in the midst of last year’s inexorable rise in prices at the pump.

That may help to explain why the Q4 e-tron family is well on its way to becoming not only Audi’s best selling electric vehicle, but its best-selling car full stop. It’s certainly not the only reason, though: the Q4 e-tron is also well built, practical and a pleasure to drive. And the Sportback variant, with its sleekly tapering roof, is one of the most stylish SUVs on the road.

“If you’re making the switch to electric it’s a great place to start,” said Top Gear. A “relentlessly capable” car, it offers “a nifty blend of EV glamour and SUV practicality”.

Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron

Design

The distinctive coupe-like styling sacrifices a little rear headroom to create a sweeping roofline that’s altogether more elegant than the wedge-like SUV norm. And the sacrifice is small: some clever tweaks to the lining have preserved most of the ceiling height, making the back seats viable for adults up to about six feet tall.

The front half of the Sportback is the same as the standard Q4 e-tron, which is to say handsome inside and out. The headlights and what look like purposeful air scoops (but which in fact house the cameras and sensors that support the extensive driver assistance systems) are arranged around a wide grill with a distinctive textured finish. Flared wheel arches and slightly concave doors suggest that the bodywork has been stretched over a powerful frame.

While the outside is all curves, the inside is an angular affair. The dashboard consists of three more-or-less flat panels which meet at pronounced inflection points: the instruments and central touchscreen slanting towards the driver and the passenger side dash sloping away. Even the steering wheel has corners. The effect is subtly futuristic – a nod to the flat control panels beloved of sci-fi spaceships.

Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron

The rest of the cabin is similarly smart. “It should come as no surprise that Audi has screwed everything together really well,” said The Sunday Times Driving, “and material quality is excellent”. It’s spacious, too. Unlike previous battery-powered Audis, which used a chassis adapted from existing petrol and diesel models, the Q4 e-tron was designed to be electric from the ground up. That means no transmission tunnel, no space set aside for the unneeded gearbox – and therefore more room inside than you’d guess from the sleek profile.

Performance and comfort

The mid-range Q4 e-tron 40 will provide you with “a decent amount of poke under your right foot”, said Top Gear, getting you from 0-62mph in a reasonably brisk 8.5 seconds (and the more powerful 50 model gets there in 6.2 seconds). Even so, this isn’t the fastest of its peers. “The rival Ford Mustang Mach-E is quite a bit nippier,” said What Car?, “while the pricier Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge will leave the quickest Q4 for dead”.

The Audi, like many electric cars, feels faster on the road than it looks on paper, since its power is delivered in a smooth, continuous surge. The instant response is one of the delights of the electric age. When it comes to slowing down, however, some EVs let the side down. Overly aggressive regenerative braking can lead to choppy progress, but Audi has got the balance right. The ride is relaxing too. “The Q4 generally feels supple around town, plus it breathes with the road at higher speeds, without ever becoming floaty,” said What Car? 

An array of driver assistance systems ensure a safe and stress-free journey. A head-up display projects speed and sat-nav directions onto the windscreen, just below your eye line, while adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, lane guidance and automatic emergency braking keep you on the straight and narrow.

Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron

Running costs and range

The Q4 Sportback e-tron 40’s official range is more than 300 miles, “a decent wedge compared with the competition”, said Sunday Times Driving, “and plenty for everyday use”. It can be topped up without too much fuss, too, gaining 80 miles in range for every ten minutes spent hooked up to a 125kW fast charger. 

That may still be slower than a petrol stop, but it’s also much cheaper. “Even accounting for a hike in electricity bills, a full charge of the Audi from my home charger costs around £12,” said Steve Fowler in AutoExpress. “That gets us around 220 miles of range in this cold winter weather – well under half the price of a petrol Audi Q3 doing the same mileage.”

Price

Prices for the Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron start from £44,615.

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