Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron review: Sporty and sophisticated

(Pocket-lint) - Having already reviewed the Audi Q4 e-tron[1] - which we thought "goes beyond the competition thanks to its distinctive style, interior comfort, and technology implementation" - here's a look at its sportier cousin, the Q4 Sportback e-tron. The Sportback, as its name suggests, is the "short back and sides" version of this mid-size electrified SUV, dropping the roofline to the rear, delivering a sportier stance and adding a spoiler into the mix. There's a price premium, which also includes the addition of an automatic tailgate, and a little less interior room as a result of the design.

With a decent real-world range per charge (in the 40 model, as reviewed; the 35 is more a town runabout with smaller battery), however, the Q4 Sportback e-tron is a car that, for many, will be high up their options list. Not only does it look better than the traditional SUV model in our opinion, its interior space really isn't as compromised as you might think.

Design & Trim

  • Trim levels: Sport, S Line, Edition 1, Vorsprung
  • 19-inch alloy wheels (20- & 21-inch optional)
  • LED headlights (LED Matrix for Vorsprung)
  • 535-litre boot capacity minimum
  • GBP42,250 UK OTR starting price

One glimpse at the Q4 Sportback e-tron and it's, well, an echo of the Q4 e-tron from the front quarters. It's got those distinctive looks, those agressive-looking headlights - which are LED as standard on all trim levels - and panel folds to add design distinction. 

Pocket-lint Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron review - exterior photo 4

Our model came with the Matrix LED headlights (a GBP1,075 extra) which automatically read the road and adjust as appropriate.

You can also tinker with their appearance in the settings, with four default options to give the Sportback an even more unique signature. Much as the Q4 Sportback e-tron's front grille has that classic Audi aesthetic, however, it's a rather different setup to the German marque's combusion models: as this is electric, no air is required for cooling, thus the front is sealed off - even the classic four rings aren't fully embossed from the front, but are flat, almost as if 'drawn' onto the front. Audi perpetually pushes new colour options per vehicle type, although the Q4 e-tron's options (all GBP575 additions for metallic coats) are rather subdued.

Floret silver, Glacier white, Geyser blue, Mythos black, Navarra blue, Typhoon grey, or Aurora violet complete the offerings.

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Being an SUV, part of the Q4 Sportback e-tron's very purpose is to be high-riding and offer increased interior space over the typical saloon. That includes a 535-litre boot - which, by default, is a little more capacious than the standard Q4 e-trons 520 litre offering. The button-press automatic tailgate is a nice touch, too, enabling easy access to the rear - and this is where the charging cables are stored, underneath a panel section.

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It's also from this rear quarters where you can appreciate the Sportback's distinctive styling.

The roofline tapers in much more rapidly, dropping lower, the spoiler adding a final 'brow' to the rear that gives a much more elegant look from any eyeline.

Interior & Tech

  • Audi central MMI monitor (10.1-inch touchscreen [11.6-inch option due 2021])
  • Audi Virtual Cockpit drivers display (10.25-inch non-touch)
  • Audi Pre-sense, lane departure & swerve/turn assist
  • Optional: Cruise assist, 360? cameras, blindspot
  • Head-up dislay (HUD) & AR navigation options
  • Android Auto / Apple CarPlay compatible
  • Sonos Audio available

Much as we love the looks, it's on the inside where the Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron really sells itself. This interior cabin is the step-up that qualifies its taller asking price over its near competition. Surprisingly the headroom in the rear is actually very good - six-foot adults will have no problem sitting here (as we have done for hours-long journeys), with an adjustable headrest adding to the comfort.

If you thought the Sportback might compromise the Q4 e-tron offering then, in short, it really doesn't.

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Up front shows that Audi has learnt a thing or two over recent years when transitioning from old technologies to new. That's to say: it's not 100 per cent touchscreens; there's a good mixture of physical buttons and controls too, ensuring a balanced way in which to control the lighting, air, infotainment and safety features. The electrification of the drivetrain doesn't eat into the interior space, so there's no giant centre tunnel using up potential space or forcing your legs into weird and compromised positions.

It's spacious, airy, and largely driver-focused.  For many years Audi has been enhancing its MMI setup - that's Multimedia Interface, acronym lovers - with the Q4 Sportback e-tron embodying the latest implementation for 2021. That comprises two core components: a 10.1-inch touchscreen to the centre dash, angled towards the driver (a larger 11.6-inch version will become available, although there's no price point on that at the time of writing); and a 10.25-inch visual display, called Audi Cockpit, positioned to the driver's line of sight.

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The main screen relies on touch control, but with haptic feedback providing an assured 'clack' and a physical response, it's really easy to use.

Yes, it gets very fingerprinty very quickly - as you can see in our pictures - so you'll want to have a microfibre cloth on hand to keep it looking polished. Once you've setup the majority of features - such as sound balance, bass/treble levels, and so forth - chances are you'll just plug in a phone, load up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and need not touch the panel loads more. As we said: the Q4 Sportback e-tron also supplements controls with physical buttons for climate control.

We think this is a much more successful marriage of the two forms - making it super easy to always select and sync air-conditioning, for example, without needing to dig into screens. It further avoids those fingerprints too. There's no additional third screen towards the centre tunnel here, like you'll find in the A8[2] as one example, instead a floating platform with simple controls such as the one-button start control and gear select 'clicker'.

Interestingly, and unlike other manufacturers, you can supplement Android Auto with Audi MMI in tandem: listen to Spotify via your phone, with Android Auto showing the playlist on the central screen; while using the Virtual Cockpit display to utilise Audi's turn-by-turn mapping and directions through its navigation. A best of both worlds that really don't seem to clash or oppose one another.

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The ability to switch between what displays on these two main screens is also ideal to ensure everything you need is within eyeshot. Battery charge remaining and projected mileage are always on display in Virtual Cockpit, which is great, or you can select the specific e-tron format from within the settings which further brings this to the fore.

Our only real complaint about the screens overall is that the central one, despite being cleverly positioned towards the driver, is just a little bit of a reach at times. The overall tech available can be expansive (and expensive too) depending on what pack options you pick. While Audi's Pre-sense is aboard as standard - it's always keeping an eye on what's in front, should an emergeny stop be needed - there's also optional cruise control, a head-up display (HUD) with further optional augmented relaity (AR) visualisations, lane-keep, blindspot alert, and a full-on suite of cameras that can view all around the car - and even create a top-down visualisation of it and your surroundings for additional safety when reversing or parking.

We would suggest adding the reversing camera as a minimum, as this near-five-metre-long beast isn't especially easy to park.

Drive & Range

  • 40 model (204PS): Single motor & rear wheel drive, 77kWh battery capacity, 316 mile range (TBC)
  • 50 model (299PS): Quattro all-wheel drive & twin motors, 77kWh, 295m (TBC)
  • 35 model (170PS): Single motor & rear wheel drive, 52kWh, 211m (TBC)
  • Drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Individual
  • Up to 125kW fast-charging capable

All of which is all well and good, but if you're buying an EV and it's going to give you range anxiety, or you don't have the charging capabilities at home, then it's unlikely to be the car for you. Not just in the case of this Audi, but any electric car at present. That's why we'd say avoid the entry-level '35' model, which has a smaller 55kWh battery, which we're surprised is being ranged in the UK market.

Pocket-lint Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron review - exterior details photo 1

The Q4 Sportback e-tron doesn't yet have its range officially confirmed (the WLTP rating is yet to be announced at the time of writing), but it'll no doubt be very similar to the standard Q4 e-tron.

In this '40' model, with its 77kWh battery, that'll be an official measure somewhere around 315 miles per charge.  Does it go that kind of distance? Not quite, but then no electric car, used in real-world format like real people actually drive, will achieve its figures.

We've found it to be around 17 per cent below that, achieving 3.4 miles per kWh. Still, it means you'll be able to achieve 250 miles or thereabouts per charge - but probably less as the colder weather creeps in and the battery gets whipped by the elements. To put that in context: the Volvo XC40 Recharge gave us slightly less, at 225 miles per charge, which is still pretty good going.

That range isn't achieved in any kind of eco-focused driving either. We happily put Dynamic drive mode into play, popped the aircon on, cranked up the soundsystem, and often pushed the pedal to the floor for an overtake or two. If you did select Eco drive mode and go gently then you'd squeeze even more range out of a charge, we're sure. 

Pocket-lint Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron review - exterior photo 1

In terms of drive, the Q4 Sportback e-tron may have the word 'sport' embedded within its name but it's not ultra-sporty in terms of driving style.

That's a good thing though: we've had passengers both front and rear comment on how smooth the driving experience felt compared to their norm, so it's not all rock-hard suspension to stomach-turning acceleration to be found here. Indeed, the Sportback is one truly comfortable place to sit, while there's ample pep to get you firing off down the road when needed. No, the 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds doesn't sound exceptional, but for a 2.5-tonne vehicle it's spritely enough - just not as spritely as the aforementioned Volvo XC40 Recharge[3].

Verdict

The Audi Sportback Q4 e-tron takes a more sporty and sophisticated stance over the German marque's more traditional SUV Q4 e-tron.

That'll make the Sportback more popular, we suspect, despite the slight bump in price tag. Just as we said of the Q4 e-tron, the Sportback's distinctive style, decent range (in '40' and above), and technology implementation all make it a high-marks all-electric vehicle option. And having taken journeys as a rear passenger, the sloping roofline design really doesn't compromise like you might assume - there's easily enough space for six-foot-tall adjults to travel in comfort.

Add lots of alluring options and, sure, it'll cost you a pretty penny, but for a sports-styled SUV option there are few all-electric options that can truly challenge the quality found here. It'll be no surprise to see many of these on the roads by the end of 2021 and beyond - for the simple reason that the Audi a cut above its electrified SUV competition.

Also consider

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Volvo XC40 Recharge

If you want extra speed on tap then the Volvo - which is a bit like a Polestar 2 in SUV form - has a lot more getgo (0-62 in 4.7s), plus we're keen on the Google infotainment system. It's not as large, the style can't profess to being as sporty, but it's still certainly one to not overlook.

Writing by Mike Lowe.

Originally published on 23 November 2021.

References

  1. ^ already reviewed the Audi Q4 e-tron (www.pocket-lint.com)
  2. ^ like you'll find in the A8 (www.pocket-lint.com)
  3. ^ Volvo XC40 Recharge (www.pocket-lint.com)