The Q4 e-Tron, which is offered in a conventional SUV body shape and a coupe-like form dubbed the Q4 Sportback e-Tron, is a smaller, more reasonably priced model that Audi is introducing to its lineup of electric vehicles. I made the trip to Oceanside, California, to get behind the wheel for a short period of time and explore the two variants to determine how they compare to other electric SUVs on the market.
The Q4 e-Tron is offered with a single motor for rear-wheel drive or two motors for all-wheel drive, however the Q4 Sportback e-Tron is only available with all-wheel drive. Whichever version you choose, the battery pack has an 82 kilowatt-hour capacity. The Q4 e-Tron and the Volkswagen ID.4 SUV share much of their underlying architecture, so if those fundamentals sound familiar, it’s because they do.
At the drive event, I had the opportunity to test drive 2022 Q4 models, but these vehicles are no longer available, and changes for 2023 are minor. The 2023 Q4 features a larger touchscreen that runs the same software, the S Line appearance package is now standard on AWD models, and there are a few different wheel options.
Operation of the Q4 e-Tron
After having previously driven a VW ID.4, the Q4 e-Tron seemed comfortable and familiar—in a good way. With single-motor RWD variants rated at 201 horsepower and dual-motor AWD ones delivering a healthier 295 hp, power is relatively modest for an EV. The dual-motor version isn’t slow, with an estimated 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds according to Audi, but much of its quickness is felt between stoplights, where the instant torque of the electric motors comes into play. While the Q4 e-Tron still has considerable power to spare for highway passing and merging, it is less potent at higher speeds. The car’s personality isn’t significantly altered by changing the drive mode; the steering gets a tiny bit heavier, but the throttle response feels the same. Personally, I liked the Q4 e-Dynamic Tron’s mode’s heavier steering feel.
Like a good set of brakes in a gas-powered car, braking with the brake pedal as opposed to the regenerative system feels linear and effortless. It’s still uncommon for EVs to have brakes that feel solid or provide feedback, but the Q4 e-typical Tron’s feel makes it easier for drivers who are unfamiliar with EVs to operate.
The lack of proper one-pedal driving is an odd oversight. Three levels of regenerative braking are available on the Q4 E-Tron, with the strongest level almost bringing the vehicle to a complete stop before a final press of the brake pedal is required. The steering wheel’s paddles can be used to change the regeneration strength, or you can just choose the strongest level by using the gear selector to select the “B” driving mode. The strongest option was favoured for driving around town and controlling speed when descending steeper hills; it came in handy when I had to pass a motorcycle cop stationed at the bottom of a hill because coasting would have resulted in me going far faster than the posted speed limit. The drag from the regeneration system was obvious and disconcerting on twistier routes, so I opted to ignore it.
The steering of the Q4 e-Tron is well balanced, communicative, and calibrated for daily drive. In low-speed parking and parking-adjacent scenarios, the SUV feels agile and nimble thanks to its 33.5-foot turning circle (37.7 feet with AWD).
A little firmer than the ID.4 and roughly comparable to the Volvo XC40 and C40 Recharges, Genesis GV60, and Tesla Model Y in terms of ride quality. The cabin will be filled with bumps, potholes, expansion joints, and other road defects, but they won’t be uncomfortable. The Q4 e-ride Tron’s is comfortable and won’t likely irritate you or your passengers, but driving all of these cars back-to-back on the same roads would give a more accurate score.
When compared to a gas-powered SUV, road, tire, and wind noise seem to be more noticeable, but this is to be anticipated since there isn’t an internal combustion engine to muffle most of these sounds. At greater speeds, however, I did hear more wind noise.
Despite the A-pillars’ forward location, I had a good view forward from where I was sitting. The Sportback in particular suffers from poor rear visibility, as the rear head restraints obscure the view behind and the rear spoiler splits the rear windscreen, obstructing your view.