Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron overview
If there's one thing that the Q4 Sportback e-tron achieves, it helps Audi fill as many SUV niches as possible. Like the Q3 and Q5, plus the recently renamed Q8 e-tron, the Q4 e-tron now comes as a regular SUV or as a Sportback.
As its name suggests, the Q4 e-tron slots between the Q3 and Q5 in the SUV line-up, and is the smallest all-electric model that it builds. Currently the only other Audi EVs for sale are the Q8 e-tron large SUV and e-tron GT sports saloon, although the medium-sized Q6 e-tron is scheduled to appear in 2023.
This Sportback is very similar to the standard Q4 e-tron, but gets a new rear end, with a narrower rear window and lowered roof line, and Audi adds around €2,000 to the list price. The Q4 is based on the Volkswagen Group's MEB electric vehicle platform, so it uses the same running gear as the Skoda Enyaq and VW ID.4. Just like Audi, both of these firms offer coupe variants of their electric SUVs, the Enyaq Coupe and VW ID.5, respectively.
These cars are rivals for the Q4 e-tron, although they aren't quite as expensive, while other options include the Tesla Model Y, Volvo C40/XC40, Mercedes EQA and even the Polestar 2, although the latter isn't really an SUV.
Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron model range
The Q4 Sportback e-tron range starts from €51,700 after incentives have been deducted. This gets you an e-tron 35 model, which features a 52kWh battery (that's the usable capacity) for a range of up to 357km and a 170hp electric motor driving the rear wheels. Above that is the e-tron 40, which features a larger (77kWh) battery with a range of up to 529km and a rear-mounted motor with 204hp. At the top of the range is the e-tron 50 quattro. This has the same 77kWh battery as the e-tron 40, but adds a front-mounted electric motor for four-wheel drive and a maximum output of 299hp. It has a range of 503km. This top-spec model closes out the line-up at a hefty €73,015.
It's worth noting that the Sportback models can travel slightly further than the standard Q4 on a full charge. The Sportback's lower roof line helps it to cut through the air a little more cleanly, which adds between 7- and 14km to the range, depending on the model you're looking at.
Unlike the standard Q4 e-tron, the Sportback version doesn't come in entry-level Advance trim, which is why its starting prices are significantly higher. The two trim options are Sport and S line, which emphasise the Sportback's position as a racier alternative to the standard Q4.
Sport models feature a long list of equipment, including 19-inch alloy wheels, LED lights front and rear with a unique daytime running light signature, adaptive cruise control, heated front sports seats, a touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, DAB radio, remote services and smartphone connectivity, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking, lane assist and a host of other safety features.
Above that, the S line model gets unique exterior styling, firmer sports suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels, different sports seats with synthetic leather inserts, S line interior trim and LED ambient cabin lighting.
The model breakdown sees the e-tron 35 and 40 models available in Sport and S line trims, while the e-tron 50 quattro is exclusively an S line car.
Both trims can be upgraded with options such as matrix LED headlights, along with auto main beam, privacy glass, a panoramic roof, heat pump and heated windscreen, among others, although having a heated steering wheel as an option seems a bit stingy on such a premium model.
As already mentioned, the Q4 Sportback carries a premium of around €2,000 over the standard Q4 e-tron, while the Skoda Enyaq and VW ID.5 are around €5,000 less while offering similar specs.
Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron interior
From the outside, the Q4 Sportback e-tron doesn't look like a dramatic departure from the standard model. The most obvious difference between the two versions is the Sportback's roofline, which arcs its way to the rear of the car, resulting in smaller rear side windows. The upshot is that interior space isn't really compromised by the different body style.
Since the Q4 uses VW's bespoke MEB electric car platform, it means that while the car is roughly the size of an Audi Q3, it has space inside to match the larger Q5. And with it comes a cabin layout that will be familiar to anybody that has driven an Audi from the current line-up, so the transition to electrification will be about as familiar as it can get.
That means interior quality is first-rate, with plenty of soft materials and high-quality switchgear. The steering wheel looks curious, with a flat top and bottom, but in reality it's no harder to use than a conventional wheel, while the Virtual Cockpit dials ahead of it are still a high-tech addition. The cabin layout places a large 11.6-inch touchscreen front and centre - although curiously Skoda offers an even larger screen in the Enyaq - while there are a bank of physical controls beneath that operate the climate system.
There are lots of storage options inside. That protruding centre console creates some useful storage space, and there's a cleverly designed bottle holder located in the passenger door, too. Deep door bins and a useful storage cubby underneath the central armrest also feature.
Passenger space is another cabin highlight. Thanks to that MEB platform, the Q4 has a flat floor, while space in the back is impressive for three. Choosing the Sportback version doesn't really compromise space, either, since the sloping roof largely tapers behind the passenger compartment. Rear access is fine, so fitting child seats to the two sets of ISOFIX points in the rear is no hassle.
According to Audi's figures, the Q4 Sportback isn't compromised when it comes to boot space, either. There's 535 litres of space to the window line in five-seat mode, which is actually 15 litres more than in the standard Q4 e-tron, and 1,460 litres with the back seats folded, although this is 30 litres short of the regular model. There is a bit less boot space than you'll find in the Enyaq, but under-floor storage boosts the Q4's versatility slightly.
Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron driving experience
The main difference between the Q4 Sportback and the standard car is the more sloped rear end, but from behind the wheel it doesn't impact on rear visibility too badly. There's no rear wiper like you'll find on the regular Q4 e-tron, but then the Sportback's aerodynamics should help to keep the rear screen clear. As it stands, all Sportback models come with a rear camera and all-round parking sensors, so low-speed manoeuvres are straightforward.
The Sportback body might lead some buyers to believe that they're getting a sportier drive than the standard Q4 e-tron, but the reality is that they're pretty much identical from behind the wheel. The oddly-shaped steering wheel is fine to hold, but it's connected to a variable-ratio rack that's a little slow in its responses and doesn't deliver much in the way of feedback. Still, the car's front end feels better keyed into the road than its Skoda and VW cousins.
Overall the Q4 Sportback doesn't offer much in the way of driver engagement. While it's rear-wheel drive, the set-up is designed to be safe, so while switching the traction control off does cause the car to slide when it's provoked, the lack of feel from the chassis means it's not an enjoyable experience.
There is a slightly firm edge to the ride that sees the Q4 Sportback bobble about on poorer surfaces, but overall the Audi majors on comfort and refinement. It's very smooth at motorway speeds and whisper quiet around town, bar the automatic exterior sound generator that lets other road users know about your presence.
The e-tron 40 model we tried produces adequate performance. As with other MEB-based cars, the electric motor delivers a healthy shot of acceleration off the line, but it peters out the faster you go. This does help with energy use, though, and we saw a best of 17kWh per 100km during our time with the car, although this dropped to 23kWh/100km overall in the cold winter temperatures of our test.
Our verdict on the Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron
For many buyers, there will seem to be little point in paying more for the Q4 Sportback e-tron over the VW and Skoda equivalents, but that's missing the point - after all, how many people have picked an A3 over a Golf through the years? The Q4 e-tron certainly lives up to the Audi badge in terms of prestige, comfort and quality, and it fits even better on the more stylish Sportback model. That in itself comes with very few compromises, meaning it makes for a useful electric car with plenty of space and a decent electric powertrain.