2022 Audi e-tron S review

This German maker has upped the ante with its newest electric vehicle that brings jaw-dropping performance in an Australian first.

Most EVs have one or two electric motors. Audi’s e-Tron S and its sleeker Sportback sibling are the first with three e-motors.

That extra motor delivers some jaw-dropping performance numbers – 370kW of power and 973Nm of torque – for the first EVs to wear Audi’s sporty S badge.

The e-Tron S starts at about $182,000 drive-away, which is a circa-$20,000 jump over the 55 model that gets the same larger capacity battery. With its more sharply raked roofline, the Sportback costs about $7000 more but loses 45 litres of luggage space. Cleaner aerodynamics means it ekes a few kays more range: a claimed 347km versus the SUV’s 344km.

Included in the price is a home charging kit, six years of charging on the Chargefox network and six years/90,000km of servicing.

Standard equipment includes air suspension, 21-inch wheels, smart-key entry, leather, wireless phone charging and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The instrument cluster is digital and is teamed with twin central screens that control ventilation and infotainment.

There’s a swag of safety and driver assist tech, including blind-spot warning and auto emergency braking.

The S adds to the standard e-Tron trinkets with a head-up display, Valcona leather, tinted windows, quad-zone ventilation and a 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Those wanting to spend more can replace the exterior mirrors with cameras or choose new digital matrix LED headlights, which have 1.3 million “micro-mirrors” to accurately direct the beam and blank out other vehicles. They also project funky graphics on the road on start-up. Other tweaks include wheel arch flares and brake calipers painted orange.

But the big news with the S is what’s going on beneath the skin. The single electric motor up front is the same used on dual-motor e-Trons, but at the rear there’s a new smaller motor for each wheel.

They help make the S the swiftest of the e-Tron SUVs. Audi knows a thing or two about torquey SUVs, but the e-Tron S delivers it very differently. Rather than pausing for turbos to start huffing and a gearbox to sort itself out, the e-Tron S thrusts you back in the seat within milliseconds of punching the accelerator.

Select Sport mode and it unleashes more power (taking the peak from 320kW to the full 370kW), in turn lowering the 0-100km/h dash to 4.5 seconds. It’s never short of pull, even for country road overtaking.

There’s more enthusiasm than regular e-Trons, but other than a jolt on full throttle take-offs it stops short of feeling ballistic in its thrust. Some whining on light throttle or when coasting intrudes into what is otherwise a hushed cabin.

Paddle shifters provide the choice of three levels of brake regeneration that help drivers avoid using the brake pedal on gentle stops.

Extra performance means you’ll have to charge more often, as the e-Tron S is only good for about 340km between charges. DC fast charging is among the best in the business, though. It can boost the 86.5kWh battery from 5 to 80 per cent in half an hour.

The tri-motor setup also brings benefits elsewhere. Each rear wheel is driven independently, allowing the removal of the differential. Clever software delivers more torque to the outside wheel to help point the nose and maintain mid-corner composure.

It adds to the talents of an SUV that relishes some twisty blacktop, steering with poise and clawing the road tenaciously.

More impressive is the way it soothes bumps. Even with the dampers set at their firmest there’s thoroughly respectable comfort.

Audi predicts this most expensive e-Tron model will be the most popular. A step up in performance, additional gadgets and a rewarding driving performance mean the e-Tron S is the icing on the cake for the brand’s growing EV range.

VERDICT 3.5/5

More spice and smarts than the standard e-Tron but you pay a premium for the privilege.

AUDI E-TRON S VITALS

Price: From about $182,000 drive-away

Warranty/servicing: 5 yrs/unlimited km, included for 6 yrs/90,000km

Safety: 6 airbags, auto emergency braking, lane-keep, intersection turn and blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert, attention assist

Motor: 3 electric motors, 370kW and 973Nm

Range: 344km (SUV), 347km (Sportback)

Spare: space-saver

Luggage: 615-660 liters

Originally published as 2022 Audi e-tron S review