2023 Audi Q4 E-Tron, All you want to know & watch about a Great Car
2023 Audi Q4 E-Tron First Drive: Audi’s Cheapest EV Should Be Better
It’s good, but we expected more from Audi’s entry-level electric crossover.
The electric Q4 E-Tron and its sloped-roof sibling, the Q4 E-Tron Sportback, are crucial vehicles for Audi. With their launch, no automaker in America offers as many EVs as the folks with the four rings. But where the E-Tron SUV, E-Tron Sportback, and E-Tron GT have served as a strong proof of concept, the Q4’s starting price of $49,995 means it will be the model Audi will lean on to help achieve its goal of 30 percent U.S. sales from purely electric-powered vehicles by 2026.
To succeed, the 2023 Audi Q4 E-Tron lineup will need to provide a smooth transition for buyers coming from gas-powered luxury SUVs, along with the build quality, aspirational design, and driving experience Audi prides itself on. We wish we could tell you it’s a total success.
What Is It?
The Q4 E-Tron and Q4 E-Tron Sportback are the first Audis built using the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform; think of them as luxury versions of the Volkswagen ID4. Audi makes a big deal about building these two at a carbon-neutral facility in Zwickau, Germany, which contributes to the automaker’s promise to be net carbon neutral by 2050.
As the name implies, the Q4 is sized between Audi’s smallest SUV, the Q3, and its sales leader, the Q5. Its wheelbase is closer to the latter, and the cabin feels more spacious than its dimensions suggest. As is the case with Audi’s Q5 Sportback, the Q4 Sportback features a notchback sloped roof but is mechanically identical to its conventional sibling. Audi charges a $3,000 premium for the coupelike profile.
Powertrain options are exactly the same as what’s available in the ID4, minus that car’s optional lower-capacity battery. That means buyers can choose the Q4 40 with a single 201-hp rear motor, or they can add a front motor for 295 combined hp and all-wheel drive in the Q4 50. The Sportback can only be had with the AWD powertrain, which is capable of an estimated 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds.
All variants feed their motors from an 82.0-kWh battery. Audi claims 265 miles of range for the single-motor RWD option and 236-242 miles for AWD Q4s—the Sportback has a slight aerodynamic advantage. Charge speed tops out at 150 kW. According to Audi, that’s good for 5-80 percent charge in 36 minutes on a 150-kW DC fast charger.
Tech? The Q4’s got it. Audi’s digital instrument cluster is standard, and a new 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment setup is included for 2023, replacing the 10.1-inch system installed in the limited run of 2022 models. Range-topping AWD Prestige models rock a clever head-up display with augmented reality navigation. A loaded Q4 E-Tron Sportback Prestige with metallic paint, the Convenience and Black Optics Plus packages, and an optional tow hitch (AWD Q4s are rated for 2,650 pounds) tops out at $70,090.
What’s It Actually Like?
Approaching the Q4, there’s little beyond a small E-Tron badge on the hatch and the filled-in front grille to designate the new model as an EV. That’s part of Audi’s strategy to ease the transition to electrification for potential customers who might otherwise be reluctant to buy an EV. Where some of the Q4’s competitors look like Jetsons-ready futuremobiles, neighbors may be surprised to see a plugged-in Q4.
There’s a lot of visual weight between the door sills and beltline. The Q4 doesn’t appear particularly graceful—it just looks like another Audi. Small details like an Easter egg Audi logo in each taillight, the industry’s first customizable daytime running lights, and the E-Tron logo stamped in the rear bumper are convincingly premium.
We’ll share more of our thoughts on the cabin in an upcoming interior review, but if you’ve sat in any Audi recently, the Q4’s cabin is what you’d expect and is much more usable than that of the ID4. The infotainment is responsive and well laid out, materials feel high quality, and with the exception of some cheap plastic bits, fit and finish is excellent. There’s a lot of space in the rear, too, but if you plan on carrying 6-foot adults behind you, you’ll probably want to skip the Sportback’s lower roofline.
On The Road
As for the drive, the Q4’s electric powertrain is everything you’d hope for. Immediately responsive power delivery provides a jolt off the line if you whack the go pedal, but it offers a strong, gentle stream of power at speed to maximize passenger comfort. The powertrain appeases EV newcomers with an impression of an impossibly smooth gas engine.
Audi’s navigation is among the few factory systems worth using, with easy inputs, clear directions, and quality satellite imagery on the infotainment screen and in the digital instrument cluster. Although we don’t love the controls of the adaptive cruise system, positioned on a short stalk behind the bottom left quadrant of the steering wheel, the system brakes and accelerates naturally without fail.
The rest of the driving experience is where the Q4 E-Tron starts to stumble. Audi fits its new electric SUV with a progressive steering ratio that intends to provide minimal-effort maneuverability turning at full lock while parking but quicker steering off-center for small steering adjustments on the highway and less shuffling of hands driving a curvy road.
In the real world, the same amount of steering input resulting in different amounts of steering angle feels unnatural and difficult to predict. We found ourselves making constant adjustments midcorner, and although progressive steering succeeds in its dual-personality mission, it’s better on paper than in practice.
Steering isn’t the only input that needs attention. There are a couple inches of squish in the brake pedal before the driver feels any bite. Once in the meat of the pedal travel, the brakes are devoid of feel but easy to modulate for a smooth stop at low speeds. We did, however, encounter a couple situations that required heavy braking and found ourselves needing to apply more brake force than we initially thought.
Audi handles regenerative braking differently than some automakers. There is no one-pedal drive mode, and even the highest regen setting requires frequent use of the unintuitive brake pedal. By default, the Q4 E-Tron will coast when you let off the accelerator, and one to three pulls of the left steering wheel paddle will add more regen.
Unlike any other EV we’ve driven, the regen resets when you go back to the accelerator unless you’re in Dynamic mode. Audi insists the system knows how much regenerative braking force to use when you drive conventionally using both pedals, but we wish the Q4 gave the option of proper one-pedal driving.
The Q4’s suspension tuning is also less than ideal. We know Audi knows how to dial in a suspension—the new A3 is a wonderful example of comfortable but firm and well-controlled ride quality—but the Q4 feels oversprung and underdamped. We experienced minor but persistent head toss, which would have been more frustrating were the seat not so comfortable and well padded.
We had hoped the firm ride would pay off in handling, but instead the Q4 exhibits significant body roll through corners, secondary motions after impact, and pitch and dive under acceleration and braking. The electric SUV also wants to rotate if you brake midcorner, not something we’d want in an everyday crossover.
Beyond the adaptive cruise, the Q4’s driver assists are lacking, as well. Where Cadillac makes Super Cruise hands-free driving standard on every Lyriq and Genesis includes its excellent lane centering and autonomous lane changes with all GV60s, the Q4’s lane guidance (when you opt for the $6,600 Premium trim) is no more than a decent lane keep assist system that pings and pongs between lane lines.
Audi succeeded in delivering an electric vehicle for the masses that will make the transition away from gas-powered vehicles easy. There’s no learning curve, no giant touchscreen controlling everything, no 2040 concept car styling. The Q4 E-Tron has the build quality and sophisticated, understated design we’ve come to expect from Audi. If you want a semi-affordable German luxury SUV that happens to be electric from a company that seems to truly care about sustainability, go buy yourself a Q4.
Where Audi has failed is at delivering a competitive EV that appeals to those outside that demographic. The Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, and Genesis GV60 all provide more range, faster charging, and superior driving experiences. The Cadillac Lyriq offers elegant, eye-catching design and outstanding hands-free driver assists, plus better range, additional interior space, and better ride quality. Audi is more than capable of building great cars, but to us the Q4 isn’t quite there yet when compared to its primary competition.
Looks good! More details?
|2023 Audi Q4 E-Tron / Q4 E-Tron Sportback Specifications|
|LAYOUT||Rear-motor, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV; front-/rear- motor, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|MOTORS||Rr: 201-hp/229-lb-ft AC permanent-magnet electric; fr: 107-hp/119-lb-ft AC induction, rr: 201-hp/229-lb-ft AC permanent magnet electric; 295 hp/339 lb-ft comb|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,700-4,900 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||180.7 x 73.4 x 64.0-64.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.8-7.9 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||97-112/87-94/93-103 mpg-e (mfr est)|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||236-265 miles (mfr est)|