LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—When Dieselgate made headlines in 2014, it fundamentally changed how Volkswagen Group and its associated sub-brands, from Volkswagen to Lamborghini, had to think about cars. Diesel got a big black mark, and electric vehicles got a much-needed bump in the race for a more sustainable way to meet the ever-growing demand for personal transportation.
The scandal accelerated Volkswagen’s push to go completely electric by 2033 and encouraged investment in a US network of EV chargers (which still leave a lot to be desired), but the rollout of the EVs themselves has been slow, to say the least.
Audi, one of the VW Group’s luxury automakers, has been slowly rolling out a suite of new EVs that began with the e-tron SUV, the e-tron Sportback, and the e-tron GT sport tourer and most recently includes the Q4 e-tron in both typical crossover and Sportback form. The Q4 e-tron was announced in February of 2021 and was originally slated to make its stateside debut in mid- to late-2021.
Fast-forward through the current state of world affairs, and the entry-level crossover from Audi is only just beginning to arrive in the States. The delays were a direct result of everything from the ongoing war in Ukraine to pandemic-induced chip shortages. While it’s strange to get a first drive of a 2022 model in July of 2022, the short time we spent with the compact crossover on the roads around Malibu, California, and again with a Sportback version around the sprawl of Los Angeles, proves that it has been worth the wait.
A platform shared with the Volkswagen ID.4
We spent three short hours tooling around the hills of Malibu and Topanga Canyon on a sunny afternoon in July with some of the very early builds of the 2022 Audi Q4 50 e-tron in the mid-level Premium Plus trim. All of the Q4 e-trons in the US will be called “Q4 50 e-trons,” but there are three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. The 2022 Audi Q4 50 e-tron gets an 82 kWh capacity battery pack (77 kWh usable—the same as the Volkswagen ID.4) and an EPA estimated battery range of up to 241 miles (388 km). Audi says that both the crossover and the Sportback version will do 0–60 mph in 5.8 seconds. An asynchronous motor at the front and a permanent synchronous motor at the rear offer standard all-wheel drive for the full lineup, with 295 hp (220 kW) and 339 lb-ft (460 Nm).Advertisement
At the base Premium trim, you get a bunch of luxury amenities, including three-zone automatic climate control, leather seating surfaces, uniquely shaped interior armrests that conveniently hold a water bottle, Audi’s 10.1-inch MMI infotainment touchscreen, and a stellar digital instrument cluster. You also get Audi’s suite of safety tech, including Audi pre-sense basic and front collision system and Audi side assist with rear cross-traffic assist, lane departure warning, and a rearview camera with a washer system. You also get standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as uniquely configurable LED headlights. When the car is outfitted with the Matrix headlights of the Prestige Plus trim, you can customize the daytime running light pattern through the MMI system with just a few taps through the menu.
A pair of paddles is nestled subtly behind the steering wheel, and they control the regenerative braking system. The left paddle lowers the regenerative braking while the right paddle raises it, up to two levels higher than just coasting, with each pull. Once you pull the paddle, the brake regen is set until you turn the Q4 e-tron off, when it goes back to the lowest level again. You can also use the rocker switch on the floating center console to put the Q4 e-tron into B-mode, which is the most aggressive regen setting that yields one-pedal driving and proves to be perfect for the horrific LA traffic along the Pacific Coast Highway. B-mode will bring you to a complete stop when you lift off the accelerator.
Regardless of trim, all Q4 e-trons sit on steel springs with adaptive dampers and don’t get the option of Audi’s air suspension; this would raise the cost of the entry-level crossover significantly, and truthfully, it doesn’t need it. The more than 4,800-lb (2,180-kg) vehicle doesn’t need any additional softening, whether you’re on a curving canyon road or a flat stretch of highway with the adaptive cruise control engaged. As expected, it corners relatively flat, and the customizable one-pedal braking system is easy to use. The paddles seem a bit pointless, though, because the different regen levels are almost barely noticeable in D-mode and don’t add any more regen if you’re already in B-mode.
- One of our big gripes with the VW ID.4 is with its over-reliance on capacitive controls. There are no such complaints here; discrete physical buttons are used for common functions. Audi
- The Q4 e-tron’s back seats. Like the related ID.4, there’s a retractable sunshade for the full-length panoramic roof. Audi
- Our test Q4 e-tron Sportback had a less sombre interior. Abigail Bassett
- The Q4 e-tron’s rear seats fold down, but not completely flat. Audi
- Despite the sloping roofline, the Sportback is still plenty practical. Abigail Bassett
- New matrix-based lights have let Audi get creative with startup and shutdown sequences. You can choose from different options in the infotainment system. Audi
Size-wise, the Q4 e-tron sits roughly between the Q3 and the Q5, neither of which is currently electrified. There’s also a Q4 e-tron Sportback model with a more raked roofline (and slightly heavier curb weight) that I spent a few hours with following the initial drive. The only real physical difference between the crossover and the Sportback is cargo space and the amount of rear glass. Oddly, Audi says that the Sportback gets more cargo room behind the rear seats, with 26.1 cubic feet (739 L), while the crossover gets 24.8 cubic feet (702 L).
As you move up the trim lines to the Premium Plus and Prestige trims, features in the 2022 Audi Q4 e-tron begin to get more interesting. We got a second four-hour loan from Audi to try out some of the features that were not available on our tester the week before and landed in a Sportback Prestige trim, which gives you the virtual cockpit, Sonos audio, and the augmented reality heads-up display.
I packed the vehicle full of boxes I was taking to the post office and took it for a spin to return some items I purchased at the mall a few weeks ago. On the road, the one thing that stood out about both the crossover and the Sportback version is the way they handle undulations in the road at slow speeds. For some reason, both feel ungainly and awkward when you go slowly over rooted roads or strangely shaped speed bumps, and both tend to jostle occupants and packages around more than you’d expect. After a bit of stop and go, I arrived at my first destination to find that my neat pile of boxes was now a jumbled mess in the cargo area.Advertisement
The first Audi with heads-up AR
A few things make the 2022 Audi Q4 e-tron an interesting early entrant into the compact electric crossover space. For one, it’s the first Audi with a heads-up display with integrated augmented reality. While other brands like Mercedes and BMW have integrated AR into their navigation systems, this is the first Audi with a heads-up display and integrated AR. It’s only available in the top-level Prestige trim, though.
When I set off for my afternoon errands with the Sportback, I turned on the lane-keeping assist and used the excellent voice control system to set my destination. I then switched on the adaptive cruise control and let the system do its thing. When the system is engaged, a green line appears on the heads-up display underlining the car in front of you. The Q4 e-tron will slow down or speed up based on traffic and come to a complete stop. When your turn is coming up, a blue arrow will appear directly in your eyeline and tell you which direction to go. It’s very easy to use, and it makes you feel like you’re playing some kind of futuristic video game as you drive along.
Range, charging, and pricing
The 2022 Audi Q4 e-tron’s ease of use is what makes it so compelling. If you’re coming from a luxury gas-powered SUV, the Q4 e-tron makes the transition to electrification easy—at least from the driver’s perspective. Audi offers the vehicle with 250 kWh of complimentary charging through Electrify America (which VW Group still partially owns), but we weren’t able to test the charging system.
Audi says that charging both the crossover and the Sportback should be relatively quick on DC fast chargers (at up to 125 kW) and that going from 5–80 percent state of charge should take about 38 minutes. The navigation system can route you to chargers along your way and give you information about what the state of charge will be when you arrive at a destination if you’re heading out on a long drive. Of course, like all EV-makers, Audi fully expects owners to do most of their charging at home and includes a 9.6 kW AC charger with plug adapters.
Unfortunately, the e-tron family naming convention (e-tron, e-tron GT, Q4 e-tron) is as confusing as ever. Audi says that will likely change soon, in the same way that Quattro began as the name of a vehicle and eventually transitioned to the name of the all-wheel drive system.Advertisement
While you can place an order for a 2022 MY Q4 e-tron on Audi’s site now, you’ll likely have to wait anywhere from three to six months to get one. Pricing for 2022 model years starts at $49,900 for the crossover and $52,700 plus an additional delivery charge of $1,095, although it is still eligible for the full $7,500 IRS plug-in vehicle tax credit. Audi says that pricing for the 2023 model year may increase, however. The company also says that it will sell 2022 models until they run out and then shift to 2023 models. There may be some additional equipment or packages coming in the 2023 model years that aren’t currently available in the 2022s, according to an Audi spokesperson.
Either way, based on the short early drives we had, the Q4 e-tron has been worth the wait. It offers comfort, panache, and luxury at a pretty good price. Now we’ll just have to wait to see when customers start getting their orders.