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The Audi e-tron may be an all-electric SUV that's more suited for city driving, but what about a 350km long road trip in New Zealand? Will it succeed then?

06 Dec 2019

You can't say you have visited New Zealand if a road trip wasn't part of your itinerary. From winding mountain roads to tremendous landscapes, there is something for everyone.

The choice of car doesn't matter, either. With most attractions accessible with well-paved roads, you'll never be missing out be it in a campervan or a low-slung coupe. But what about an electric car?

Road trippin' with the Audi e-tron

Been on holiday in New Zealand and didn't do a road trip? Well, you're missing out
The all-electric Audi e-tron is quite a big deal for Audi. It is the first mass produced electric car from the brand, and is perhaps the biggest thing since the inception of its quattro all-wheel drive system in 1980.

Despite the big push for electrification from governments and manufacturers alike, a task like a long road trip brings about the biggest Achilles heel for the electric car - range.

But with the range of all-electric cars getting longer, and charging times shorter, a road trip with an electric car isn't far out of the realm of possibility anymore. But still, the question about its range lingers in our heads.

Can it do it?

Audi also says the e-tron just needs 10 minutes with a fast charger for an additional 100km in range
The Audi e-tron offers a range of 328km, according to the Worldwide Harmonised Test Procedure (WLTP).

Plus, with a fast DC charger, Audi says the e-tron can charge to full in under an hour, with 80% of charge completed in 30 minutes.

With some 400km of driving spread over two days, with ample time to charge overnight, it isn't an impossible task. Unless of course, you have a heavy foot.

On to the drive, then

Our first day of the road trip consists of a drive north from Auckland city, to the Tawharanui peninsula for lunch - some 70km of driving - easily accomplished by the e-tron. We could've gone directly, but what is the point of a road trip if you're not enjoying the journey? Instead of going straight to our destination, we took a scenic detour, which was around 150km to our lunch stop.

When we got into the e-tron, the car showed a range of 334km - very close to WLTP ratings. But with uncertain traffic and road conditions (and not forgetting the trip back), it was time to find out if the Audi electric car's range was up to the task.

A leisurely pace

The Audi e-tron displayed an estimated all-electric range of 334km, which is more than enough for the day's journey
Out of Auckland and into the countryside, the Audi e-tron's road tripping properties are apparent. The biggest highlight has to be how quiet it is.

Without an internal combustion engine, there is none of the vibrations or harshness associated to it. At most, a gentle whir of the electric motors comes into the cabin, which is pleasing to say the least.

Adding on to the pleasurable ride is the e-tron's air suspension system. It sort of like a magic carpet ride, and is incredibly supple yet not too wallowy around bends.

These are certainly qualities that take the pains away from driving long distance, allowing you to soak in the views (which are plenty in New Zealand) and your playlist of choice without much interruption.

After some two hours behind the wheel we reached our lunch spot. With the e-tron's range indicating some 170km left, it meant that there wasn't a need to pop by a charging station before turning back to Auckland. And we made it, without any range anxiety kicking in.

We're not done yet...

With just under 100km to cover in the second day and range anxiety at bay, we stretched the e-tron's legs a little
With doubts about e-tron's range cleared from our heads from the first day, the second day of the road trip was when we pushed the electric car a little more spiritedly.

Now, spirited driving and an SUV seldom mix well. But here's where the e-tron is a little different from your run-of-the-mill SUV. Yes, it has to do with the fact that it is electric.

With a 700kg battery, the e-tron is no featherweight. In fact, it weighs almost 2.5 tonnes in total.

But where that weight goes is important. Sporting a battery that sits low to the floor and electric motors on each wheel, the e-tron offers a low centre of gravity, offering a dynamic driving experience.

So while it might not offer the acoustics of a thumping combustion engine, the e-tron certainly can carve a corner much better than most might expect on this side of SUVs.

Look ma, no brakes!

Long downhill sections of road are easily managed with brake recuperation, controlled via the paddle shifters
At that weight and height, shedding speed might bring out some concerns. But in the e-tron, there really isn't any need to do so unless you're coming to a complete stop.

The e-tron's regenerative braking system feels natural, akin to engine braking.

You can even toggle the amount of recuperation via the paddle shifters, which in all makes it feel very much like a regular car.

Plus, it gets the range up. Despite having a more aggressive foot this time, we were consuming about 27kWh for every 100km - a similar amount of electrical consumption compared to the first day.

Audi e-tron: Road trip ready

The answer? Yes, you can in fact do a road trip in an all-electric vehicle, but it has to be the Audi e-tron
Here's the biggest point we learnt driving the e-tron on this road trip. It is a car, through and through.

Manufacturers are constantly obsessed about making a futuristic car that shouts of its all-electric properties. But the e-tron isn't any one of those. Put a Q5 or Q7 badge instead of an e-tron, and you could probably fool even keen-eyed car folks that this isn't an electric car.

Like how range anxiety never crept up throughout the drive, you will always forget that this is an electric car. That isn't a bad thing, because it does the job of a well-rounded car so well.

And for the first time, you can be enjoying the natural New Zealand landscape on a road trip, without leaving a trail of emissions behind.

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