[TEST DRIVE] Audi's e-tron S is a luxury EV with a worrying range
PYEONGTAEK, Gyeonggi — If you consider yourself a car aficionado with a preference for high-end vehicles, you might want to check out the new e-tron S from Audi.
The luxury car is a pure electric SUV, a popular choice for the environmentally-conscious family. EVs may not be a popular pick for sports car fans, but don’t be too disappointed, the e-tron S comes with a bit of a sports car vibe.
The Audi e-tron S comes with three electric motors, two on the rear axle and one on the front axle. It has been available in Korea since late April.
The Korea JoongAng Daily recently got behind the wheel of the e-tron S for an 80-kilometer (62-mile) drive from Gangnam, southern Seoul, to Audi’s pre-delivery inspection center in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi.
The first thing that surprised this reporter was the cameras next to the door handles. The cameras, which Audi calls “virtual door mirrors,” replace the traditional glass wing side mirrors. Unlike the conventional side mirrors that need to be adjusted depending on the driver, the cameras do not need to be moved.
Convenient, maybe, but using the cameras takes some getting used to.
Despite weighing almost three tons, the e-tron S offers a smooth and quiet ride. An Audi instructor suggested reporters open the window while driving, and it was only then that it became clear just how quiet it is inside the car.
The strong acceleration made for a pleasant driving experience. With sports mode on, it makes an artificial engine sound just like a sports car.
The luxury SUV generates a maximum of 503 horsepower and 99.2 kilogram-meters of torque. It can reach a maximum speed of 210 kilometers per hour and only takes 4.5 seconds to reach 100 kilometers per hour.
The cruise control, which automatically controls the speed of a vehicle while keeping a safe distance from the car in front, was helpful. When this reporter set the speed to 100 kilometers per hour on the highway, the SUV never exceeded the limit, but did automatically slow down to keep a safe distance when there was another car in front.
Regenerative braking, which is widely known as one-pedal driving, seemed to work well. It allows the vehicle to slightly charge itself from the car's kinetic energy when it slows down. This system sometimes leaves passengers feeling a little queazy, but the Audi e-tron S was able to handle it smoothly.
When starting the test drive, the dashboard said the car had enough battery to travel 340 kilometers. After driving 80 kilometers the read out still said 280 kilometers, proving that the car charged itself while driving.
Another appealing point was the massage service. Both the driving and passenger seats have a built-in massage function, which seemed very helpful in keeping the driver awake while driving.
But one downside is the e-tron S's driving range. Equipped with a 95-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, the e-tron S can travel 268 kilometers on a single charge, according to the Environment Ministry. That is considerably shorter compared to the BMW iX50’s 447 kilometers and the Tesla Model X's 500 kilometers.
But despite the official distance, an Audi Korea spokesperson claims that he personally drove from Seoul to Busan with no difficulties with the e-tron S, a distance of 325 kilometers.
The EV only takes 40 minutes to be fully charged from 0 percent.
The sticker price starts at 137 million won ($110,000).
Audi sold a total of 1,499 EVs that cost more than 100 million won in Korea last year, up 150 percent on year, to become the No. 1 brand in the category, according to data provided by the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association and CarIsYou. Porsche ranked second with 1,296 units sold.
BY SARAH CHEA [firstname.lastname@example.org]