Earlier this year, over PAX Aus week, the most stressful week of the year, Audi was kind enough to lend me the massive new e-tron S SUV with all the fixings to test while preparing for the big day. Over that time I was blown away by the power, aggressively reminded why I hate parking, shown that Australia’s electric vehicle infrastructure is lagging behind, and was deeply impressed with how much junk I could fit in that trunk.
Here are my thoughts after spending a week with this baby, including multiple trips to regional Victoria and an Ikea adventure.
Audi e-tron S SUV specs
I drove the 2022 Audi e-tron S SUV with all the trimmings.
- Price: from $147,980
- Engine type: Lithium-ion battery
- Battery energy content (kWh): 95
- Power (kW): 320 (370 in boost mode)
- Torque (Nm/rpm): 808 (973 in boost mode)
- Driveline: quattro
- Transmission: Two-stage planetary gearbox with single gear
- Acceleration (sec) 0-100 km/h: 5.1 (4.5 in boost mode)
- Digital Matrix LED headlights
- Exterior door entrance LED projector lights with e-tron logo, front and rear
- Power-assisted soft close doors
- Heated rear outer seats
- Air quality package
- Upper dashboard and lower interior elements in full leather
- Sunshade for rear windows, manual
Before I started driving the car, everyone kept telling me that it’s “not an electric car with Audi stamped on it, but an Audi that happens to be electric”. I had no idea what that meant until I started driving it, and it turned out to be a powerful beast. It felt much more akin to a Nissan GTR than any of the other electric cars I’ve tried, which often end up feeling like a Holden Cruze with a boulder under the hood.
It’s heavy as all hell, and there’s no way of hiding that even with three motors (one for each rear wheel and one at the front), so it does slightly feel like you’re manoeuvring one of those rhinos on skateboards from the Yarra Trams ads (hyper Victorian, sorry). But that power and perfect calibration gives that rhino the skill and speed of Tony Hawk in his prime.
But even with that weight, I cannot stress how smooth and zippy the driving experience was. Obviously, it was a complete dream going at 110kms down the freeway, but it was at a similar level of dream driving around my dad’s driveway shortly after some flooding eroded the gravel to hell, making it a muddy and uneven mess.
Going up the steep part of Mount Macedon Road, the weight of the car became a bit more apparent, losing quite a bit of power, but still making it up with relative ease.
Even in the rain this thing drove smoothly. Granted, I’m used to hauling my dad’s underpowered Captiva around, but with how heavy the e-Tron is, I did expect some slipping and sliding in the rain, and instead it was steady and true. You wouldn’t even know it was raining if it wasn’t for all the, you know, rain.
It also helps that the Audi e-tron S has all the bells and whistles you’d expect in a car this big, like adaptive cruise control that managed to quickly and approximately slam on the brakes when some arsehole pulled in too close in front of me on the Calder. The Audi e-tron S’ reflexes were far faster than my own, saving my bacon.
Audi e-tron S cargo space
While the car’s width makes it a nightmare to park, it does mean this car has a spectacularly useful cargo space. Because I store all the PAX Aus Together Lounge stuff, it normally means a lot of trips back and forth to MCEC to deliver everything. While we still had to do a lot of trips, it was far, far less than we’d normally need to do with just my dad’s Captiva. With the back seats down, we were able to fit almost a clown car’s worth of boxes. This thing is basically a Tardis.
We went to Ikea to buy a desk, new shelves, a bunch of chairs and some other stuff, and we could have fit so much more in there. The boot is just configured in a way that makes sense, and the boot door opens wide enough that you can avoid some of the awkward tetrising you end up doing in cars that aren’t as loading friendly.
Frankly, this is the best non-van I’ve ever used to haul stuff and I wholeheartedly recommend it to cashed-up bands and furniture store owners who don’t quite need vans. This was an absolute pleasure to transport stuff in. Plus, because it’s already super heavy, putting more stuff in it didn’t make much of a noticeable difference, which was nice.
Sound system and other bonuses
I am in love with the Bang and Olufsen sound system in this car. All the music I listened to, from poppy songs by Fletcher, to brassy musical numbers, to metal just sounded so full and textured. I wanted to drive around more just so I could listen to music. The bass was present and strong, but not overwhelming. I could write sonnets about how much I love this sound system.
On a less positive note, there are five screens in this car, and I hate almost every single one of them. I know Teslas have popularised the idea that everything in a car should look like an iPad, but I would much prefer tactile buttons that I can operate without taking my eyes off the road. I know you can also operate most of this stuff using your voice, but my accent is weird (like someone put an Australian, Canadian, American, and English person in a blender) and prone to being misunderstood, and I don’t want to remember the voice prompts for everything. This is just a personal preference, and the touch screens worked well and looked great. But, objectively, there were too many menus you had to go through to adjust things.
Another bell and/or whistle that I was a bit dubious on was side mirrors. Instead of being a traditional mirror, the side-view mirrors are cameras and there are little TVs in the doors.
On the one hand, this was slightly handy, because the Audi e-tron S is made almost entirely out of blind spots, and it really helped in the heavy rain, because I could still see clearly because there weren’t mirrors to get all wet. Another bonus is that they wouldn’t need to be constantly readjusted for multiple drivers.
But gosh is it unnecessary and seems like it’ll cost a lot to repair, given it adds multiple new failure points and also you have to train yourself to stop looking at the mirror, and instead look at the door, which will not be helpful if you frequently switch between cars. Like, if something goes wrong with your mirror or you get sideswiped on a regular car, it’s unfortunate, but fixable. If someone sideswipes this camera, it’ll be hugely expensive, and then there’s so many more things that can go wrong than would with a mirror. The camera could die, a stone could hit the lens, the TV could die, a cable could fray, and none of it is user replaceable, unlike just switching out the little mirror in the housing if it cracks. Perhaps this is less of a concern for people with the budget to drop almost $200k on a car, but this would be a consideration for my broke ass.
Of course, this is an optional extra, and you don’t have to have the little cameras if you don’t want them, and you do adjust to the screen’s placement pretty quickly. It is just something to keep in mind.
Probably your favourite extra is going to be the six years of free ChargeFox charging, which is huge. This massive car obviously uses a lot of power, so being able to top up for free at any ChargeFox charge point is a big deal. You just tap your fob and you’re ready to charge at any Rapid Charge charging station. All the charging stations are even marked on your GPS.
The only problems I found with this were that there aren’t a lot of charging stations near the Melbourne CBD, and the built-in GPS is a complete arsehole. It lead me on a magical mystery tour, repeatedly passing through toll points, giving me the wrong directions to get to a charge point you couldn’t even access from the freeway. I eventually worked out how to get there using Apple Maps, but I cannot begin to describe how creative I got with my swearing into the 40th minute of this supposedly 15-minute journey. On the bright side, the car is so solid and insulated that the other drivers were not subjected to my colourful language.
Audi E-Tron S safety
Inside the Audi e-tron S, I felt extremely safe. This tank of a vehicle could probably shield me from anything in a crash, so long as the battery wasn’t compromised. This specific car hasn’t been rated by ANCAP, and the rating of the 2019 petrol version of the car, which shows it having a 91 per cent 5-star safety rating for occupants of the car, applies to all models of the e-tron range except the S. But I would be surprised if the rating was drastically different. The adaptive cruise control, many air bags, crumple zones, and sensors meant that I had full confidence that it had me covered should anything arise.
Those outside the car, however, I was less confident about. The car’s grille is quite tall, and the front of the car isn’t as sloped as some others. That means that not only will it be very hard to see if a small child darts out in front of you, but any pedestrian that gets hit by this very heavy, very fast car, with a tall grille is less likely to survive the encounter. A more angled front of the car means the pedestrians legs are likely to get messed up, but they have a chance of surviving. A taller front of the car impacting at adult essential organ/child head height means an impact would likely signal game over if adaptive cruise control was turned off and the driver didn’t brake in time.
This car was designed by people who use valet parking. It is too wide to park comfortably in a standard underground parking space, and because of all the blind spots, if something doesn’t have a sensor on it and the cameras are having trouble differentiating between concrete floor and concrete pole, you will scrape the car.
I know this, because I scraped the car getting out of my narrow-ish car space. I haven’t scratched a car in over decade, but I really scratched up the side of this one because the car is so heavy I couldn’t feel the impact, I couldn’t see the part of the car that was making impact due to a large blind spot, and it was in a spot that didn’t have sensors on it so there was no indication that I was hitting anything. This is… not great. I’m sure this is something drivers will adjust to after a while, but there are some potentially expensive lessons to be learned during the adjustment period.
Audi e-tron S verdict
While there are some very serious caveats, overall, the Audi e-Tron S is the best family-sized electric car I’ve ever tried, and the only electric car I’ve driven that seems designed for people who frequently have to haul a bunch of stuff while still wanting to drive in luxury.
Those shopping purely for environmental reasons will probably want to consider a smaller, lighter car than the Audi e-tron S, because a bigger, heavier car means a larger battery requiring more mined components, more electricity to charge, and more particle pollution from the tyres. But, if you need a larger car for practical reasons, and want to ditch fossil fuels, are a world class parker (or can use a valet), and have the budget, then the Audi e-tron S SUV is absolutely worth a test drive.
Want more Aussie car news? Here’s every EV we’ve reviewed in the last two years, all the EVs we can expect down under soon, and our guide to finding EV chargers across the country. Check out our dedicated Cars tab for more.