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Over the past decade or so, a number of both upstart and legacy automakers have introduced EV offerings into the marketplace. Clean-sheet development efforts like these are incredibly costly, and in the hopes of creating a groundswell of interest, a lot of these vehicles have been purposely designed to grab headlines. Some have worn aggressively futuristic (and inevitably polarizing) sheet metal, others have boasted stunning horsepower numbers, and many have commanded MSRPs well above the average new vehicle transaction price.
That approach is certainly understandable: If you want to convince the public to embrace a new technology that’s inherently more expensive (and currently more cumbersome to use on a day-to-day basis), you’re going to have to offer something that’s extraordinary in some way. At least initially. But if EVs are going to become the standard over the next few years – as we’re regularly reminded that they will be – those will not be the products that will establish the norm. Instead, it will be vehicles like the Audi Q4 E-Tron.
Our tester’s S-line package includes 20-inch wheels, black exterior accents, front sport seats, and a hexagonally-shaped steering wheel.
At a glance there’s no clear visual indication that this is an EV, and with a base MSRP of $49,900 for the dual-motor Q4 50 E-Tron Quattro trim ($59,495 as-tested with destination), the pricing puts this crossover within financial reach of most new car buyers.
No, it doesn’t have a thousand horsepower. There’s no crab walking feature or four-wheel torque vectoring. Hell, you can’t even play Fortnite on the infotainment system. But after spending a week with it, what we can say is that it has the potential to become a common sight on our roadways. So, if you want a glimpse at an EV-centric future, look no further.
All 2022 Q4 E-Tron models come in a dual-motor configuration with an 82 kWh battery that offers up 295 horsepower, 339 lb.-ft. of torque, and an EPA-estimated 241 miles of range. A rear-wheel drive, single-motor model with 201 horsepower will join the Q4 lineup in 2023.
We wouldn’t blame you for being a bit confused about Audi’s EV nomenclature. The E-Tron moniker has graced everything from their LMP1 race cars to their Tesla Model S-fighting GT sedan, along with their mid-sized sport-utility vehicle, the latter of which is simply named “e-tron.” In simplest terms, though, it now represents a sub-brand for the automaker that’s focused exclusively on BEV powertrains.
The Q4 E-Tron slots below the mid-sized e-tron SUV. The exterior design is pretty standard Audi fare, and aside from the closed-off grille and subtle E-Tron stamp in the rear bumper, there’s not much that differentiates the Q4 from Audi’s ICE-powered crossovers. However, beneath the sheet metal is a vehicle that is more or less mechanically identical to the Volkswagen ID.4. It rides on the same modular MEB platform and uses the same permanent magnet motors, which, in this case, means a motor for the rear wheels and another for the front, resulting in a total output of 295 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. It also uses the same 82 kWh battery pack as the ID.4 and, with an EPA-estimated 241 miles of range, it will go just as far on a charge.
The MEB platform doesn’t allow for a "frunk", but the Q4’s cargo area is relatively spacious, offering 25 cubic-feet behind the rear seats as well as additional storage under the load floor.
The Q4 E-Tron includes an 11 kWh on-board charger with adapters for 240v and 120V outlets, and new Q4 buyers also score 250 kWh of charging through Electrify America, a company which was established by Volkswagen Group in 2017 as part of its efforts to atone for the diesel emissions scandal that came to light a few years prior. The Q4 E-Tron’s electrical architecture supports charging at up to 150 kW, and under ideal circumstances, that rate can take the battery from a 5% state of charge to 80% in 36 minutes.
Although the core componentry mimics the ID.4, the Q4 sets itself apart from the VW in a number of ways. Externally that equates to luxury features like matrix LED headlights and standard 19-inch wheels (the S-line package on our tester swaps those out for 20s), but the biggest changes are in the cabin.
The interior has a decidedly tech-focused aesthetic that looks legitimately upscale, and the presence of physical buttons for often-used features like climate control and drive modes is welcome departure from current trends.
Whereas the interior of the ID.4 is a spartan affair with a borderline-infuriating infotainment system and switchgear that’s almost exclusively capacitive touch buttons, the cabin in the Q4 is decidedly more upscale and eschews virtually all of the Volkswagen’s problematic controls and systems. The optional, hexagonally-shaped steering wheel sets the techy tone while the 10.1-inch central touchscreen is tilted toward the driver, both of which bolster the cockpit-of-a-fighter-jet vibe that the Q4 has going on here.
Aside from the annoyingly imprecise touchpad on the center console for audio volume and media controls (note to automakers: volume knobs work just fine), everything in the Q4 E-Tron feels familiar right away – there’s no learning curve to the software, or bizarre button placements, or HVAC settings that are inexplicably buried in the infotainment system menus. That might sound a bit too normal in an era when gimmicks are getting all the attention, but in practice, having physical controls for something as trivial as adjusting the fan speed dramatically improves day-to-day usability.
The 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment provides sharp graphics, quick response, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. It lacks a traditional volume knob, though, and the touchpad that’s tasked with the job is cumbersome to use while on the go.
That pragmatic design philosophy extends to the driving experience, too. We’ve grown accustomed to EVs that will shove you deep into your seat when you drop the hammer, so the Q4’s claimed 0-62 mph sprint time of 6.2 seconds might sound lethargic. In reality it’s more than enough for most drivers, as the instantaneous response makes the Q4 feel more urgent than it actually is. Even at freeway speeds there’s enough grunt to make a pass without much fuss.
We’d stop short of calling the Q4 E-Tron a performance-tuned machine, though. The Audi’s passive dampers are set up for comfort, resulting in a significant amount of body motion when pushed on winding tarmac, and steering is both light and devoid of feedback. There’s also very little in the way of vehicle adjustability – even the amount of braking regen is limited to just “automatic” or off in the vehicle settings. While you can also change the level of regen with the steering wheel paddles, it resets when you press the accelerator in any driving mode other than Dynamic, and none of the settings are aggressive enough to facilitate one-pedal driving.
There’s additional storage as well as two USB-C ports and a 12-volt plug underneath the center console. The optional wireless charging pad is located down here as well.
The Q4’s wasn’t designed to be a technical showcase, though. This is about reaching the buyers who are interested in making the transition to an EV but want a traditional vehicle ownership experience. And to that end, the Q4 ticks a lot of the right boxes: It rides comfortably, even on LA’s pockmarked streets. The turning radius is tight. The infotainment is intuitive and responsive. And with our testers Prestige package – a $6,300 option – it also includes worthwhile features like adaptive cruise control with lane guidance, a heads-up display, and a Sonos premium audio system. All of which make this a pleasant, if not thrilling, place to spend some time.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty conventional stuff. And that’s why it works.