Best Car To Buy 2020 nominee

The 2019 Audi E-Tron fits in—as a well-styled, contemporary SUV, as a superb luxury vehicle, and as an Audi.

And it just so happens to be an electric vehicle. 

That’s the way Green Car Reports has more or less summarized Audi’s first fully electric vehicle after multiple experiences up close with it. 

The E-Tron is one of three vehicles that qualify as nominees to be Green Car Reports’ Best Car To Buy 2020. See that post for the requirements; most notably, a vehicle needs to be completely new or significantly refreshed, and widely available. 

It fits smartly between the Q5 and the Q7 in Audi’s lineup, and aesthetically there’s very little to call it out as an EV. Its starting price, of $75,795, including destination, isn’t far from the cost of a well-equipped Q7, and incentives will apply. It’s definitely not cheap, but certainly within reach of well-heeled professionals.

2019 Audi e-tron first drive – Abu Dhabi UAE, December 2018

In a first drive of the E-Tron, we sampled this electric vehicle’s tight, quiet interior and stable high-speed cruising, and found as we traversed sandy bluffs and maneuvered around rocky outcroppings that it’s sturdy and capable. Then we took the E-Tron on an Audi-prescribed road trip—one that essentially took us on part of a classic road trip from Napa across California and up the Sierra Nevadas to Tahoe—to illustrate both the E-Tron’s charge rates and how it deals out real-world driving range. 

The driving-range exercise illustrated what Audi had been pointing to all along with its information leading up to the vehicle’s launch: that it emphasized consistency in range and the behavior of its battery-related systems, including regenerative braking systems and charging—despite a disappointing 204-mile EPA rating for range and thus one of the lowest electric-vehicle efficiency ratings. 

In our annual Best Car To Buy testing, held over a series of northern Georgia highways and backroads, our extended family of Internet Brands Automotive editors gushed over the E-Tron’s interior trims, the cohesive look inside and out, and the ride comfort, and confirmed this vehicle’s dynamic prowess. 

This is more than a cushy, luxurious EV. Its suspension and chassis systems are tuned for driving enjoyment, and while it’s clearly not a performance vehicle (in its launch version). Tap into the Boost mode by pressing past the accelerator detent, in ‘S’ mode, with its steering and ride set to Dynamic, and it’s a surprisingly quick, fun vehicle to drive for something weighing in the vicinity of 5,800 pounds. 

2019 Audi e-tron electric SUV

2019 Audi e-tron electric SUV

The E-Tron includes a mix of new technology—its brake-by-wire system, for instance, and internally designed asynchronous (current-excited) wound motors—plus tech that’s already well-proven within Audi, like an adjustable-height air suspension. Its battery-pack design, with 31 modules on a flat “skateboard” plane plus 6 more “upstairs” in back, was painstakingly designed by Audi engineers and can operate as up to four isolated cooling circuits when needed.

While the E-Tron borrows some of its underpinnings from Audi’s existing larger-vehicle architecture, it helps set the stage for the premium platform (PPE) that will underpin future larger EVs from Audi and other VW Group brands. 

2019 Audi e-tron

2019 Audi e-tron

The interface is also familiar. It’s not much different from the one that’s sweeping into other models in its lineup, starting with top models like the Q8 and Q7—with the use of the Audi virtual cockpit plus the E-Tron’s new “touch response” version of the brand’s MMI infotainment system, with 10.1-inch upper and 8.6-inch lower screens and haptic feedback.

On the charging front, the E-Tron is very speedy—when you encounter the right hardware. It will take advantage of the full power available from 150-kw CCS DC fast chargers for a significant amount of the charge curve—or as we verified on Electrify America 350-kw hardware, it will top out at about 155 kw. On the 150-kw chargers it can get to 80 percent in about 30 minutes or a full charge in about 45 minutes. Other methods of filling the huge 95-kwh (83.6 kwh usable) pack are a lot slower; Level 2 (240V) charge can get you to full in about 9 hours, but an ordinary 120V household socket takes up to 80 hours and the mobile 240V charger that plugs into a 240V (NEMA 14-50) circuit takes about 16 hours, from our experience. 

2019 Audi e-tron

2019 Audi e-tron

We should point out though that the E-Tron also seems to be one of the most consistent vehicles in terms of charging behavior, with none of the battery preconditioning surprises we’ve encountered with some other models.

Audi’s partnership with Amazon Home Services was also the first such effort to take some of the fuss out of getting your home wired for charging hardware. Other automakers have since joined. And the E-Tron is the first Audi to support Amazon Alexa functionality—capable of accessing other devices in your home from the E-Tron, although the electric SUV doesn’t register as an Amazon device itself. 

The E-Tron is also offered across the U.S., and the brand and its dealerships appear genuinely interested in selling them. After a few hiccups leading into production, and an early recall regarding a potential battery-pack seal, made “out of an abundance of caution,” Audi appears to have hit its stride with E-Tron deliveries; and it’s well-stocked at several stores we checked with in EV-savvy areas. 

Should the E-Tron be our Best Car To Buy 2020? Let us know what you think in your comments below.