All against Tesla, part 3: Audi e-tron electric car with a noble appearance, but too expensive

Audi has a reputation to lose. The “Vorsprung durch Technik”, which has been claimed since 1971, may not have been that far since the appearance of Tesla. But true to the corporate motto of at least not falling too far behind the pioneer, the Volkswagen subsidiary launched its first own electric car, the e-tron, on the market at the end of 2018. In line with the brand, the Audi e-tron is designed as a premium vehicle, and in line with current tastes as an SUV. It is treated as such in the test by as part of our series “All against Tesla”.

Audi electric car not very original

Anyone standing in front of the e-tron immediately recognizes it as an Audi. As brave as VW has given the ID.3 a completely unique look with only slight Golf borrowings, Audi does not approach electric cars in an original way. A6 and a little Q7 can be clearly recognized in the e-tron. The nose is so much current Audi uniformity that you don’t even want to decide whether you are facing an e-tron or an A6 without looking at the rear. But that’s a matter of taste.

The e-tron is definitely big. You can tell that it should be padded here. In contrast to the Tesla Model 3, Model S or Model X, you sit unusually high in the e-tron, but also very comfortably and well above the road. We like that because the overview is great.

The driving behavior is extremely sporty. Of course, one can question why large and heavy cars have to be designed in this way, because it tempts to drive faster. But this coordination is definitely fun. Not only experienced drivers quickly notice that the rear motor is quite pushing. It is also intended that way, because it has more power. This creates an extremely agile impression that makes the SUV look like a sports car. The e-tron 50 we drive accelerates from 0 to 100 km / h in 6.6 seconds. Quite neat – all Tesla vehicles down to our Model 3 standard range plus are faster, however. The e-tron also completes the intermediate sprint from almost 60 to 100 km / h in a pleasantly sporty manner. We like that a lot, but it doesn’t feel any faster than the Model 3 SR + either.

Compared to the Model S, the Audi looks more modern inside. The interior corresponds to what is known from Audi, but is a bit more upbeat and futuristic. We like it optically better than in the Model S or 3. A look at the prices in comparison to the driving performance should cause disillusionment for those interested in the e-tron. The Tesla Model 3 SR + currently costs a good 46,000 euros, but the e-tron is a hefty 90,000 euros – and due to the higher list price, only the smaller environmental bonus of 7,500 euros instead of 9,000 euros can be deducted from it.

In addition to the driving dynamics, Audi’s electric car shows another point that we really like: It is not only very agile, but also very comfortable. Quasi a sedan chair. The standard air suspension takes road bumps to a level of perfection that we at Tesla, especially the Model 3, can only wish for. The ground clearance can also be changed with various driving modes. The interior of the Audi e-tron is extremely well insulated compared to the Tesla Model 3 and Model S.

Operation for VW great, better for Tesla

The infotainment offer in the e-tron is also great – at least if you apply standards from the VW Group. Everything happens very quickly within this framework, delays are not noticed. The navigation system knows Ionity charging points and uses them to calculate routes. It works just as well or badly as with Tesla. The controls and displays are arranged on three separate displays. Here one understands the logic of the operation very quickly.

Compared to the possibilities at Tesla, however, the e-tron loses a lot of points. The e-tron does not come close to the connectivity or the overview of all Tesla models. Sure, maybe you don’t need some features like Netflix and the games box, but those who are on a long tour with children and are charging will be happy about the additional options. Do without it voluntarily? Rather not. In Model 3, Tesla manages to accommodate all of the controls in one display; Audi needs three. It might look more attractive, but we think Tesla has made the operation more elegant.

The body of the e-tron offers advantages over the Tesla models. The trunk is comfortably large, the flap opens wide. That is already a combination feeling. You can tell that Audi developed for the European market and did not want to afford any weaknesses in terms of everyday usability. In our opinion, however, the e-tron does not gain any advantage over the equally spacious Model X.

High surcharge not justified

As in the first part of our small series “All against Tesla” with the VW ID.3, it shows that the universally designed autopilot is not yet as advanced as the upcoming competition for some individual functions. Tesla has just introduced the detection of speed limits via software update and it still works incompletely. In the e-tron, on the other hand, we basically did not experience any misinterpretations.

Autonomous driving does not yet exist at Audi either, but the existing assistance systems work perfectly. Once selected, they are active when driving with cruise control. One detail is interesting: The cruise control uses stored data and reduces the speed even before the actual start of the speed limit. We were amazed at first, then excited. This saves energy – which can’t do any harm with the Audi because, according to other tests, its consumption is noticeably higher than even the larger Tesla Model X.

In view of the light and shadow in the electric Audi, one question arises: Is the high price difference between an e-tron and a Tesla Model 3 justified? We say no. It is true that the German electric car is consistently in a different league when it comes to processing. But neither the performance nor the equipment details would be worth 50,000 euros more to us. When Model Y is there, Audi Tesla should no longer have any space and form advantages to oppose. However, the German brand is already planning the more compact SUV Q4 e-tron, which will be cheaper and, unlike the first e-tron, is based on Volkswagen’s all-electric MEB platform.

Text and photos: Martin Zink


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