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2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron First Drive Review: Easy EV Living

Audi's new Q4 E-Tron is a compelling option for first-time EV buyers.

2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron Sportback
The Q4 Sportback looks better than the standard version.
Audi

Audi's on its way to becoming a fully electric carmaker by 2033. And while this transition is headlined by futuristic attention-grabbers like the E-Tron GT sedan and its hella-quick RS sibling, it's functional little electro-blobs like the 2022 Q4 E-Tron that'll bolster the company's bottom line.

Starting around $50,000 before factoring in potential tax credits, the Q4 E-Tron and Q4 E-Tron Sportback are geared toward first-time EV buyers who want easy electric living without having to go all space age. Sure, that means the Q4s look a little awkward and frumpy, but not everyone's an automotive extrovert. Wanna be wacky? Buy an Ioniq 5.

The Q4 effectively splits the difference between the gas-powered Q3 and Q5 SUVs in terms of size (3, 4, 5 -- go figure). It rides on the same MEB electric vehicle platform as the Volkswagen ID 4, and as such, uses the same 82-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Both the Q4 SUV and Q4 Sportback are only available with a dual-motor setup right now, rated at 295 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque, and estimated to go 241 miles on a full charge. Audi says a less-powerful Q4 will arrive in 2023, with a single-motor, rear-wheel-drive layout and a driving range north of 260 miles -- just like the ID 4.

The Q4 charges at a maximum rate of 125 kW.

Audi

Curiously, while Volkswagen recently increased the ID 4's maximum DC fast-charging speed from 125 kilowatts to 135, Audi caps the Q4 E-Tron at the slower 125-kW rate. Assuming you can find a DC fast charger that reliably delivers electricity at that speed (good luck), the Q4 E-Tron's battery can go from a 5% state of charge to 80% in 38 minutes. Not great, but not bad.

The Q4 can recoup some energy through regenerative braking, and hitting the pedal actually slows the car via increasing regen intensity until the mechanical brakes are needed. You can't feel the transition between electronic and friction braking, but you will have to dig into the pedal farther than you think to obtain adequate stopping force. It takes a little getting used to.

There are driver-selectable levels of regen for when you lift off the throttle, but they're kind of useless. You have to step up through the various regen strengths using the downshift paddle as you decelerate, which is counterintuitive, and the Q4 doesn't keep you in the selected setting; the moment you hit the throttle, you're back to the beginning. If you're a fan of regenerative braking like me, I recommend driving in B, rather than D, since this forces the Q4 into its third-highest regen mode. Just pretend the paddles aren't even there. Or do what I do and use them as percussion instruments and drum along to your favorite song blasting out of the optional Sonos stereo.

Audi says the Q4 E-Tron will hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

Audi

Regardless of body style, Audi says the Q4 E-Tron will hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, but given the instant electric torque, it feels quicker most of the time. Forward thrust doesn't drop off at higher speeds, either -- you can blast up a steep hill with a quick flex of your foot. Good sightlines and light steering make the Q4 easy to drive in the city, and while it doesn't have the same impressive 33.4-foot turning circle as the ID 4, you can totally whip U-turns in the Audi without worrying about hitting a curb.

The Q4 doesn't have an air suspension, adaptive dampers, rear-axle steering or any sophisticated chassis tech. But it's still nicely balanced and appropriately tuned for its intended purpose. Driving a Q4 E-Tron Sportback through Southern California is a comfy experience, with a solid highway ride and controlled body motions. It's not what I'd call exciting, but I don't think that's a priority for its target buyers.

Standard driver-assistance tech includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert. You have to step up to the Premium Plus trim in order to get adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assist, and cool technologies like matrix LED headlights and an augmented reality head-up display are reserved for the top-end Prestige. You can even change the daytime running light signature for the matrix lights. Pretty cool.

The squircle wheel is cool. Audi should make it standard.

Audi

Every Q4 gets a 10.1-inch touchscreen running Audi's updated MMI infotainment software, complete with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster comes standard, too, but Premium Plus and Prestige trims upgrade to Audi's Virtual Cockpit Plus setup with Google Earth maps, which is still the best digital gauge display in the business.

Better yet, you can easily see Virtual Cockpit through the Q4's squircle steering wheel, which perfectly frames the display. The wheel is arguably the coolest piece of design inside the Q4's interior, but weirdly, it's part of the S-Line Plus package that's only available on Premium Plus and Prestige trims. I'm not really sure why Audi offers two different steering wheels in a car like the Q4, but complexity for complexity's sake does feel appropriate for a German automaker.

The rest of the interior is fine. The dashboard is all vents all the time, but at least you can break it up with different wood or metal trim inlays. Every Q4 comes with heated leather seats, and no, there's no animal-free vegan option available. "Leather is still demanded by the majority of luxury buyers," Audi's senior director of product planning, Barry Hoch, tells me. Even the majority of E-Tron GTs on the road today have cow-hide upholstery.

It's kind of blob-like, but some people love that.

Audi

Opting for the Sportback's more stylish roofline will cost you 1.3 inches of rear headroom and 1.1 inches of rear legroom, but there's still plenty of space to stretch out back there. Not having a transmission tunnel means there's a flat rear floor, too, so it's easy to slide from left to right while exiting curbside. And with 54.4 cubic feet of cargo space, the Q4 E-Tron is pretty roomy, though the boxier ID 4 offers a bit more space for schleppin'.

The Q4 isn't available at Audi dealers quite yet. The company's consumer site shows Q4 E-Tron pricing starting at $51,095 including destination for a base Premium, extending as high as $58,695 for the top-end Prestige. Want the Sportback? That'll be an extra $2,800. I'll quickly point out that a fully loaded dual-motor Ioniq 5 with pretty much all of the same features tops out at $56,295 including destination, but you have to want that spaceship styling -- and be willing to give up a premium badge, too.

The Audi Q4 E-Tron won't dazzle you with wild styling, crazy acceleration, futuristic sounds or stupid fart noises. But it also works exactly as advertised and makes good on its promise of offering premium accommodations in an approachable package. It's an easy way for the electro-curious to take the plunge on EV living, and for Audi, that's a good thing. 2033 isn't that far away.