The electric vehicle (EV) movement is kicking into higher gears as we see more and more EVs introduced as mainstream and luxury variations of the same new EV platforms. Audi has moved the EV needle forward with new vehicles like the compact Q4 crossover and now with a Sportback version of the Q4 that I had a chance to check out this week.
The new Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback takes all of what’s enjoyed in the electric Q4 and slightly modifies its rear-end design for a sporty sloping roof line customary to what we’ve seen in many other luxury iterations of compact and midsized crossovers. While the Sportback design cuts down on some cargo space and rear headroom, it does add a new aesthetically pleasing appeal to the look of the Q4 for those who want something different to stand out in a crowd, and the Q4 Sportback does just that.
Riding off the Volkswagen ID.4’s drivetrain and platform, the Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback attempts to separate itself from the mainstream of the ID.4, and it does it well with a luxury-like cabin and somewhat of a different way in how it drives. The all-wheel-drive setup of the Q4 e-tron Sportback 50 uses two electric motors, one for each axle, making a total of 295 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque. That power comes on instantaneously as you expect, giving you an impression of it having more power than advertised.
The acceleration is strong but tapers off as you approach highway speeds, but it still manages to hit 60 mph in about 5.8 seconds and can effortlessly reach its limited top speed of 112 mph. The Q4 Sportback 50 feels more agile than its Volkswagen ID.4 platform-mate, which I attribute to different suspension tuning. Overall, the body rolls into turns and doesn’t exactly inspire canyon carving but it does react much better than the VW ID.4 feeling like it is lighter on its feet.
There’s a welcomed, assured feeling to the Q4 Sportback, but some of the advanced tech puts a damper on some of that fun if you don’t utilize the different drive modes and customize the Individual drive mode to your liking. I say that mostly because of the automatic braking regen that’s adaptive based on the front radar detecting the Q4 e-tron approaching vehicles when letting off the throttle. The system is clever and found on many other new vehicles where there’s regenerative braking force added as you approach a vehicle, but it will allow the vehicle to coast if it does not detect an approaching vehicle upon letting off the throttle. Here, there’s some indecisiveness of you requiring to press the brake pedal or not, which doesn’t ever feel reassuring because the brake pedal has an abundance of travel and feels very artificial. Fundamentally, the braking point for motor regenerative braking transitioning to the friction brakes feels disjointed. Disabling the automatic radar-based braking regen requires switching to the Dynamic drive mode or the Individual drive mode with the drive setting set to Sport. There is a B mode enacted by the sliding gear shifter for a one-pedal drive mode that can bring the vehicle to a complete stop without using the brake pedal. There are also steering wheel paddles that add or take away regen force on the fly, but whatever you set with the paddles is reset after accelerating again, which is an unwelcome way of managing regen.
The power to the two electric motors is provided by an 82-kWh battery pack that gives the Q4 e-tron Sportback an average range of about 241 miles. That figure is easily attainable in the real world from my test, while the estimated range indicator is quick to recalculate based on your driving style and use of power.
Charging up the Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback, having a 400-volt system, you will see a peak of around 125 kW using a 150-kW or 350-kW DC fast charger taking about 30 minutes for a 20% to 80% state of charge. Using a level 2, 240-volt home charger, you will need just about 9 hours for a full charge from a mostly depleted battery. A level 1 charge using a home 110-volt outlet will probably take about 96 hours, which is not recommended unless you have the time (days) to spare. Overall MPGe comes to 100 MPGe city, 89 MPGe highway, and 95 MPGe combined, and as I said previously, reaching the full 241-mile range appears to be easily attainable in the real world as I was able to reach 210 miles with just over 30 miles of range to spare with mostly back-road highway driving around 55 mph.
The Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback is often too smart for its own good. In saying that, I must mention there’s a level of automation that I could do without, which surrounds the vehicle powering up and shutting down without pressing the power/start/stop button. The Q4 detects your presence through a seat pressure switch, and you’re only required to press the brake pedal for it to start up. Simply putting the vehicle in park using the parking brake button and unbuckling your driver’s seatbelt will prompt a shutdown, as does simply getting out of your seat. Such automation may be agreeable to some but can be an annoyance if you have passengers that wish to remain in the vehicle and keep the automatic three-zone climate control system running.
The interior is an inviting space, and you become acclimated to the controls through a relatively short learning curve where most vehicle settings and drive controls are done through the 10.1-inch Audi MMI infotainment touchscreen. Throughout the buttons and on-screen touch functions, there’s the expected tactile response that you find in all new Audi vehicles. You also have wireless integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with a wireless smartphone charger that holds your device firmly in place. There are plenty of soft-touch dashboard areas, but a good number of hard plastics found on the door trim and below the trim lines that surprisingly don’t take much away from the premium feel of the cabin.
The standout feature remains to be the massively large color head-up display that features augmented reality that virtually overlays arrows for navigation direction turns to pinpoint the exact lane to enter or turn to make. The augmented reality area of the head-up display also displays relevant information for the adaptive cruise control system and lane-keeping system.
The heated front seats proved to be comfy with ample power adjustments, and I didn’t feel any fatigue driving over 200 miles. The back seats are accommodating for at least two adults and up to three in a tight pinch, but the middle passenger doesn’t have to straddle a gear tunnel because the floor is flat.
The cargo room is on the small side as the Q4 Sportback’s sloping roofline cuts into the space, and there’s not much underfloor storage available.
Audi remains to position vehicles like the new Q4 e-tron Sportback to be standout figures, but that uniqueness only does so much when you have strong competitors that are better in many areas for similarly-sized EVs, such as charging times and overall performance. However, the 2023 Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback touts a longer-range version (265-mile range) but with less power (201 horsepower). The pricing also remains competitive, starting at $52,700 for the Q4 Sportback 50 and coming to the as-tested price of $60,960 for my loaded-up Prestige package test vehicle.