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First Drive: The Audi e-tron S brings extra performance to this electric SUV

First Drive: The Audi e-tron S brings extra performance to this electric SUV

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The e-tron S is Audi’s first ‘S’ model, but does it impress?

What is it?

Premium electric SUVs are now big business, and that’s something Audi quickly discovered with its e-tron, which helped to kick off the brand's electric offensive.

Despite only being introduced a couple of years ago, Audi has also introduced a more affordable battery and also a sleeker coupe-like Sportback model. But now the firm is going the opposite way by introducing a sporty new ‘S’ version, which adds extra performance, sportier looks and light dynamic tweaks to make it more fun to drive. 

 

What’s new?

While an Audi ‘S’ model might usually bring more cylinders, displacement and bigger turbos, that doesn’t apply to the world of electric cars. So instead the e-tron S gets an extra electric motor, bringing the total up to three – two being on the rear axle and one on the front. 

It means the e-tron S has more of a rear bias than the regular e-tron, while other performance tweaks include an S-specific suspension setup to improve handling, bigger brakes for better stopping power and revised aerodynamics. 

 

What’s under the bonnet?

The regular e-tron is hardly short of power, but here the S model certainly gets an extra dose of shove. With the combined trio of motors producing 489bhp and 973Nm of torque, it’s certainly not lacking in performance, with 0-60mph taking just 4.5 seconds. An 86kWh battery is also used that enables a claimed 221 miles between charges. 

It’s worth noting that the tri-motor setup is also the first of its kind on a production vehicle, with the same rear motor as the standard e-tron 55 on the front axle, and then two modified examples of that car’s front motor on the rear. 

 

 

What’s it like to drive?

At first the e-tron S feels like any other electric SUV, with its responsiveness and refinement – things the regular e-tron impresses at anyway. 

But the difference here is the performance, with the e-tron S being able to surge forward in a way you’d never expect a car of this size and weight to be able to manage. 

There’s more to it than just straight-line performance, though, as it’s actually surprisingly good fun in the corners – helped by a low centre of gravity achieved by the batteries being buried in the floor and the suspension changes. Yet a seriously clever adaptive air suspension setup means the e-tron S remains impressively comfortable, too. 

 

How does it look?

Audi’s S models are traditionally renowned for their subtlety and it’s much the same here with this e-tron. The looks remain classy and subdued, and it’s certainly not an EV that shouts about its electric credentials. 

There are light changes for this S model, though, with bodywork changes making it 23mm wider than the standard car, along with receiving sharper-looking front bumpers and a sporty rear diffuser. There are new wheels, too, along with the option of orange brake callipers to offer something a little bolder. 

 

What’s it like inside?

If you’re familiar with modern Audi cabins, little will come as a surprise with this e-tron S, with an interior that perfectly combines quality with all the latest technology.

It’s got the now-typical three-screen setup for an Audi, including a main touchscreen for the infotainment and a lower display for the climate control. Up ahead of the driver is also a superb digital dial system that gets special S-specific menus, too. It’s a perfect execution of how a premium SUV’s cabin should be, that’s for sure.

 

 

What’s the spec like?

It gets a very generous list of equipment, including 21-inch alloy wheels, full LED lighting, heated leather sports seats and the aforementioned three-screen interior setup. 

Audi also offers a top-spec Vorsprung model, which brings a long list of extra kit, with highlights including 22-inch alloy wheels, digital Matrix LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof and a whole range of additional driver assistance technology. 

 

Verdict

The regular Audi e-tron is already a very credible electric SUV, and this S model certainly adds another dimension to it with its impressive pace and slightly sportier looks. 

Yet, despite these changes, it remains a seriously relaxing and refined cruiser, while also featuring one of the best interiors in the business.

 

Explore the Audi e-tron Range
 

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