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2019 Audi E-Tron Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender

A compelling electric SUV with several important limitations

Billy RehbockWriterWilliam WalkerPhotographer

Automobile's All-Stars awards are back, and this year we have one of the best fields of cars we've ever evaluated. In total, we invited 21 of our favorite new or significantly revised cars to find out which are the very best of the best. We've split them into Contenders and Winners, but let us make it clear: Every car invited to our All-Stars event is one of the most special cars on sale for 2020. Each day between March 8 and March 10, we'll bring you a new batch of Contenders, and on Wednesday, March 11, we'll announce our 2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners.

This year's All-Stars competition was light on electric vehicles. In fact, the 2019 Audi E-Tron was the only fully electric vehicle in our test. After the Jaguar I-Pace delivered a poor performance last year due to its incompatibility with the charging units at our disposal, it's safe to say our staff was collectively rooting for this underdog.

When I found out I'd be chaperoning the Antigua Blue metallic crossover to our testing grounds, I'll admit to being pretty excited. With two motors producing a combined 402 hp, an arsenal of cool technology, and perfect paint for social media posting, the E-Tron seemed like a pretty pimpin' ride for the drive from Los Angeles to Willow Springs International Raceway.

For the most part, it really lives up to the marketing. The interior is hyper-premium, with amazing materials, crisp surfaces, and fantastic ergonomics. "The snowy white interior looks grand, almost as nice as the Bentley's," online editor Ed Tahaney remarked, "with room to stretch out so you can take a nap while you wait for a fast charge. " He wasn't sold on the shifter, but I love that it feels like a heavy iron ingot that slides to select a gear.

The Bang & Olufsen sound system's audio quality is top notch as well, and it's further accentuated by the quiet cabin. "NVH levels are extremely good," features editor Rory Jurnecka noted. "There's barely any wind or road noise at highway speeds. " Between the library hush of the interior and the super-smooth suspension tuning, this was certainly one of the most luxurious cars we brought to the track or road course in terms of ride quality. It handles with confidence as well, with a five-mode air suspension providing a wide range of control.

Audi didn't nail everything, however. The E-Tron's EPA-estimated 204-mile range suffered on the climb from sea level up and over the mountains to the track, which sits at an elevation of almost 3,000 feet. The drive, which is only 95 miles, ate up approximately three-quarters of the "tank. " I ended up having enough juice to get from the track to our hotel back in Palmdale, another 25 miles, before heading to the local Honda dealer to charge overnight. Fortunately, the Audi ended up being compatible with the ChargePoint unit, and we had no issues getting it juiced up during the entirety of our test driving.

There are some neat features that help buoy the battery life. Our pro racer, Andy Pilgrim, loved the car overall. He said he "messed with the regen paddle constantly," remarking that it's in a "nicely placed location for easy use. " Pilgrim noted that when he "did a 12-mile run up and down a mountain road," he saw "only 13 miles lost off the range." Our other editors noted the car's consistency in attaining its estimated mileage. Jurnecka adds that he appreciated "all the anti-range anxiety features in the computer, showing where e-miles can be freed up by turning off certain functions."

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Audi's electric car feels very quick, making it rather fun to peg the throttle and go. Audi claims a 5.5-second 0-60 mph time, but off the line it feels punchier. Our sister brand MotorTrend confirmed my feeling, recording a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds in instrumented testing. Speeding up to pass is no trouble, either; there's little drop-off in acceleration at higher velocities.

The total price, with options, of the E-Tron we evaluated was $85,790. Our judges were smitten with the attention to detail in nearly every aspect of this vehicle's interior and equipment. It helps that it's super practical, with a spacious rear seat and trunk. Contributor Arthur St. Antoine said that the E-Tron makes a strong case against what Tesla has to offer. He noted that the Audi is "sumptuously appointed inside, [making] the Model X's cabin look almost unfinished." St. Antoine continued with more praise for the E-Tron, calling it "supremely quiet and comfortable, [with] batteries built for real-world durability and, soon, potentially class-leading quick-charging. " He concluded that although it is a "lovely piece," with just a bit more sizzle it might have performed that much better against the competition. Aaron Gold developed this point even further: "Audi answered the question, 'How do we make an electric SUV?' but they should have been answering a different question: 'How do we make the vehicle of the future?'"

Despite accomplishing so much, the 2019 Audi E-Tron didn't quite have what it took to stand out among this year's crowd of All-Stars contenders. Contributor Basem Wasem summed it up: "The E -Tron does no harm and imparts no ill will. It goes about its business with a minimum of fuss or fluster, delivering EV utility with almost invisible ease—and perhaps that's what holds it back from All-Star status."

2019 Audi E-Tron Specifications
PRICE $75,795 (base)/$84,890 (as tested)
MOTORS 2 AC induction motors/184 hp and 224 hp, 228 lb-ft and 262 lb-ft   (402 hp max output combined in boost mode)
TRANSMISSION 2 single-speed direct-drive
BATTERY 95-kWh lithium-ion, liquid-cooled
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front- and mid-motor, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 74/73 MPGe (city/hwy)
RANGE 204 miles
L x W x H 193.0 x 76.3 x 65.5 in
WHEELBASE 115.1 in
WEIGHT 5,750 lb
0-60 MPH 5.5 sec
TOP SPEED 124 mph

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Electric cars have many inherent advantages over the combustion-powered competition, but does the 2020 Audi E-Tron have what it takes to hang with this year's best?