Audi’s new all-electric 2019 e-tron SUV, a five-seat mid-size model with all-wheel drive, feels like a normal, non-electric SUV in ways some electric vehicles don’t, which could be to its benefit in the market — or its detriment. Only time will tell. It also feels very much like an Audi, especially to anyone who has driven a recent model. And to someone like me who has participated in many Cars.com Challenges — our multivehicle comparison tests — it has the hallmarks of Audi models that rank high or win the day by performing well in a wide range of respects … despite eliciting less emotion than competitors. Headlines (which I seldom write, even at Cars.com) about new luxury EVs often try to gin up interest by calling them “Tesla fighters.” If I were to play along, I’d characterize this fighter as a conventional boxer and the Tesla Model X SUV as a mixed martial artist.
Related: Should I Buy an Electric Car or Plug-In Hybrid?
Now open for reservations nationwide, the e-tron starts at $75,795 for the Premium Plus (all prices include destination charges) and is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit. It’s also available on a three-year lease that incorporates the tax incentive for $2,000 down and $942 per month. I tested an e-tron Prestige ($82,795) at an Audi media event that began in Yountville, Calif., and ended in Lake Tahoe, Nev., covering 219 miles and roughly 7,000 miles of elevation. It also included one stop to recharge. (Per our ethics policy, Cars.com pays for its own lodging and airfare at such automaker-sponsored events.)
A Real SUV
We don’t usually comment on vehicle styling because our individual preferences are no more meaningful than yours, but I’ve come to recognize that you can’t get a read on a design until you see it in the real world rather than an auto show floor. When an e-tron rolled up to me at the San Francisco airport, it was clear that it’s a real SUV, and a handsome one, but also that it already blends in more than two key competitors, the Jaguar I-Pace and Model X (compare the Model X and I-Pace specs side by side).
There’s a long-standing theory that environmentally friendly vehicles have to stick out because their drivers are trying to make a statement. I never bought this argument. Yes, the legendary Toyota Prius has always been odd looking, but for a decade it was singularly efficient and affordable, and there was no control group to compare it with; conversely, the Nissan Leaf has always been a bit of a weirdo, and its market success has been modest. With the e-tron, Audi is catering to people who don’t want to stick out — or perhaps those who don’t want the sacrifices associated with the dramatically styled I-Pace.
Driving the e-tron
The e-tron has the quick responses we’ve come to expect from an electric vehicle, even if its Audi-estimated zero-to-60-mph time of 5.5 seconds is shy of some competitors. Jaguar claims 4.5 seconds for the I-Pace, Mercedes-Benz claims 4.9 seconds for the EQC (which we haven’t driven) and Tesla rates the Model X at 4.6 seconds for a Standard model and as little as 2.7 seconds for the Performance version with Ludicrous mode.