A test drive with the Audi e-tron

On first sight the Audi e-tron has very little in common with the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi. But scratching beyond the surface there is a lot more to it than you might initially think. What exactly that is? Des Sellmeijer reveals it after his first test drive in the Audi e-tron.

In Abu Dhabi, international press had the first opportunity to test drive the new all-electric Audi e-tron. The first mass production vehicle of its kind for Audi and a new step for the company from Ingolstadt towards the future of mobility.

Combines the advantages of an SUV and an Audi RS model

Powered by two electric motors providing up to 300 kW and 664 Nm of torque, the new e-tron combines the versatility and practicality of a typical SUV with the performance of the Audi S and RS models.

It opens the door to the era of electric mobility – away from diesel and petrol-powered cars that brought Audi great fame and worldwide brand recognition.

The big goal: using alternative energy sources

Abu Dhabi too is going through a transition phase. It gained great wealth thanks to its oil and gas riches. But these resources are diminishing.  And the emirate wants to follow the global trend for renewable energies.

I have visited Abu Dhabi for the first time nearly 15 years ago and it is incredible at which pace the capital city has developed. Not quite at the same pace as neighboring Dubai, but what was once a typical Middle Eastern city with anonymous low- and midrise buildings is now a city dominated by glass towers and architectural masterpieces housing offices, hotels and museums like the Abu Dhabi Louvre.

What Masdar City and the Audi e-tron have in common

One area with a particularly strong synergy with the new Audi e-tron is Masdar City. A sustainable urban masterplan close to Abu Dhab International Airport. It is conceived to be a self-sufficient and zero emission mixed use area. Sustainable and emission-free – two characteristics that connect the city to the e-tron and thus make it the perfect location for my test ride.

Design of the all-electric Audi

Masdar also forms the backdrop for the start of my Audi e-tron test drive. From the outside, it is clearly an Audi and does not represent a very radical design change. Thanks to the moderate size of the front grill and the sloped rear it looks smaller than it actually is. Size wise you could think of it as a Q6 fitting neatly between the Q5 and Q7.​

An Audi full-size class interior

The interior of the  e-tron reminds me of the Audi A8: two large touchscreens dominating the center dashboard and a fully digital cockpit behind the sleek steering wheel. New are the two (optional) digital rear-view mirrors located in the doors and the deep storage box / cup holder in the center console. The things you can do when you have no traditional gearbox and drivetrain!

Hitting the start / stop button lacks the audible rumble of a diesel or petrol engine. A mere beep and indication on the driver screen informs me I’m now ready for take-off. Pulling the lever into D and I’mgliding away sound- and effortlessly like in a space ship.

In the city of Abu Dhabi, the e-tron blends right in with all the SUVs roaming the streets. Not just the skyline has changed in the last 15 years but also the Emirati driving style has changed. The armada of speed cameras certainly helps keeping the traffic in check

The range of the Audi e-tron

Having said that even for drivers who like to go a bit faster Abu Dhabi is not a bad place with some highways having a 160 km/h speed limit. Which is only 40 km/h shy of the e-tron’s limit of 200 km/h. The 417-kilometer range takes a bit of a beating when doing those kinds of speeds but even when my test drive wasn’t exactly a copy of the WLTP test cycle, I was still able to get more than 300 kilometers on a full charge.

The new Audi: as silent as possible

On the highway, it is the lack of sound that catches my attention. Apart from a bit of wind- and tire noise the e-tron is as silent as it can be. Add comfortable seats, top-notch assistance systems and high-end audio and you have a perfect travel car. The Audi e-tron is a promising first step towards a new era of mobility for Audi. It will be interesting to see what the next 15 years hold for both Audi and Abu Dhabi.