2019 Audi e-tron first drive: Redrawing the electric-vehicle boundaries Page 3

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In the U.S., Audi will partner with Amazon Home Services (and its pre-screened electricians) to install a NEMA 14-50 (240-volt, 40-amp) socket to charge the e-tron at home in as little as 9 hours either with the included mobile charger or with a dedicated, wi-fi-equipped home charger (also for purchase via Amazon).

Several kinds of Amazon

The e-tron is also the first Audi to support car-embedded Amazon Alexa functionality to listen to music, order items, or access other Amazon devices at home. The e-tron isn’t itself accessed as an Alexa-enabled device.

The dash of the e-tron employs the Audi virtual cockpit (a wide, high-resolution reconfigurable gauge cluster) plus the new “touch response” version of Audi’s MMI infotainment system. With two high-resolution touch displays—10.1-inch for the upper and 8.6-inch for the lower—it eliminates many physical buttons and moves climate-control functions entirely to the lower screen, which blips with a tactile confirmation as you make a selection.

We found the lower screen (when looking for recirculate mode in a dust cloud, for instance) to be too far down in the driver’s field of vision. Other menus have been simplified versus former versions of MMI and made more smartphone-like.

2019 Audi e-tron first drive - Abu Dhabi UAE, December 2018

2019 Audi e-tron first drive - Abu Dhabi UAE, December 2018

Our test car was equipped with the optical virtual (camera-based) exterior mirrors, a futuristic feature we really wanted to like but ultimately found frustrating. Although it’s unlikely to come to the U.S. soon, we found (surprising) near incompatibility with polarized sunglasses in the bright sun, difficult depth perception, and disappointing clarity at night.

Every bit a luxury vehicle

The interior is plush and welcoming, with a passenger-car feel to the controls but a utility-vehicle vantage point. Rear seats in the e-tron are adult-proportioned, with so much leg room and head room that sitting back won’t be a compromise.

The front trunk can store charging cables or, perhaps, a couple of small carry-on suitcases, while the rear cargo space is just like that of a gasoline SUV: 28.5 cubic feet with the rear seatback up and 57 cubic feet with it entirely folded forward.

2019 Audi e-tron first drive - Abu Dhabi UAE, December 2018

2019 Audi e-tron first drive - Abu Dhabi UAE, December 2018

The base price of the Premium Plus is $75,795 (including $995 destination) and includes 20-inch wheels, a surround-view camera system, heated and cooled front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and 16-speaker, 705-watt Bang & Olufsen sound. Prestige models add a head-up display, contour seats with Verona leather, rear sunshades, power door closers, and an air quality package, plus active lane control, an intersection assistant, and traffic-sign recognition. Both offer a Cold Weather package (including advanced climate preconditioning features).

The e-tron is due next spring, and availability remains something Audi has yet to prove. In September, a company official said that global pre-orders already exceeded 10,000. Audi’s U.S. plan remains build on advance orders, at least at first, without building dealer stock in a traditional way—although that may change once initial orders are filled.

As it stands, the e-tron looks like a very smart bet on the future—one that shows that going electric is no concession.

Audi provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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