LOS ANGELES, CALIF. When Dieselgate made headlines in 2014, it fundamentally changed how the Volkswagen Group and its sub-brands, from Volkswagen to Lamborghini, thought about cars. Diesel took a big black spot and electric vehicles got a much-needed bump in the race for a more sustainable way to meet the ever-growing demand for personal transportation.
The scandal accelerated Volkswagen’s goal to go all-electric by 2033 and encouraged investment in a US network of EV chargers (which still leave much to be desired), but the rollout of the EVs themselves has been slow to say the least.
Audi, one of the VW group’s luxury carmakers, has been slowly rolling out a series of new EVs that started with the e-tron SUV, the e-tron Sportback and the e-tron GT sport tourer and most recently the Q4 e includes. -tron in both typical crossover and Sportback form. The Q4 e-tron was announced in February 2021 and was originally slated to debut in mid to late 2021.
Fast-forward through the current state of affairs in the world, and Audi’s entry-level crossover is just only are starting to arrive in the United States. The delays were a direct result of everything from the ongoing war in Ukraine to pandemic-induced chip shortages. While it’s odd to drive a 2022 model for the first time in July 2022, the short time we spent with the compact crossover on the roads around Malibu, California, and again with a Sportback version around the sprawl of Los Angeles, that it was worth the wait.
A platform shared with the Volkswagen ID.4
We spent three short hours around the hills of Malibu and Topanga Canyon on a sunny afternoon in July on some of the very early builds of the 2022 Audi Q4 50 e-tron in the mid-range Premium Plus trim. All Q4 e-trons in the US are called “Q4 50 e-trons”, but there are three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. The 2022 Audi Q4 50 e-tron will have a battery pack with a capacity of 82 kWh (77 kWh usable – the same as the Volkswagen ID.4) and an EPA-estimated battery range of up to 388 km. Audi says both the crossover and Sportback version will go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. An asynchronous motor at the front and a permanent synchronous motor at the rear offer four-wheel drive as standard for the entire lineup, with 295 hp (220 kW) and 339 lb-ft (460 Nm).
With the basic Premium equipment, you get a host of luxury amenities, including three-zone automatic climate control, leather seating surfaces, uniquely shaped interior armrests that conveniently hold a water bottle, Audi’s 10.1-inch MMI infotainment touchscreen and a fantastic digital instrument TROS. You also get Audi’s suite of safety technology, including Audi pre-sense basic and front collision system and Audi side assist with cross-traffic assist, Lane Departure Warning and a rear view camera with a washer system. You also get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, as well as uniquely configurable LED headlights. When the car is equipped with the Matrix headlights of the Prestige Plus version, you can adjust the daytime running light pattern via the MMI system with just a few taps in the menu.
A pair of paddles is subtly nestled behind the wheel and they control the regenerative braking system. The left paddle decreases regenerative braking, while the right paddle increases it, to two levels higher than just roll-out, on every pull. As soon as you pull the paddle, the brake regeneration is set until you turn off the Q4 e-tron, after which it returns to the lowest level. You can also use the toggle switch on the floating center console to put the Q4 e-tron into B mode, which is the most aggressive rain setting to yield single-pedal riding and proves perfect for the grueling LA traffic along the Pacific Coast highway. B mode brings you to a complete stop when you release the accelerator pedal.
Regardless of equipment, all Q4 e-trons sit on steel springs with adaptive dampers and do not get the option of Audi’s air suspension; this would significantly increase the cost of the entry-level crossover, and frankly, it doesn’t need it. The vehicle over 2,180 kg needs no additional cushioning, whether you are driving on a winding canyon road or on a flat stretch of highway with the adaptive cruise control engaged. As expected, cornering is relatively flat and the adjustable single-pedal braking system is easy to use. The paddles seem a bit pointless though, as the different rain levels are almost barely noticeable in D mode and won’t add more rain if you’re already in B mode.