With the Q4 e-tron, Audi gets serious about EVs for the mass market. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the most recent changes made to the enhanced version of this model.
Ten Second Review
The Q4 e-tron was the first production Audi built on the Volkswagen Group MEB platform for volume all-electric cars. This lower-mid-sized crossover is pricier of course than other similarly-sized full-battery-powered SUVs from the Wolfsburg conglomerate, but it delivers a much more up-market feel that'll help ease you into your new electrified phase of motoring ownership. Two years into its production life, it was usefully updated to create the car we're going to look at here.
With Audi's first three all-electric e-tron full-electric designs, we saw what the brand was capable of with EV technology. These three models though - the e-tron, the e-tron Sportback and the e-tron GT quattro - were merely preludes to the BEV model that really mattered to Ingolstadt, this car, the Q4 e-tron. It was launched back in 2021, then improved in Autumn 2023 in an update coinciding with the movement of part of production to Audi's dedicated EV factory in Brussels (which previously had only made the larger Q8 e-tron).
It's tempting to merely dismiss this model as Audi's version of other similarly-sized VW Group crossover EVs like the Volkswagen ID.4, the Skoda Enyaq iV and the CUPRA Born. Certainly, all the engineering bits that matter are common between the four cars, namely the MEB platform and the battery tech. Yet Audi claims to have put its own stamp on the way this car drives and feels. Let's see.
For both rear-wheel drive and quattro all-wheel drive versions of this updated Q4 e-tron, Audi has installed a permanently excited synchronous machine (PSM) on the rear axle. The update is supposed to release higher efficiency and greater power. And, sure enough, there's 286PS now on tap from the base rear-driven version now badged '45' (as opposed to the 204PS offered by the previous '40' model). Yet the driving range figure has risen over that previous variant, the Q4 e-tron 45 capable of up to 339 miles between charges (it was 316 miles with the previous '40' model). That's with the more aerodynamic Sportback bodyshape, but the standard SUV version isn't far off that. With either variant, rest to 62mph takes 6.7s (it was 8.5s before): and the top speed (as with all Q4 e-trons) is 112mph.
The battery is the same as that fitted previously, 77kWh in usable capacity and also used by the top AWD Q4 variant, also now re-badged and now known as the Q4 e-tron 55 quattro. This flagship derivative now puts out 340PS (up from the 299PS figure of the previous e-tron 50 quattro). Which means that the 62mph sprint can be dispatched in just 5.4s (up from 6.2s before). Expect driving range for this quattro model to be just over the 300 mile mark.
There are other changes too. Audi says it has re-tuned the chassis across the range for greater driver involvement. As part of this, the steering's now sharper. The engineers have tinkered with the suspension, aiming for greater comfort and stability; as before it's a MacPherson strut front and five-link rear arrangement, with sports suspension available (which lowers ride height by 15mm) and adaptive damping offered further up the range.
Audi's also created what it calls a new 'character sound', which is offered as an option and emitted via two exterior speakers at the rear and two interior speakers in the rear doors. This 'soundscape' varies according to load and speed. There's a new camera drive assist feature too, which allows assisted lane changes above 56mph.
Otherwise, things are pretty much as before. The Q4's pretty straightforward to get to grips with behind the wheel. You select drive using a slider-type shifter situated on the centre console and once underway, there's the kind of instant throttle response you'd usually get from an EV of this sort. Across the range, there's the same kind of suspension set-up you'd find in other mid-sized Audi SUVs - a MacPherson strut front and five-link rear arrangement, with sports suspension available (which lowers ride height by 15mm) and adaptive damping offered further up the range.
Design and Build
There haven't been any visual changes as part of this model update. You can't really see the Q4 e-tron as either an EV Q3 or an EV Q5 because its size dimensions don't fit with either of those two established combustion crossover models. As with those two cars, the Q4 comes in both regular SUV and swept-back coupe-style forms, the latter known as the Q4 Sportback e-tron. The regular model's dimensions (4,588mm long, 1,865mm wide and 1,632mm tall) place it neatly between a Q3 and a Q5 size-wise and visually, this car has its own bespoke look. This was the first of the company's models to get new digital LED technology offering four different exterior lighting signatures the driver can choose between. And it was the first of Audi's smaller cars to get a full-width LED tail light bar at the back.
Inside, the Q4 gets its own unique dashboard and cabin architecture, though this incorporates the company's usual screen technology. There's a 10.25-inch instrument display and an 11.6-inch central monitor. Premium materials are generously applied around the cabin and Audi's keen to highlight the extensive interior storage areas. To accommodate the battery, the back seat is mounted 70mm higher than the front. Boot space meanwhile, is rated at 520-litres, extendable to 1,490-litres when the 40:20:40-split seatback is lowered.
Market and Model
We've been telling you about the two powertrain combinations on offer - the rear-driven Q4 e-tron 45 and the AWD Q4 e-tron 55 quattro - both of which uses the same 77kWh (usable) battery. As before, there are three trim levels - 'Sport', 'S line' and 'Black Edition' - and prices range from around £50,000 and then on up to around £63,000. For the quattro version, budget from around £56,000 upwards. Across the line-up, there's a £1,500 premium if you want the alternative sleeker Sportback body style, as many customers will.
Base 'Sport' variants get 19-inch Graphite Grey alloy wheels, those rims upgraded to 20-inches in size with the mid-level 'S line' trim level most customers will choose. Even base 'Sport' trim includes LED headlights, front sports seats, 3-Zone air conditioning and an 'MMI navigation Plus' media system with an 11.6-inch centre screen. The later includes navigation, a WiFi hotspot and Amazon Alexa integration. There's also a 10.25-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument screen, an 8-speaker 180-watt sound system, rear parking sensors and cruise control.
Across the line-up, there's lots of sophisticated equipment available - much of it optional. Like the Matrix LED headlights with their 16 individually activated LEDs. And the bespoke Sonos sound system upgrade package. We'd also want to look at the optional heat pump, which rapidly heats and cools the interior using the thermal losses from the electric components and the temperature of the outside air. It uses eco-friendly CO2 as a refrigerant, which flows through the circuit at high pressure. The heat pump can reduce losses in range caused by usage of the climate control system, especially in winter. Its strengths come to the fore on long drives.
Cost of Ownership
What about battery replenishment for the 76.6kWh (net) battery of the Q4 45 e-tron and Q4 55 e-tron quattro? Well those variants have been engineered for charging speeds of up to 11kW during AC charging; for DC charging, standard rear-driven models charge at 135kW, while quattro versions can charge at up to 175kW. With a rapid public charger, WLTP testing has confirmed that in only 10 minutes, the Q4 45 e-tron can recharge enough electricity to cover a distance of about 80 miles. Charging at 135kW in ideal conditions, the battery can achieve an 80% state of charge from a 5% starting point in 29 minutes. If you're using a conventional 7kW garage wallbox, a Q4 45 e-tron can charge 255 miles of range in eight and a quarter hours. For the first time, the Q4 e-tron model family also features post-conditioning. Here, the vehicle's thermal management system cools the battery, for example, if it exceeds a fixed temperature threshold after driving or charging.
Using the myAudi app, owners can activate charging remotely using a smartphone. The app also provides access to the comfort remote preconditioning system, which enables remote adjustment of the cabin temperature and seat heating functions to ensure that the cabin climate is always comfortable well before a journey begins.
Accessing and paying for electricity while on the road can be easily taken care of using the 'e-tron Charging Service', which provides UK subscribers with one RFID payment card that is accepted at a vast number of charge points operated by 18 suppliers across the UK and Europe, and offers a choice of two fixed price charging tariffs.
The Q4 e-tron has the size of a compact BEV, but the finish, luxury and (to some extent) the driving dynamics of an electric crossover from next class up - that for larger EV models like the Jaguar I-PACE and the Mercedes EQC. In that respect, it's far more like a BMW iX3 than a Volkswagen ID.4. And is a more credible rival for classier alternatives in this usefully updated form.
If you're looking at those Jaguar, Mercedes or BMW models, we think you should be looking at a Q4 e-tron too because it'll satisfy you in much the same way. If that's your perspective, the premium prices being asked here will seem reasonable. If it isn't, you'll start to question just why a car which shares pretty much every significant aspect of its engineering with comparable Volkswagen, Skoda and CUPRA EVs can be worth so much more. A matter of perspective then. With Audi, it was ever thus.