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First drive: 2019 Audi E-tron in the UAE

First drive: 2019 Audi E-tron in the UAE

Audi is late to the electric-car game, although it’s never too late in the Middle East, considering EVs are yet to take off here. So it’s interesting that the German carmaker decided to hold the international media launch of their first mainstream all-electric vehicle — the E-tron — in Abu Dhabi. 

Built on Audi’s new battery-electric vehicle or BEV platform, the E-tron packs a 95 kWhr battery and two motors to power the front and rear wheels. The front motors produces about 187 hp and 313 Nm of torque, while the rear motor churns out 168 hp and 247 Nm of torque, giving it a combined 355 hp and 560 Nm of torque. There is a boost mode which gives about 405 hp and 663 Nm of torque for about 8 seconds. Performance figures from Audi say it can go from 0 to 100 kph in 5.5 seconds. Range of the battery is claimed to be 400 km. If you have a fast charger, the E-tron can get 250 km or 150 kW of charge in about 30 minutes.

The exterior features the new design language, so it looks largely like the Audi Q8. Audi intentionally kept the design similar to their petrol-powered car, to make potential customers switching to electric feel more comfortable with the initial transition. The design lines give it a wide and sporty look. The front grille is mostly aesthetic with two slits opening up sometimes to cool the battery.

The interior features the new “virtual cockpit” we saw already in the A8 and Q8, which includes the infotainment system with dual haptic touchscreens. The shifter is new and unique — it looks like a hand rest but has a tab at the end, which can be moved to change gears. Another unique feature is the side-view “mirrors” which are actually screens on the upper door panels, and on the outside were just sticks with cameras. While it took a moment to get used to, rest assured it is just as option for people who still want the traditional side mirrors.

The regenerative braking technology on the E-tron is one of the highlights of the car. What Audi managed to do is keep the drive similar to a combustion-engined Audi. During normal driving, most of the braking is done by the electric motors, which then send the captured energy to the battery. The best feature of this system is the brake pedal feel, which is not like the “switch” feel of other electric cars, but gives that linear braking smoothness of non-electric cars. At speeds below 11 kph, it switches to normal hydraulic brakes so you don’t get that jerky feeling when parking or moving slowly through traffic.

We also had a run up Jebel Hafeet mountains in Al Ain to see the regenerative functions of the system on a tablet in real time. The E-tron certainly handles neutrally like a regular Audi, made all the more exciting with the instant torque. The battery certainly lowers the centre of gravity, and body roll is kept to a minimum in sports mode. The air suspension, which is standard, certainly keeps the ride comfortable, soaking up bumps nicely.

We had a minor off-road section as well, so we switched it to “off-road” mode which raises the suspension by 35mm to clear obstacles better, although it is by no means a serious offroader.

The Audi E-Tron combines modern technology, luxury, comfort and innovation. Audi plans to release three more all-electric models in the next two years, and with the E-tron, they have certainly made a good start.

The Audi E-Tron is set to be available in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries in the second half of 2019. Pricing has not been announced yet, but we expect it to be around the Dhs 350,000 mark in the UAE.

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