EV Review: 2021 Audi e-tron Sportback 55 Quattro Technik

While the true bellwether of widespread electric vehicle adoption relies primarily on affordable EVs for the masses — ideally without government incentives — the luxury segment has an important role to play too. Namely, to provide proof that what we have experienced in the last decade is in fact an […]

While the true bellwether of widespread electric vehicle adoption relies primarily on affordable EVs for the masses — ideally without government incentives — the luxury segment has an important role to play too.

Namely, to provide proof that what we have experienced in the last decade is in fact an EV Revolution and not a Tesla Revolution. Three quarters of all EVs sold in North America last year sported the T badge, and while that’s an improvement — from other automaker’s perspectives at least — on previous years it still underscores the vast dominance Elon Musk’s company wields in the EV segment.

When luxury automakers, in particular the German brands, began producing electric vehicles a couple of years ago, industry observers predicted Tesla’s days of market rule were numbered as those century old automakers would use their car-building know-how and build quality to create superior EVs to those of the Freemont, California upstart.

After driving this realized manifestation of that prediction around Vancouver for a week, it’s difficult to imagine how Tesla can hold on to that market share in the coming years. Of course, Musk has made no secret of the fact that his company’s long-term survival depends on entering high-volume segments — hello Cyber truck! — and in producing the $20,000 zero-emission vehicle. Meaning, leaving the EV luxury segment to the traditional luxury car builders.

Simply put, this Audi e-tron Sportback is better built, better designed, performs better and, in my opinion, is better styled inside and out than any Model X or Model S out there. The same can be said of any of the models in the ever-expanding e-tron family.

The Sportback is the second in that lineage, essentially identical to the e-tron SUV apart from a rear body design that slopes back from the rear seats. The model I tested was a loaded up Technik trim — the lower trim is called Progressiv — and during my time with it I never felt that it was missing a thing in terms of creature comforts and onboard technology. Of course, all to be expected in a vehicle north of $100,000. The base price is $101,400 and this tester topped out at $111,500.

I also didn’t miss gassing up this sport luxury vehicle, what with premium fuel easily passing the two-buck-a-litre mark throughout Metro Vancouver. Instead, when the battery ran low, I simply plugged into a nearby public DC fast charging station for 30 minutes or so and regained close to 80 per cent of range. But I didn’t have to do that often during my week with the Sportback as its full charge range is 350 kilometres and I was limited to city and a little bit of highway driving. (It will be interesting to see what my colleague David Booth discovers about that highway range when he does a Range Finder review on this vehicle).

The highway driving I did do was a revelation of sorts, as it demonstrated how well handling the e-tron Sportback is and how stable it is at higher speeds. It’s quick acceleration was expected — after all, the most garden-variety EV is fast off the line — but its solid footing during onramp sprints to join highway traffic inspired confidence and underscored the engineering prowess of the men and women behind the chassis architecture. It also confirmed those impressive power output numbers: 355 horsepower and 414 lbs-ft of torque.

Charging ports on both sides of the Sportback make it more convenient when pulling into a charging station.

Andrew McCredie

As with all electric vehicles — thanks to those hefty battery packs — the e-tron Sportback’s 95 kWh pack provides a low centre of gravity which translates to excellent balance and very limited body roll going round the corners. Another trait of all EVs is whisper-quiet running, and the Sportback’s cabin is a calm environment, even when pushing the vehicle hard. Speaking of pushing hard, the boost mode is a blast – quite literally. Setting the drive mode to ‘S’ and matting it activates this neck-snapping feature, unleashing 300 kW’s of power (translating to 402 horsepower and 490 lbs.-ft of torque) for eight seconds. True this does use up battery power at a quicker rate, but when you need to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in under six seconds (5.7 is Audi’s official time) it’s reassuring to know it is under foot. That said, the ‘normal’ sprint to 100 km/h of 6.6 second ain’t too shabby either, particularly for a somewhat heavy SUV.

Stopping power comes from a electrohydraulic brake system, and the progressive steering tightens up as you scrolled up through the seven driving mode profiles. And the adaptive air suspension is cruiser smooth and comfortable when you wanted it, and firm when driving conditions warranted (see boost mode).

My only quibble with the driver interface is the regenerative brake setting, which is done using old-school paddle shifters. From what I could surmise there are only two settings outside of freewheeling, and when engaged the only readout on the driver screen are little dots on the ‘recharge’ gauge. I much prefer a more active and robust regen system in terms of the number of settings, and certainly one that tells me with a quick glance which setting the vehicle is in.

When climbing into an Audi vehicle in 2021 — electric or otherwise — top-notch driving dynamics are expected, and the e-tron Sportback did not disappoint. Likewise, Audi cabins — from ergonomics to materials to design — are among the best in the luxury vehicle business. And the Sportback is true to that form.

I absolutely love the gear selector array, which did require a minute to figure out, but once I did I really came to appreciate how well it fits with the e-tron’s electric powertrain. EVs are said to be the future, and this is one futuristic gearshift.


The dual screens in the centre stack elegantly replace all the knobs and switches that are becoming as old-school as combustion engines, and the driver console allows for a number of gauge settings that relate to the drive mode setting the vehicle is in. Simply put, the execution of the Sportback’s cabin is exceptional.

After a week behind the wheel of this luxury electric vehicle, I have to say most every aspect of it is exceptional.

And that should make Tesla Motors very nervous indeed.


Elida Schollmeyer

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