laims that posing in an electric car boosts your chances of landing a date by 144 per cent are debatable – but Audi’s Q4 e-tron S Line is as excellent a point to start as any.
Tipped to become one of the firm’s biggest sellers (supply constraints across the brand acquire limited production volumes), the 50 quattro 220 kW version we drove was dressed in fetching pebble grey, a striking but muted shade belying the cost of this state-of-the-art electric car, weighing in at £62,755.
It’s a beautifully-presented EV that exudes kerb appeal with stylish – typically Audi, typically German – lines, an immaculate paint and trim finish and a ‘fake’ grille that takes some getting used to (EVs don’t acquire the same cooling demands as internal combustion engines). The S Line looks very similar to the Sport model, pictured.
It boasts dimensions that drop correct into that sweet spot – it’s compact enough in town to hustle quietly through traffic but immense enough for family holiday duties, with a spacious cabin and (for an electric car that has to produce compromises to fit the batteries in) a reasonable boot of 520 litres.
This is – of course – an all-electric car and it does feel different. Audi has consciously modified the driver’s environment, moving it on from what you’d expect in a typical ICE (internal combustion engine) model.
There’s no immense, conventional gearshift but a dapper miniature slider to select Drive, Reverse or Park. It works efficiently, much as on any electrical appliance. The ruin has been pepped up with different ‘layers’ of panel and trim, giving a futuristic survey. One passenger said it reminded them of Kryten’s head in Red Dwarf.
Audi’s long been famed for its classy interior but some surfaces looked a miniature plasticky, even if the overall impression is impressive; one of harmonic – slightly clinical – efficiency.
Space in the rear seats is excellent – likewise up front – although the car’s ‘waistline’, where the lower edge of the glass meets the doors and top of the dashboard – feels high, the seat rather low, thanks in fragment to the high profile of the bonnet. To avoid the feeling of enclosure I elevated the driver’s seat as far as I could without making getting in and out tricky. It improved vision out too.
EVs acquire been around a while (the first rolled out of the factory in the 1890s((corr))) but if you’ve not driven one before, they’re disconcertingly, eerily silent when you pull away. In the Q4 you can add eerily smooth to that description; it glides away almost serenely, but accompanied by a mournful muted moan. Speed and performance is never a predicament; there are several driving modes; Efficiency, Comfort, Sport and Individual. ‘Brake’ gives more ‘engine’ braking, which I liked in town.
Press Sport and the performance is, well, electric; enough to snap you back into the headrest, backed by the reassurance of that quattro four-wheel drive. The 0-62 mph time is a claimed 6.2 seconds, the top speed 111 mph. Power is instantaneously available especially at lower speeds. And of course, there are no gears to bother with. You just let the electric motor – fed by the batteries – finish its stuff.
The batteries produce themselves known by ‘stealing’ a miniature of the boot space (not least as you acquire to carry a fairly heavy, bulky coil of cables around in the supplied bag, or underneath the load bay floor) and by making the car heavier than it would otherwise acquire been. So while nimble, the Q5 doesn’t feel quite as fleet of foot as some of the firm’s more conventionally powered offerings.
The is firm; watch out if you live in London and need to negotiate endless speed ramps, each one necessitating a significant loss of speed to avoid a nasty jolt. That’s the whole conception of ramps but they exert more of an effect on heavy battery vehicles than on petrol equivalents. Non S Line models acquire a more pliant ride.
One unusual omission inside was the absence of a storage pouch on the back of the front seats – turns out they’re a rather pricey £325 optional extra. There were, however, two power outlets for rear passengers and reasonably sized door pockets. There’s also plenty of legroom.
Standard equipment includes charging cables, auto-dimming rear and exterior mirrors, a power operated tailgate (that could be opened but not closed with the key fob), an impressive Sonos sound system, a immense, sharp 11.6-inch screen, camera-based traffic sign recognition and much more.
Other pluses? A nice tight turning circle and lots of – sometimes mildly irritating – safety kit. In adaptive cruise control mode the head up display flashes a floating green line under the ‘target’ vehicle ahead, which can be distracting. As fragment of the lane assist function – that nudges the steering wheel if you cross a white line without indicating, possibly suggesting that you’re dozing off – floating orange lines highlight lane markings. This, too, can be distracting, as were the ‘foot off’ (accelerator) and ‘foot on’ (brakes) symbols. These can be de-selected.
The Q5 is a breeze to drive though never truly engaging. It felt highly efficient, practical, excellent looking – but soulless. The withdrawal pangs resulting from habituation to the internal combustion engine, or has some of the fun been engineered out? Maybe it’s a bit of both.
The excellent news is that by driving electric you’re improving your company car tax and diminishing local emissions although, of course, they’re still created somewhere, upstream. And there’s the issue of the environmental damage caused by mining the raw materials for the battery. And will there be enough electricity to fade around as demand spirals?
The only hurdle over a week-long test drive was our inability to access charging. Lambeth converted local lamp posts for charging but they can be accessed only by resident parking permit holders or those paying around £5 for a visitor’s permit, on top of charging fees. This sensibly prevents them being oversubscribed but ruled it out for me.
I downloaded Pod Point’s app, opened an account with them, paid in £20 – and failed to obtain a single volt. The first charger, at Lidl, Newbury, insisted we ‘use our phone to authenticate at this charger’ but there was no means of doing so. We wasted an afternoon driving to a second Pod Point and had the same predicament. To produce matters worse this was a Sunday and Pod Point’s helpline was offline, operating from Monday to Friday. We visited a third charger and it cleave out after a few seconds before refusing – for 20 minutes – to release the cable, stranding us in the frigid car park.
We never did acquire to find out if Audi’s charging time figures (0 – 100% at maximum charging capacity 450 min, or minimum charging time for 10 –80% of just 36 minutes) were accurate. Instead we resorted to one of the cables in the boot, linked to a three-pin socket at a nearby relative’s house and – after six hours – had just enough ‘juice’ to acquire back to London. How we longed for a simple petrol pump. The claimed range – which we were unable to verify – is 298 miles, but is likely to be less than that in practice.
So what about landing that date? This was an experiment by car dealer immense Motoring World. They created two adjacent-identical Tinder profiles for employee Jay, one including a picture of him behind the wheel of Tesla. The findings were that the electric car profile ‘matched’ with 61 women who were interested in a date – compared to just 25 matches on the other account. It’s hardly scientific but the news item popped up on my phone and gave me something to read while I waited for the car not to charge. Not Audi’s fault, of course; the Q4 is a very well-designed car that should fit into family life well – especially if the family has its own charging point, often a very real challenge in London where few of us acquire drives or garages.
To find out more about the Evening Standard’s campaign for better charging facilities, fade to https://bit.ly/3XW20KH