The quietest car I have ever driven

Doctor on the Road: Audi e-tron

Doctors after amazing levels of comfort and refinement in a high-quality package should take a close look at this electric offering, recommends our tester Dr Tony Rimmer.

When providing services, independent medical practitioners know that reliable high-quality delivery counts hugely to build up a reputation for excellence. 

Once achieved, this position needs to be constantly reviewed and any new patient assessments and/or treatments need to meet these high standards.

In the automotive world, premium brand Audi is well known for producing cars of superior build quality across all their models and it continues to outshine rivals such as BMW and Mercedes in this respect. 

So, when it came to launching its first all-electric model, the e-tron, the car had to be right from the start. Being a premium brand, it was logical to launch an electric vehicle to compete with the market leaders, Tesla.

An Audi Q5-sized SUV, the e-tron is available with a 71-kWh battery in the 50 model and a 95-kWh battery in the 55 model. Power outputs are 313bhp and 408bhp respectively. 

Both have quattro four-wheel drive and air suspension is standard. There are two slightly different body styles on offer: the standard SUV and the Sportback SUV. The Sportback has a sloping coupé style that slightly reduces the boot-space and the rear headroom by a couple of centimeters.

Mirror stalks

My test car was a Sportback 55 S-line, which retails at £79,185 before options. This may seem expensive, but the Tesla Model X starts from £82,980. As with all German premium cars, it is easy to add a few thousand pounds to the final cost if you delve into the options list too freely. 

My test car was £89,470 in total. One expensive option I could not get used to was the £1,250 virtual door mirror package. Small cameras extended on slender stalks from each front door.

They may be aerodynamically efficient, but the position of their images on screens at each end of the dashboard did not feel natural at all. This is interesting, because a similar set-up I tried while testing the little Honda ‘e’ felt much more intuitive.

When you first approach the e-tron it does seem like a big car from the outside; almost Range-Rover-sized. In its favour, the Sportback bodyshell is quite stylish and certainly reduces the ‘big and boxy’ SUV look of its sister. 

Up-market feel

It does look classy and very much an Audi. Step inside and you are greeted by the familiar high quality of the brand. The seats, interior trim and electronic dashboard have a very up-market feel and you start to understand where all the money has gone.

A ten-minute ‘fill-up’ at a fast charger could add up to 60 miles of range

Because the e-tron is not based on a dedicated electric-only platform – like Volkswagen’s iD3, for instance – interior space is not as great as you would expect for a car that is this long and wide. 

It is good but can only accommodate four or five passengers despite its bulk. The rear headroom compromise in the Sportback will only affect passengers over 6’2”. The battery is under the floor of the whole car, so boot space is perfectly adequate.

It is the smooth, silent and effortless driving that marks out all electric cars and the e-tron is no exception. Indeed, with its £500 acoustic double-glazed side windows and standard air-suspension, this e-tron offers the most comfortable and quiet limousine-like travel of any car I have ever driven. A journey of any length will leave you fresh and relaxed.

However, you cannot deny the substantial 2.5 tonne weight, so performance is swift rather than Tesla-fast. I am a great fan of regenerative braking and, fortunately, you can dial it up on the e-tron to allow near ‘one-pedal only’ driving level.

Handling, although compromised by the car’s mass, is reasonably controlled by the clever air suspension, but this is no sports-car. We will have to wait for the Porsche Taycan-like e-tron GT to see if an electric Audi can deliver on this front.

Useful feature

As far as charging is concerned, the e-tron can accept fast charging at rates up to 150kW, so a quick ten-minute ‘fill-up’ at a fast charger – if you can find one –could add up to 60 miles of range. 

A useful feature are the dual charging points on both front wings

A useful feature are the dual charging points on the front wings so it does not matter which side of the car is parked next to an external charger. 

Unfortunately, this large car is generally not that efficient and although Audi quotes a range of up to 277 miles, a real-world range of around 200–220 miles is more realistic. 

So, should the keen electric-convert medic consider the e-tron? Well, as a well-made premium alternative to the ubiquitous Tesla Models S and X, I would suggest you take a good look. 

The e-tron offers amazing levels of comfort and refinement in a high-quality Audi package. It is practical and the range is reasonable. Electric vehicles have got a long way to go, but this is not a bad starting point.

Dr Tony Rimmer (right) is a former NHS GP practising in Guildford, Surrey