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2021 Audi e-tron review: Electric Zen

You buy a luxury car for the quality, prestige and experience. From the fit and finish to the aura it exudes, you know you’re getting something above the mainstream. The 2021 Audi e-tron aims to give you that in a fully electric package. Being Audi’s first battery-electric crossover, it had big shoes to fill when it first debuted three years ago. Since then, Audi has improved the range to make it more appealing. With a new crop of battery-electric utility vehicles entering the market, is the e-tron still a worthy option? Let’s find out.

2021 Audi e-tron exterior

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The 2021 Audi e-tron expertly blends timeless and techie design. It looks like a traditional crossover because of its upright greenhouse, which is a rarity among all-electric crossovers. You know immediately that the e-tron is a member of Audi’s crossover family thanks to the enclosed single-frame grille. Like other Audi vehicles, the e-tron has distinct design cues that set it apart from its siblings. The unique headlight and taillight clusters and sequential light patterns add a sense of occasion, yet the crossover remains approachable and refreshingly normal.

2021 Audi e-tron interior

2021 Audi e tron dash 03
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Step inside the e-tron’s cabin and you’ll be greeted by a calming aura that makes you feel very Zen. Generous levels of sound insulation turn the crossover into a luxuriously trimmed bank vault on wheels because it’s so quiet. Everything you touch feels as expensive as it looks and the controls give off this sensation of tactility that further elevates the luxuriousness. No corners were cut because the e-tron oozes quality everywhere you look and touch. You know where the money went because of how precisely everything is put together and the impeccable attention to detail, especially when it comes to material choice and composition.

Audi kept the e-tron’s interior clean and uncluttered. Even with three displays, the dash doesn’t look busy. Although it’s not as over the top as competitors like Mercedes-Benz, the e-Tron’s cabin appears modern. At night, the ambient lighting adds drama to the restrained design. Along with the set themes, you can customize the light combinations to your liking, allowing you to set a different color for the light piping and the footwell illuminations.

The e-tron’s cabin is as exquisite as it is practical. Five adults fit comfortably and even tall ones will be fine in the rear seats. If you’re the type who loves endless seat adjustability, opt for the available multi-contour front seats. You’ll be able to adjust everything from side bolstering to thigh extensions exactly how you like it. Like the standard seat, the cushioning is on the firm side and may turn off people who love soft, cushy thrones.

Thanks to the e-tron’s size, the cargo area is massive even with all seats up. Fold them down and you get a squared-off space that easily accommodates bulky items. Audi also added a small underfloor storage bin so you can hide small, valuable items. Standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats give you additional flexibility by enabling you to haul long items while retaining two passenger seats.

2021 Audi e-tron tech features

2021 Audi e tron dash 02
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Audi’s latest MMI interface is one of the most intuitive thanks to its quick responses. Submenus are kept to a minimum and finding your way around is a breeze. More expensive models like the e-tron use a dual-screen setup featuring a 10.1-inch main display and a secondary one measuring 8.6 inches specifically for climate controls. The 12.3-inch virtual cockpit is also available. Like the rest of the interior, the menu layout is clean and uncluttered; information is projected onto the three screens logically. You can further configure the digital cluster by choosing from three configurations and the type of data you want to be shown. A head-up display is also offered. The 16-speaker, 705-watt Bang & Olufsen 3D surround sound system is a must-have option thanks to its incredible clarity, crispness, and immersiveness. It’s also highly customizable meaning you can easily tailor it to your liking.

The available suite of driver assistance features doesn’t act like an overprotective nanny. Unlike competitors’ systems, the e-tron’s isn’t as proactive and won’t always correct you, meaning the driver needs to pay attention to the road. Lane-keeping assist could be a little smoother when it steers you back in because it can get slightly jerky in certain situations. At least adaptive cruise control works well and follows traffic seamlessly even at low speeds. The distancing component actively closes gaps to keep your set distance or prevent other vehicles from cutting you off. If someone does cut you off, the e-tron will slow down to create more distance.

2021 Audi e-tron driving impressions

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Calm and relaxing are the best ways to describe the e-tron’s driving experience. You’re isolated from the outside world thanks to the suspension handily absorbing every road imperfection. Even with the adaptive air suspension in Sport mode, the e-tron is smooth, supple, and compliant. In Comfort mode, it’s like you’re in a cloud because harsh impacts are nearly nonexistent. The standard 20-inch alloy wheels shod with tires sporting generous sidewalls further add to the car’s cushiness.

Thanks to the low battery placement under the floor, body roll through turns and vertical motions are minimal, giving the e-tron stable handling. Even with the suspension in the softest setting, the crossover doesn’t lose its confident demeanor. It’s more of a cruiser than a sporty crossover, though. The e-tron’s 5,699-pound curb weight is always present, meaning it drives big. Further highlighting the car’s focus on comfort is the steering, which is accurate but feels light and disconnected even in Sport mode.

Two electric motors power the e-tron with one on each axle. Combined, you have 355 hp and 414 lb-ft of torque on tap. Boost mode bumps the total output to 402 hp and 490 lb-ft momentarily. A 95-kWh battery with a usable capacity of 86.5 kWh is standard, giving the car a total range of 222 miles per charge according to the EPA. Despite the e-tron’s near three-ton curb weight, the e-tron moves effortlessly even outside of Boost mode. You always have power and it’s delivered instantaneously. It won’t pin you into your seats, but it’s still powerful enough to give you a good push and get you into highway speeds quickly.

Seamless transitions between regenerative and mechanical braking provide natural pedal operation even when you have to make an emergency stop. There are three levels of regenerative braking accessed via the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. They provide some degree of one-pedal driving but won’t bring you to a complete standstill. That means you need to step on the brake pedal to get the e-tron to stop. Thankfully, the strongest level of energy recuperation slows you down enough that you can rely on it to get down to city speeds as long as traffic situations permit.

2021 Audi e-tron charging

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The Audi e-tron can DC charge at a peak rate of 150 kW, allowing it to get back up to 80 percent in 30 minutes. A level 2 AC charger or 240-volt outlet can get you a full charge in 10.5 hours or overnight at rates of up to 9.6 kW.

2021 Audi e-tron pricing

The 2021 Audi e-tron starts at $66,995. Our test car, which included the Prestige package plus several stand-alone options cost $83,210. The e-tron is eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit plus available local and state incentives.

2021 Audi e-tron final verdict

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

There’s no mistaking that the 2021 Audi e-tron is a proper luxury crossover, only this time it’s electric. From the build quality to the attention to detail, you know you’re getting something premium. Add intuitive technologies to the mix and you get a family-friendly electric vehicle that doesn’t have a significant learning curve. If there’s one major quibble, it’d be the e-tron’s range. At 222 miles per charge, it’s on the low end of the spectrum. Thankfully, the e-tron charges reasonably quickly to get you back on the road sooner. For those that can make that work, you’ll have a genuine upscale EV with a Zen-like driving experience and top-shelf technology in an approachable package.

At a glance

  • Year: 2021
  • Make: Audi
  • Model: e-tron
  • Trim: Prestige
  • Type: 4-door mid-size crossover
  • Horsepower: 355 hp (Boost mode: 402)
  • Torque: 414 lb-ft (Boost mode: 490 lb-ft)
  • Range: 222 miles
  • Combined MPGe: 78
  • Pros: Luxurious interior, magic carpet ride, quick acceleration
  • Cons: Short range, lane-keeping assist corrections could be smoother, regenerative braking doesn’t bring you to a complete stop
  • Base price: $66,995
  • Price as tested: $83,210
Written by Stefan Ogbac
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