Audi’s Drive Select system has a slew of other modes, too: Auto, Comfort, Efficiency, Individual, Offroad, and Allroad, and the air-spring suspension varies the ride height by 3.0 inches in all. In addition to the other drive modes, the steering and ride toggles between Comfortable, Balanced, and Dynamic modes.
We found the e-tron to be very easy to place within lanes, easy to maneuver into parking spaces, and well-coordinated on mountain-road esses. Ride comfort is quite good, and Audi's gone above and beyond with seemingly countless measures to keep the cabin quiet—all without the use of active noise cancellation.
Brakes designed for two-pedal driving
The brakes are confidence-inspiring, too. Instead of having a hydraulic system that’s always engaged, requiring regenerative braking to be blended in and out, the e-tron uses a layered approach. Any braking of 0.3g or less is done solely by the motor/generators, regardless of speed, while the amount past that is done by the brake pads and an electrohydraulic system that, in milliseconds, pushes fluid into the brake lines according to pedal input. A “dummy” piston keeps pedal pressure reassuring and consistent.
2019 Audi e-tron first drive - Abu Dhabi UAE, December 2018
Part and parcel to the way the brakes are designed, Audi has not conceived the e-tron for one-pedal driving. Selecting the manual recuperation mode from the touchscreen allows you to use the paddle-shifters to lock in one of the three regen modes. The first is essentially a coast mode, in which (with a minor voltage applied to the motor) there’s no additional drag torque.
The highest level of paddle regeneration gives you about 0.18g, tuned in a way that encourages you to use the brake pedal. The default setting for regeneration is “Automatic,” which considers a wide range of factors that includes map data but left us puzzled in a few spots, such as when we intended to coast through a roundabout, but just as we were sweeping rapidly into its circular flow the system suddenly (and awkwardly) slowed us with more brake regen.
Audi also decided not to offer idle creep. And an official told us, in a relatively late-stage decision, they decided not to include a switch to toggle one on.
Ballparking on range
The EPA hasn’t yet released range ratings, and Audi only says that it expects the EPA number to land somewhere below (but not far below) the 248-mile WLTP rating.
Our drive was hardly representative of real conditions most U.S. drivers will see daily. Audi included a climb nearly to the summit of one of the tallest mountains in UAE—about 5,000 feet—to demonstrate the e-tron’s very productive brake regeneration.
On our most level stretch of the day, which included a 119.2-mile mix of highway driving up to about 87 mph, using the climate control liberally in 90-degree weather, and covering a few miles of loose, sandy trail driving, the trip computer showed us as averaging 31.4 kwh per 100 km, or just 1.98 miles per kwh.
Although that’s well below the e-tron’s projected range, we feel confident that more “normal” use cases, on pavement, at lower cruising speeds, will result in range close to what Audi expects.
2019 Audi e-tron battery pack
The 95-kwh battery pack has 36 cell modules—31 on a flat-plane “skateboard” plus five more in an “upstairs” that fits under the rear seat. Each one of those contains 12 lithium-ion pouch cells, supplied by LG Chem.
Using a proprietary cooling logic, the system can operate as up to four isolated cooling circuits when needed and has a separate mode, for extreme needs, that uses the air conditioning compressor for battery cooling. Climate control incorporates resistive heating, and heat-pump functionality that can transfer up to 3 kw of thermal energy from electrical components to help with cabin heating.
The first to 150 kw
The e-tron will be the first vehicle for the U.S. market that can take full advantage of 150-kw CCS-format DC fast chargers, such as those that will soon be installed nationwide via Electrify America and other networks.
On 150-kw hardware the e-tron can go from zero to 80 percent in just 30 minutes, or to a full charge in about 45 minutes. Audi says that it will run close to 150 kw up to about 70 percent and then taper down.
Audi demonstrated charging with a 150-kw unit and we saw about 137 kw at 60 percent—throttled back by the hardware, not the vehicle, according to Audi officials because of the warm (90-degree) ambient temp.
Audi claims that it’s expecting e-tron owners to charge at home 95 percent of the time. But don’t plan to charge up the e-tron with a standard 120-volt home AC socket; that way will take 90 hours.