Audi’s newest EV, the Q4 e-tron, remains true to the brand’s upscale image but, unlike its larger e-tron siblings, is aimed at a fairly broad market.
The compact Q4 electric will come in two body styles – the standard SUV-styled Q4 e-tron crossover,and the more coupe-like Q4 Sportback e-tron.
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Firm prices haven’t been announced yet – the Q4 e-tron won’t arrive in U.S. showrooms until this fall – but Audi calls it an entry level electric SUV and promises pricing will start at about $45,000 before any incentives.
In Europe, the Sportback configuration is a $2,400 upcharge.
There also will be a sporty S-Line trim, but Audi hasn’t provided much information about it.
At first look, that $45,000 entry price makes the Audi Q4 an unaffordable small car for many. But it will qualify for a federal tax credit – presently as much as $7,500. That makes it a real deal compared to the $52,000 plug-in hybrid version of the Q5 – its closest relative in the Audi stable in terms of size and equipment. The Q4 is also fairly close in price to its VW cousin, the just-introduced ID.4, which starts at $40,000 before incentives.
At an Audi-estimated 250 miles, the Q4 doesn’t have quite the range of the 300-mile Tesla Model Y, likely to be its one of its closest competitors. But it also will start at about $5,000 less and qualify for that federal tax credit – which Tesla buyers can’t get at present.
Tesla has sold more than 200,000 EVs so its cars no longer qualify for the credit – although Congress and the Biden White House are contemplating lifting the sales cap and increasing the size of the credit, possibly even turning it into a point-of-sale rebate that would lower the immediate cost of getting into an EV.
In any event, Audi is aiming the Q4 at what it says is the “heart of the market” for its luxury EVs – younger and more adventurous than those who gravitate toward its $66,000 and up large electric SUVs, the e-tron and e-tron Sportback, or the $100,000-plus e-tron GT.
Another competitor, the Volvo XC40 Recharge, does qualify for the tax credit but, like the Tesla, starts almost $5,000 higher than the Audi.. The 400-horespower Volvo provides more oomph than the Audi, but that translates to less range – 208 miles. It is half a foot shorter than the Audi, so has less cargo space as well.
Audi said Q4 will launch in the U.S. in two variations – the base rear-wheel drive Q4 40, and the all-wheel drive Q4 50 quattro. The Sportback style will come only with the Q4 50 quattro powertrain.
The base Q4 40 has a single electric motor driving the rear wheels. It is rated by Audi at 202 peak horsepower (150 kilowatts).
The Q4 50 quattro models add a motor on the front-axle to drive the front wheels. Peak output from the dual motor setup is 295 peak horsepower (220 kW) and 339 lb.-ft., the automaker said.
Only one battery pack size – 82 kilowatt-hours – will be used for the U.S. models.
Audi said it has 77 kWh of usable power and will be good for 250 miles in the base Q4 e-tron, and about the same in the Q4 50 quattro variants. That’s because in the AWD versions, the default is to rear-wheel drive, with the front motor coming to life only when a surge of power or additional grip is needed.
The standard Level 2 charging rate for the Q4 e-tron will be 11 kW – fast enough on a properly sized 240-volt charging system to replenish a fully depleted battery in under 8 hours. The Q4 also can use DC fast charging, at up to 125 kW – enough to add at least 60 miles of range in 10 minutes.
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True to its aim of making the Q4 a “mainstream” EV, Audi told its designers to make sure the compact crossover still looks like an Audi. They succeeded.
Except for the discrete “e-tron” badge, aerodynamic alloy wheels and the solid grille (no need for grille openings to funnel air to an internal combustion engine), the Q4 could be just another member of Audi’s gas-burner family.
Inside, the Q4 eschews the modern-minimal design that many of the newest EVs are sporting. Instead, it boasts an upscale, Audi-like interior with lots of physical knobs and buttons as well as a 10.1-inch (11.6-inch version optional) infotainment system screen, a 10.25-inch driver information screen and an available augmented reality head-up display.
The steering wheel – one with flattened bottom and top is available – has “seamless touch” haptic buttons that are flush with the wheels’ surface for controlling various phone, audio and information functions.
Despite its rating as a compact, the Q4 boasts almost as much interior passenger space as the larger Q5, Audi said. Some of the gain is due to the flat floor –no transmission/driveshaft tunnel to eat up room, and part comes from the wheels-to-the-edges platform layout.
Outside, however, the Q4 is 4 inches shorter than the Q5’s 15.3 feet.
Cargo and Towing
Audi says the Q4 e-tron will have 18 cubic feet of cargo bay behind the rear seats. With the seat backs folded down, cargo area swells to 52.6 cubic feet.
Towing capacity ranges from a maximum of 2,200 pounds in the base rear-wheel drive Q4 to 2,645 pounds in the AWD models.
A heat pump-based climate control system is available for the Q4 e-tron – it uses far less energy than an electric heater and air conditioner by using waste heat from the battery modules and the air outside the car (yes, air has heat in it) to control the interior climate.
Also available are a sport suspension that lowers the body by a bit more than half an inch, and a selectable driving mode system. The selectable drive system is standard on the Sportback and in the S-Line trim and the S-Line also gets the sport suspension as standard equipment.
The Sportback comes with a power tailgate but you’ll have to do the lifting yourself with the standard Q4.
Leather upholstery is an option, otherwise its fabrics made form lots or recycles plastic.
A premium sound system from Sonos is available.
A variety of optional packages add numerous drier assistance and safety technology features.
All that “available” and “optional” stuff, of course, raises the price.