The Audi e-tron Sportback has style, but does it have substance..?

There’s pressure, these days, for you to look good. A hair out of place, or a mildly unflattering top can lead to hushed tones and ‘forgotten’ party invites. Who are the Joneses to know that you’re so hungover you fear you may actually die and this trip to the little shop for Lucozade and Mini Rolls could save your very being? Rather than their sympathy, you get their disdain. In this situation, of course, the Joneses are awful people. Cast a quick glance at your social media/24 hour rolling news channel/Kardashian of choice and you’ll find the world is full of them. For some, the judgement of others isn’t a problem, and the others talk about how expensive their house was. Constantly.

It’s the latter crowd who’ll likely fall for the new Audi e-tron Sportback. They’ll already know about electric cars because of Elon Musk’s tent-built contraptions, but won’t have taken the plunge just yet. They’ll likely have heard of Audi’s straighter-laced e-tron, the one that looks like a normal SUV, and the Mercedes-Benz EQC as well. Thing is, they want themselves an SUV, but not necessarily one that looks so... SUV-ish. Thankfully, Audi’s got them covered because the Sportback has SUV-ish dimensions, but the look of a swooping, dynamic coupé. With prices kicking off at around £80,000 they’ll have something to talk about as well as their house.

They’ll enjoy the fact it can get from 0-80% charge in as little as 30 minutes (if you have the right charger), and that it’ll soldier on for 230 miles between charges (depending on which edition you go for). Its 300kW and 490lb ft means it’ll do 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, 5.7 in boost mode, and it’ll top out at a licence losing 124mph. All of this is decent pub ammo, or... golf club ammo. Sure, it’s not as fast on the highway as a BMW 320d, but nothing comes out of the tail pipes, which means you can feel smug in the Audi.

There are a bunch of driving modes to play with, all of which will make the Sportback do pretty much anything you want it to do. Offroad and Allroad set the car up for muddy things, Auto will see how you're driving and set the ca rip neatly for it, Comfort does soft and squishy things, Individual allows you to pick and choose the best settings, and Dynamic means the e-tron Sportback 55 is ready to attack a b-road as best it can.

No matter which mode you plump for, you’ll get exactly what you’re after. And, you’ll get it silently. Being electric, there’s no engine clatter, which is a blessing and a curse - a blessing because everything’s so damn serene, and a curse because things like wiper motors and tyre noise are very important all of a sudden. Thankfully, the e-tron’s tyres stay quiet on a run, and the only things you’ll hear are other cars trundling by and a hint of wind noise. And the stereo, obviously.

Now, this being the swoopydynamicmegastyle version of the e-tron, its roofline is designed to look all kinds of good. And it does. There are people who’ll dig it immensely as it mixes the old school fastback look that we all wanted as teenagers with almost all of the practicality of a normal SUV. This means you can have almost all the same amount of child stuff and people space as you would with a car that has a normal roof. See, where the regular e-tron gets a 660-litre boot, the Sportback gets 615-litres. Not a huge difference in the grand scheme, but it could be annoying. Same goes for the back seat – in a regular SUV you can be tall and won’t have a bad time, but in the Sportback, despite the fact that it’s already a big car, people over six feet may have difficulty with the swoopy roof.

Up front you’re all good – there’s room aplenty. The controls are easy to use, and the twin touchscreens that control… everything work slickly and smoothly. Though they do take a while to boot up when the car’s first turned on. That means you occasionally have to wait for the car to wake up before you can use the sat nav – not ideal if you’re in a hurry. CarPlay is fitted, so you can just roll with that if you want to.

Audi’s neat cameras-for-mirrors work neatly on the e-tron Sportback, and give a decent view of what’s behind you. Though to look at the them you need to look down a little further than you may be used to. It can be a smidge confusing, but doesn’t take too long to get used to. So far, so future. But what about the drive?

On a cruise it’s calm, comfortable, and serene. Throttle response is instant, and braking is strong (though the brakes are rarely used, the car takes kinetic energy and turns it in to electric energy so you can drive further). Steering… works, but in a heavy, high riding SUV you don’t expect racecar feedback. The high/heavy thing also doesn’t help in the corners – no matter how smart the car’s air suspension is, you can’t easily hide that much weight. Slow cornering is just fine though.

Making progress is easy as the e-tron is made mostly of torque. It’s not a sports car though. It’ll wallow in corners, nose dive under heavy braking, and lean back when you’re giving it a bootful.

Paddles behind the wheel aren’t there for changing gear, there aren’t any to change, but to change the ferocity of the brake regen – you can, kinda, use it to simulate going up and down gears, all while creating delicious electricity.

In town, the extra ride height gets you a cracking view. And the lack of noise is just peachy. It’s a good car to drive all round, and everything just works as you’d expect it to. Except there’s a problem: it’s forgettable.

While all the technical aspects work well, and the electric power delivery is fun to play with, once you get out of it you can’t easily recall what the drive was like. You’re aware you’ve driven somewhere, and you know you drove that particular car, but it doesn’t leave an impression.

That said, if you want a good looking, quick EV with the right badge on its nose, Audi’s made an objectively good car. Just don’t expect to remember much about it.

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