Ingolstadt enters volume-selling family EV market with an unconventional crossover

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The Audi Q4 E-tron has been with us since 2021, which might not seem that long ago. 

Since then, though, we’ve watched as the cars we all know and love, and the companies behind them, switch from reciprocating pistons to electric motors. The Q4 E-tron itself has also left its mark on the brand’s sales figures, outselling every other Audi SUV in 2023. 

Unconventional premium-car proportions include a short bonnet, which is another way in which this EV is made to look quite puny in profile. A long cabin is practical, of course, but does it make the car look more desirable?

That means there are more rivals to choose from than ever, and Audi has needed to keep its electric crossover up to date. 

As a result, Audi has handed the Q4 E-tron a substantial midlife refresh, which subtly restyles the model, adds new motors and implements a significant technology upgrade. 

This update, while useful in keeping the Q4 E-tron in line with a host of newly arrived rivals, also represents the way Audi is currently operating and is reminiscent of how it went about business in the late 1970s and 1980s, when boss Ferdinand Piëch encouraged his engineers to strive for perfection. 

The Q4 E-tron launched as Ingolstadt’s third all-electric model following the larger Audi E-tron SUV of 2018 and the E-tron GT four-door sports car that was introduced in the UK in 2021. 

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The firm, whose association with front-wheel drive extends back to the 1930s and which famously branched out to develop quattro four-wheel drive in the 1980s, has only ever made rear-driven derivatives of the R8 supercar before.

Its refusal to follow the classic mechanical type of its luxury-level rivals with its regular passenger cars has, at times over the decades, bordered on pig-headedness. 

Now, with so much that’s new and unfamiliar about its first affordable EV, perhaps Audi is hoping that we won’t notice as one of the technical principals that it has always clung to falls by the wayside – or perhaps that we won’t care.

This is, after all, Ingolstadt’s new electric era. The firm will launch its last combustion-engined car within four years, and by 2032 will have built its very last. From here on out, we should expect most of its model introductions to be EVs – and this week’s road test subject provides our first taste of what they might be like.

The Audi Q4 line-up at a glance

Unlike Audi’s petrol and diesel models, the Q4 E-tron’s range is relatively simple, with just three powertrain options. Using the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform means that, uncharacteristically for Audis, all cars are essentially rear-wheel drive.

The big news for 2024 is that all versions now have a more efficient motor (as found in the new Volkswagen ID 7) on the rear axle. That means more power. 

The range opens with the 45, which features 281bhp (up from 201bhp) and an 82kWh battery (with a 77kWh usable capacity) and 402lb ft. It hits 0-62mph in 6.7sec. You can select this powertrain with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system. 

Next is the 55, which adds quattro all-wheel drive as standard, upping proceedings to 335bhp (up from 295bhp). Here, torque is split to 98lb ft at the front axle, and 402lb ft at the rear.

The new motor and battery combinations also mean improved range, with the entry-level car (which will go the farthest) up from 316 to 330 miles. That puts it right in the ballpark of the Kia EV6 RWD (328 miles) and Tesla Model Y Long Range (331).

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Audi previously offered the 35, which was sold with a smaller 52kWh battery, but this version is no longer on sale from new.

Q4 E-tron 45281bhp
Q4 E-tron 45 Quattro281bhp
Q4 E-tron 55335bhp
Q4 E-tron 55 Quattro335bhp


2 Audi Q4 E tron 2021 RT hero hero rear

The Q4 E-tron is an all-electric mid-sized crossover SUV that majors on interior space, on-board technology and, of course, typically refined, responsive zero-emissions running. 

Dynamic performance and handling and design appeal are important strengths for the car too, says Audi. 

Brands like Audi have spent decades developing cars with a ‘premium gap’ – a space between the front axle and windscreen base in which a powerful engine might notionally reside. The Q4 E-tron doesn’t even have a little one.

The car has sprung from the Volkswagen Group’s strategically vital MEB electric car platform and is not actually built in an Audi factory. Instead, it’s produced alongside the closely related VW ID 4 in Zwickau, Germany. 

It splits the difference between Audi’s Audi Q3 and Audi Q5 SUVs almost perfectly for height and length.

Being an EV with a heavy under-floor drive battery stretching almost the full width and length available within the wheelbase, the Q4 weighs more than either a conventionally powered Q3 or Q5, though: 2050kg in running order in the case of our test car, and up to 2135kg for a range-topping version.

The car currently comes in two mechanical derivatives, the first of which, the 45, makes use of a single permanently excited synchronous motor cradled above the rear wheels that drives those rear wheels exclusively. 

The range-topping 55 Quattro, meanwhile, adopts a bigger battery but has a second, front-mounted electric motor mounted within its chassis (an asynchronous one this time), giving it four-wheel drive as standard. In the range-topping trim, then, the Q4 E-tron has a 112mph top speed and can knock off 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds. 

Ingolstadt’s design efforts to make the Q4 fit in as a modern Audi and stand out as a premium offering include an octagonal grille (which many testers felt looks a little strange, featuring as it does on a largely sealed front end) as well as the firm’s habitually busy, edgy body surfacing.

A long-wheelbase and cabin-forward, short-bonnet proportions all work to undermine Audi’s plan to slot this car smoothly into its familiar showroom range, however. 

This is not a typical-looking Audi SUV by any stretch; nor might it seem a natural choice among its competitors for fans of bold, appealing exterior design of the kind that the firm has built its brand on for so long. 

There is a sleeker Sportback body style on offer for Q4 buyers primarily concerned with how their cars look, but that shouldn’t be expected to address many of the EV’s aforementioned design idiosyncrasies.


11 Audi Q4 E tron 2021 RT hero cabin

Like one or two of the other mid-market, clean-sheet EVs with which it competes, the Q4 E-tron reveals itself to be a really roomy car when you start opening its doors and boot.

For cabin space, it could even rival the most practical mid-sized, five-seat SUVs in the class such as the Honda CR-V. Its hip point is convenient and its roofline high, making for abundant head room and leg room in the front row, and there is plenty of space in row two for adults to be comfortable in.

We’d prefer a bigger gear selector that’s easy to grab without looking. Remote audio controls are useful here, but there’s no substitute for a big, clear ‘off’ button.

The boot is more shallow than some SUV regulars might be used to as a result of what is packaged below. It still offers a generous 520 litres of carrying capacity below the load cover, though, as well as a folding, removable boot board that delivers a flat loading area when the seats are folded, and further storage space underneath.

When seated at the wheel, you will find yourself in a very comfortable, adjustable and well-supported driving position, but the dimensions of the car around you do feel a little curious.

The dashboard is bulky and imposing, stretching towards you from the distant base of a steeply raked windscreen, and seeming so large and flat that it could almost double as a passenger-side dining table.

Being equally steeply raked and bordered by large door mirrors, the A-pillars create large three-quarter blindspots on either side of the screen itself, and can be hard to see around at roundabouts and junctions. The bonnet, meanwhile, is short and concave, dropping away to make it quite hard to judge the length of the car’s nose when parking and manoeuvring.

In its habitual style, Audi has packed plenty of technology into the Q4’s cabin and has been fairly bold with the geometric, tiered appearance of the asymmetrical dashboard. This is a smart-looking, pleasant interior in broad terms, but its material quality levels and fit and finish might not quite meet your expectations of a £45,000 premium family car. 

Both hard and soft-touch materials feature, but the former look and feel surprisingly rough and plain. One or two sharply edged pieces of trim, and fitting gaps between mouldings, of the sort that we’re not used to finding in an Audi, also appear in the car.

Audi Q4 infotainment and sat-nav

The Q4 E-tron’s provision of in-car technology is good, even if much of it comes at extra cost. You get fully digital instruments, which work well and are very clear and crisp, and a 10.1in MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system as standard.

Apple and Android smartphone mirroring is also standard, but wireless smartphone charging only comes as an option.

The central touchscreen is mounted quite high and is smoothly integrated, but it doesn’t offer an obvious place to anchor an outstretched hand, making it less comfortable to use than it should be.

Some functions also require a precise input to switch on and off; and it can be hard to hit the right square centimetre of the screen with your left hand when the car’s moving at speed. A few more physical controls would aid usability. 

Only by having a Vorsprung-spec car or by paying £1200 for Audi’s Technology Pack do you get the Q4’s augmented reality head-up display, which projects navigation arrows onto the car’s windscreen. They’re not as distracting in practice as they sound, and often help to highlight a side street or island exit.


22 Audi Q4 E tron 2021 RT hero motor

When we first tested the model in 2021, we considered Audi’s claim for 0-62mph acceleration of 8.5sec as slightly conservative. 

We timed it to 60mph at a two-way-average 8.1sec, with 30-70mph taking 7.8sec. The identically powerful Kia e-Niro that we tested in 2019 was almost a second quicker to 60mph, and more so from 30-70mph, while the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus that we timed in the same year was a good deal quicker again.

It’s a shame that Audi didn’t develop the under-bonnet charging cable storage solution of the bigger E-tron. Under the Q4’s bonnet there’s no useful space at all. I hope the idea can be resurrected.

The good news is its new motor set up has provided the Q4 E-tron with more power, and the entry-level car is the main beneficiary, feeling significantly more punchy than previously. Its 0-62mph time of 6.7sec is a tenth down on the more powerful 45 Quattro, but it’s now right up there with the Kia EV6 and Genesis GV60. 

While the 55 Quattro is quicker on paper, with its hot hatch-rivalling 0-62mph time of 5.4sec, we weren’t convinced that you need the extra shove in real-world motoring.

Overall, though, thee Q4 E-tron presents quite an ordinary driving experience. That might be because, riding on the coattails of other electric cars that had to risk more to break through, it arrived like it was a second-era EV with a bit less to prove.

This Audi would seem to be the kind of EV whose driving experience is intended not to stand out but blend in, then; not to surprise but to oblige and reassure.

Mostly, it succeeds at that and it still performs and responds well compared with conventionally powered SUVs, and is as easy and undemanding to operate in most respects as you could really want a family car to be.

The Q4 E-tron has Audi’s usual selection of driving modes, ranging from Comfort to Dynamic but including an additional Range setting that limits motor output and top speed, and reduces power consumption from the car’s peripheral systems, to maximise battery range. 

Whichever mode you use, it has a more gentle initial throttle response than some EVs, but balances drivability with urgency cleverly as you move off up to urban speeds and beyond. The Audi always feels measured and mature to drive but can pick up strongly up to the national speed limit when required.

Energy regeneration can either be managed automatically by the Efficiency Assist regeneration setting using information from the forward sensors and navigation system, or be manually controlled using the car’s shift paddles. In the automatic setting, deceleration is blended in quite gradually as you approach a junction. 

It can surprise at first, but is handled slightly better overall than by certain other EVs. Even so, most testers preferred driving with the added confidence of manual control over regen, and also enjoyed allowing the Q4 to coast when possible and to conserve its momentum naturally, boosting its operating efficiency.

The car’s brake pedal progression is one notable disappointment. It blends friction and regenerative braking a little clumsily, and can feel soft and spongy at one moment and grabby the next. When the roads are quiet, you can learn to make little use of the car’s brakes, of course; but in heavy traffic, the pedal’s paucity of definition and inconsistency of feel can be frustrating.


24 Audi Q4 E tron 2021 RT hero on road front

Audi offers three mechanical specifications for the Q4 E-tron’s suspension, which is always made up primarily of fixed-height steel coil springs.

Entry-level Sport cars get a full passive Comfort set-up, with a lower, stiffer configuration featuring on mid-trim examples, while top-rung Vorsprung versions gain an adaptively damped arrangement. Our test car had the aforementioned adaptively damped configuration fitted as an option, however.

Q4 E-tron is pitched firmly at families who will appreciate its measurables (range, charging capability, cabin space) and driving style (refined, easy to operate, predictable).

It also had the broadly capable, ever-secure, ever-controlled, slightly aloof, medium-firm-riding and Teutonically flavoured handling character we’ve come to expect of a modern Audi.

The application of a rear-drive chassis evidently hasn’t changed Ingolstadt’s approach to the dynamic tuning of a mid-market family car, nor its expectations of the tastes of its customers – and so those who don’t know, or care, which axle does the driving in this car may very well never find out.

Of more importance to Audi, clearly, was that the Q4 be easy to drive; stable, moderate and measured in its responses; and always eminently, intuitively controllable – which, by and large, it is. It is guided through medium-paced steering with quite gentle initial response but gathering pace off-centre.

The weight can be adjusted with the car’s drive modes – but there is never that much of it, nor much perceptible feedback. Body control is quite good for a mid-sized SUV, and grip levels are moderately high and tolerant of faster driving. Although the ride is firmer than some might expect, it’s not at all aggressively damped, while the Q4 can also become fairly compliant at low speeds and on uneven roads when you select Comfort mode.

In a two-tonne, high-riding car, some lateral body movement comes with the territory, of course.

Since you’re sitting that little bit higher than most in this one, and thanks to that battery positioning also further away from the car’s roll axis than you might be, you do feel every gentle bit of pitch and head toss in the Q4, and you’re aware of every little move it makes.

It’s to Audi’s credit that the car controls and conducts itself so competently and consistently, though – albeit without much to get enthusiastic about.

Audi Q4 E-tron comfort and isolation

The Q4’s maturity of dynamic character should make it a good fit for families that want calming refinement and isolation from an electric car. Our noise meter confirmed that the test car’s cabin was fully two decibels quieter than that of a Tesla Model 3 at both 30mph and 50mph, and three decibels quieter at 70mph. A Jaguar I-Pace is no more hushed, and the £88,000 E-tron S we tested only a few weeks ago is noisier at certain speeds.

The driver’s seat had fairly firm foam padding but offered lots of potential for extension and adjustment of the cushion, and kept most testers comfy. The optional 20in alloy wheels and 45/50-profile tyres were quiet over most surfaces, if a little given to roar over rougher ones.

Besides those surfaces, the only thing likely to disturb the calm of the Q4’s cabin are the movements of its own front axle, which can suddenly seem close to your feet when it occasionally clunks over bigger, sharper intrusions taken with a little load in the suspension. These incidences are rare, granted, but they’re one more way in which the Q4 can sometimes feel slightly un-Audi-like.

In 2024, Audi updated the Q4 E-tron’s suspension. We felt it difficult to give a definitive verdict on these tweaks because our German spec test cars were equipped with adaptive dampers, which aren’t offered in the UK. 

That could be a missed opportunity by Audi, because the adaptive suspension represents a real improvement over what we have known, with the Q4 feeling more planted through quick direction changes and less prone to being thrown offline on a broiling country road. 

The rear-wheel-drive Q4 still charges at a maximum speed of 135kW, but four-wheel-drive variants can now be charged at up to 175kW, allowing for a 10-80% top-up in around 30 minutes. Better yet, pricing remains virtually unchanged.

Assisted driving notes

The Q4 E-tron has a lane departure warning system that defaults to on with every restart but it can be deactivated via a five-second push of a conveniently placed button on the end of the indicator stalk. As it is, the system remains inactive until the car accelerates beyond 38mph; and when it is active, it isn’t one of the more bothersome set-ups.

Audi’s Pre Sense Front autonomous emergency braking system comes as standard, while blindspot monitoring and rearward-facing crash avoidance systems are available as part of the £650 Safety Package Plus.

Optional adaptive cruise assistance turns the car’s lane departure warning system into a more dedicated lane-keeping system when you’re running on dual carriageways. It works quite unobtrusively when the other cruise control systems are running, although at times it did seem to slow the car unnecessarily when traffic in neighbouring lanes was detected.



1 Audi Q4 E tron 2021 RT hero front

The mid-range Q4 E-tron’s 77kWh battery capacity compares favourably with what’s on offer in the longest-range versions of the Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2 and Mercedes-Benz EQA.

That fact, combined with creditable on-test running efficiency and good rapid-charging provision, should put the Audi in a strong position for those primarily concerned with the practical limitations of EV ownership.

EVs tend to hold their value fairly well. The Q4 is on a par with the smaller Mercedes EQA - and better than the VW ID 4

Our test car returned 3.0mpkWh at a steady 70mph motorway cruise, suggesting owners will be able to routinely put at least 220 miles between charges over longer distances.

Its efficiency increased to 3.9mpkWh at 50mph, at which speed it would become nearly a 300-mile proposition. Among its nearest rivals, only the longest-range Tesla Model 3 and Ford Mustang Mach-E do better for operating range, although even the latter can’t match the Q4’s peak rapid charging capacity of 125kW.

Since the entry-level 50kWh car has been removed from sale, the Q4 E-tron’s starting price kicks off from just over £50,000 - around £10,000 higher than before. 

Objectively, that does seem a lot for a car that, in some areas, struggles to distinguish itself as a premium product, and it won’t make comparisons with like-for-like versions of the VW ID 4 and Skoda Enyaq iV any more comfortable for Audi.

However, its 2024 update has brought it back into the race, with a higher 175kW charging speed and more range and performance to boot. 


27 Audi Q4 E tron 2021 RT hero static

The Audi Q4 E-tron isn’t likely to be the most talked-about electric car on sale today. While its performance has improved dramatically since its launch in 2021, it still isn’t quite remarkable enough, and it doesn’t boast the cartoon-strip design appeal of a Hyundai Ioniq 5, Honda E or Renault 5. 

Instead, it has an Audi-typical maturity and refinement in the way it operates; impressive practicality and on-board technology; and competitive energy efficiency and battery range to complete the picture.

A job for the facelift? Simplify the surfacing language. Some cars aren’t given to the muscular look.

Not much, you might think, when the premium that Audi buyers pay usually gets them more: a cabin of really distinguishing quality as well as bold sculptural style, say, or an exterior of just-so luxury car proportions.

In essence, what we have here is the same impressively practical, comfortable and well-thought-out electric SUV, just with more power and slightly sharper handling. If only all updates could be quite so productive.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Audi Q4 E-tron First drives