Attacking Jebel Hafeet’s 60 corners as it rises 1,200 metres over 12km on a sunny afternoon has been known to cripple many an exotic V8 or turbocharged monster, yet here I was in a silent, electric family wagon overtaking such cars without a second’s thought.
Welcome to the world of instant EV performance which in this case came courtesy of the new Audi e-tron SUV. After several hours driving from Abu Dhabi, a run up Jebel Hafeet was in order before our lunch stop and with no temp gauge or tacho to monitor, endless torque, power delivered to every wheel and a centre of gravity as low as most serious sportscars, this 2.5-tonne family wagon sailed up the mountain like it wasn’t there.
The e-tron SUV is Audi’s first entry into all-electric mobility and it’s a sign of things to come with the company boasting that a third of its cars will be EVs by 2025. The all-wheel-drive e-tron uses two asynchronous motors, one each at the front and rear axles to deliver 355bhp and 561Nm of torque for a 200kph top speed and zero to 100kph in 6.5 seconds. Select boost mode and for eight seconds you get 402bhp and 660Nm which cuts the 100kph dash to 5.7sec.
The water-cooled, Lithium-ion 95kWh battery weighs 700kg and it’s a good thing much of its weight is so low as it doesn’t affect the car’s cornering ability but there’s no escaping the fact that this is a heavy car.
With no engine under the hood, 60 litres of space has been liberated for the storage of the charging cables and ancillary items up front while down the back there’s 600 litres of cargo space and it has a towing capacity of 1,800kg.
You may also like: Mercedes-Benz EQC: Feel the buzz!
A single-stage transmission sends nearly all power to the rear wheels unless it’s at full tilt, then it’s a 50:50 split.
Yet possibly the biggest thing about the e-tron is how ‘normal’ it felt. Unlike the hype surrounding the Tesla and Jaguar’s radical design departure at the rear signalling a new era for the big cat, the e-tron easily slips into the Q range between the Q5 and Q7 in look and feel.
At first, the transmission lever looks normal until you find it’s a fixed unit to be used as a palm rest while underneath is a slide button that you thumb forward for Reverse, back for Drive along with a separate button for Park. It’s intuitive if you’ve used modern auto gear selectors and feels instantly familiar.
What takes more time to acclimatise to however is the lack of door mirrors with cameras in their place. Reported to add 2.5kms range thanks to the reduced drag, the small screens are mounted in the doors and it’s hard to break an adult lifetime’s habit of not checking the mirrors where the mirrors have always been. They work fine, though lack distance perspective but I would be reluctant to tick the €1,500 option for them in Europe. These however were the only anomalies you’ll find that differentiates e-tron from a regular Audi as it uses the same virtual cockpit LCD screens with the 10.1in unit above the 8.8in screen with haptic touch feedback, quad-zone climate-control air and four USB ports front and rear.
Audi quotes the WLTP official test cycle figures that claim it gets 400km from a full charge but as is often the case in the real world, we couldn’t achieve this on our drive.
You may also like: Jaguar I-Pace: Charging ahead
Our car showed 367km in the morning and finished at the lunch stop with 70km after covering around 230km, though they weren’t easy kays.
We can vouch for the car’s top speed on a closed section of road before ploughing through some sand-covered gravel tracks and cruising at 140kph for most of the day before the blast up Jebel Hafeet in Sport mode. So no complaints here about range.
Audi claims you can regain 30 per cent back through coasting and regenerative braking which we tried on the return run, coasting then pressing the brake pedal and using what was previously the downshift paddle on the steering wheel for an aggressive re-gen which will bring the car to a complete stop from 130kph if needed.
At the bottom we had recouped 11km which equated to 3.2 kilowatt hours of free fuel. A leisurely 90-minute stop for lunch and a re-charge and it was back to a 369km range for the home run.
For home charging you will need a specially installed three-phase 11kW wall box from DEWA which will fully charge the car in 8.5 hours while plugging it into a regular AC slot at home could take up to several days as its restricted to 2.3kW or 3.6kW. Audi is promoting the use of DEWA fast chargers that are rolling out across the UAE and will give an 80 per cent top up in 15 minutes.