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New 2021 Audi e-tron S Sportback review

Rory White

18 May 2021

1/8
As Audi's e-tron brand continues to grow, does this performance, coupe-styled luxury SUV stand out against its competition?

PROS:

+ Comfy and quiet

+ Lovely interior

+ Decent charging speeds


CONS:

- Average range

- Relatively leisurely performance

- Non-S e-tron usefully cheaper


Verdict: The bottom line: the e-tron S Sportback is extremely comfy and quiet, good to drive, brilliantly luxurious and high-tech. A non-Sportback e-tron is more practical, though, plus non-S e-trons save you lots of cash and aren't much slower.



2021 Audi e-tron S Sportback review: the five-minute read


Audi's e-tron brand is growing apace and so is the number of coupe-styled SUVs available in the UK. Hence, here we are. A coupe Sportback version of Audi's first electric car, the e-tron SUV. But, this is the Audi e-tron S Sportback, which means it's faster than the regular e-tron Sportback too.


So, it's big, imposing, quick, luxurious, expensive and electric. What is it up against? Well, the list is long, but principally big SUV EVs like Mercedes EQS and Tesla Model X, yet also combustion-engine SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne Coupe and BMW X6.


A few days driving an e-tron S Sportback is all it takes to tell people like the way it looks – there's some serious craning of necks going on as it glides down the road. A gaping blanked-off 'grille', prominent air intakes on each side and sharp LED headlights help at the front, while its sloping roof, rear light bar and boot-flick spoiler take care of it at the back.



Outside there are hints that the e-tron is an EV, but inside it's just like any big Audi. That's a good thing, because the quality on show is superb and the design is simple, sleek yet upmarket. It better or on a par with all its competition in this regard.


While e-tron GT has done away with a stacked-screen infotainment system, the e-tron SUV has just that. It looks great, but can be tricky to use when you're trying got concentrate on driving at the same time – BMW's infotainment system is better overall. Still, the Aud's menus are simple and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.


What that sloping roof gives with its stylish look, it takes by reducing rear headroom and boot space. Neither by much, but enough to make a difference. In the Sportback, tall adults will find their heads brushing the ceiling and one fewer travel suitcase fits in the back versus the standard e-tron SUV. That said, a Tesla Model X is better than either.



The Tesla is much quicker too, even in its non-performance spec. The Audi e-tron S Sportback has a 95kWh battery and a motor on each axle, which together produces 496hp and 973Nm of torque. Those are big numbers, so why does it take a relatively leisurely 4.5 seconds to sprint to 62mph? That'll be its 2.7-tonne weight.


For context, the slowest Model X gets there in 3.8 seconds, the fastest in 2.5. Furthermore, the Audi's range is just 223 miles versus the Tesla's 340.


The e-tron S does charge fairly quickly, though. If you can find a 150kW charger you'll be able to charge from 10-80% in around half an hour. Of course, at home via a wall box, it'll be an overnight job to go from empty to full, but you'll rarely be charging the battery in this way.


And the Audi is generally very good to drive. In town it's extremely comfortable, on country roads it steers sharply and has seemingly limitless levels of grip, while on the motorway, it has all the performance you need and a startlingly quiet cabin at speed.


So, there are large SUVs that are more fun (we're looking at you, Porsche) and ones that are more spacious and go further on a charge (hey tesla). But if you put luxury, comfort and quiet first, none do that better. Just bear in mind that the standard e-tron Sportback isn't much slower, yet is much cheaper.


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Extended read…



2021 Audi e-tron S Sportback interior and infotainment


It doesn't matter what sort of car it is, if Audi makes one, it'll have one of, if not the, plushest interior of the bunch. The same is true of the e-tron S Sportback, which looks and feels hugely upmarket inside.


Going for this S model over the standard e-tron gets you leather sports seats and a leather sports steering wheel with S badging, plus brushed aluminium trim inlays inside and an extended leather pack that brings more leather on the dash top and centre console.


All-told, the e-tron S has a Tesla Model X beaten hands-down for quality and style inside, and even BMW and Porsche are given a run for their money.


Audi's stacked infotainment screens measure 10.1 inches at the top and 8.8 inches at the bottom, the former handling the bulk of the infotainment functions, the latter mainly the car's climate controls.


If you're stationary, it's an easy system to use thanks to its simple menus are responsive nature. But start driving and some of the small onscreen buttons start to become tricky to hit. Tesla's infotainment suffers the same thing, even if it does look even more impressive. BMW's iDrive is ultimately more rounded than both.


The same isn't true of Audi's digital dials, which come as standard on the e-tron S and look superb. Plus they're easily configurable. They remain the best of their kind.


And the S does come with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, four USB sockets inside and an Audi sound system with 10 speakers as standard.



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2021 Audi e-tron S Sportback practicality and boot space


As with most coupe SUVs, the Audi e-tron Sportback trades some interior space for its more stylish exterior appearance.


However, the difference isn't huge. Tall adults will be fine in the front seats and enjoy a massive range of electric adjustment to get comfy. Another couple of tall adults in the back will sit comfortably too, although that raked roof might see their heads brush the ceiling. Certainly more so than in a standard e-tron or Tesla Model X.


Three adults across the back seats will be comfy enough on short journeys too, but fitting a child seat is slightly harder thanks to having a smaller rear door opening to deal with.


The e-tron Sportback's boot is about one carry on travel case smaller than a standard e-tron's, but at 615 litres is easily big enough to handle a week away with the family. Only its slightly shallower shape might hinder loading taller items. You also get a small front boot for storing the charging cables.


However, if you need a bigger boot, then Tesla's Model X is the choice, plus also gets the option of seven seats should you need it.



2021 Audi e-tron S Sportback engine


The Audi e-tron S Sportback has a 95kWh battery and a motor on each axle, which together produces 496hp and 973Nm of torque. Those are big numbers, so why does it take a relatively leisurely 4.5 seconds to sprint to 62mph? That'll be its 2.7-tonne weight.


For context, the slowest Model X gets there in 3.8 seconds, the fastest in 2.5. Furthermore, the Audi's range is officially just 223 miles versus the Tesla's 340. In reality, both figures will be lower, but in our experience, the Tesla's will be closer to its claimed range.


The e-tron S does charge fairly quickly, though. If you can find a 150kW charger you'll be able to charge from 10-80% in around half an hour. Of course, at home via a wall box, it'll be an overnight job to go from empty to full, but you'll rarely be charging the battery in this way.


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2021 Audi e-tron S Sportback driving


This S model gets plenty of technology to keep that 2.7 tonnes in order through bends. For starters, it has a motor on each axle and thus all-wheel-drive – a welcome addition given the weight but also in grimy conditions such as those we're used to in the UK.


Most of the time the e-tron S runs in rear-wheel-drive, but when the front wheels are needed they fire up instantly. On top of that, it has a clever torque vectoring system that can speed up and slow down wheels to help with cornering, a bit like a mechanical differential would do.


Also helping is the e-tron S's suspension, which is an adaptive air suspension system. It can be raised or lowered by up to 76mm depending on your driving mode and stiffened or slackened at the same time. The e-tron S gets upgraded brakes for better stopping power too.


Those are the headlines and the result is an SUV that can be placed with confidence on a country road and one that is quick point-to-point in all weathers. Is it fun? Not really, because there's little sense of the road beneath you.


Still, that does mean the e-tron S is extremely comfortable over lumps and bumps in town in its more relaxed driving modes and on the motorway it manages to keep almost all wind and road noise outside, making it very relaxing. Helping that further is Audi's standard adaptive cruise control and lane-keep tech, which is one of the best on the market.


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Rory White

18 May 2021