Following on from the large e-tron SUV and the sporty e-tron GT electric cars, it's time for Audi to roll up its sleeves and get serious about selling lots of EVs. Enter the Q4 e-tron, a compact SUV that hits the sweet spot in terms of pricing and size for Irish buyers. And while the Q4 e-tron shares a lot with its Volkswagen and Skoda cousins, it would appear that Audi has stolen a march on its premium rivals to offer an electric SUV of this size and price. So, what's it like?
In the Metal:
A distinctive blanked-off 'grille' shape up front is one of the few visual clues to the fact that you're looking at a new electric Audi. Otherwise, the Q4 e-tron is quite conventional in design, or rather, conventional Audi, as you'll not mistake it for anything else.
That's no bad thing of course, as Audi's SUVs are quite handsome, and the Q4 e-tron snugly fits in the range between the current Q3 and Q5. As ever, the S line model is the sportiest looking, thanks to larger alloy wheels and other design details, though 19-inch alloys are the smallest fitted across the range.
All versions get roof rails and LED lights all-round, though you'll need to upgrade to the Matrix LED headlights to get sweeping indicators and the full-width rear light bar.
Having seen the Q4 e-tron in daylight, we'd suggest that its attractiveness is quite dependent on paint colour, specification and wheel size, so take your time with the configurator. It's a little disappointing to see such a bland palette of paint colours offered, however.
The interior is more universally appealing, and again, it's straight from the established Audi playbook. Nonetheless, there is a new steering wheel. Not only does it have a flattened bottom, it's also flat on top, which we initially had reservations about. On the move, though, it works fine, and some will like the feel of it when manoeuvring, too.
Whatever about that, we really approve of the thinness of the steering wheel rim, a welcome departure from ever-thickening rims elsewhere in the industry.
Behind the wheel is the expected digital set of instruments, with various views to choose from, while Audi will offer an augmented reality head-up display as an option, as well.
The Q4 e-tron's central touchscreen can be as large as 11.6 inches across the diagonal, while the climate control switchgear is neatly clustered underneath. This is vastly preferable to the clunky extra touchscreen found in the likes of the Audi A6.
And Audi has made exceptionally good use of the space freed up. A 'floating' console holds the drive selector, start-stop button and a few other controls close to hand, allowing for buckets of storage space underneath. This features USB ports and a wireless phone charger depending on options.
Between the seats are two cupholders and another storage area under the armrest, while a particularly clever door card design allows for easy access to large bottles.
Those that were expecting the Q4 e-tron to sacrifice rear-cabin space in the name of style may be surprised to learn that its back seats are just as spacious as those in the Skoda Enyaq and Volkswagen ID.4. That is to say, there's loads of legroom for three adults and, depending on their design, you may get three child seats or boosters in - though there are only two sets of ISOFIX mountings.
The boot is usefully commodious, too, holding 520 litres with all seats occupied, and there's a big underfloor storage section that could be used for charging cables. You can tumble the rear seat backs forward in various combinations to open up the space for larger loads.
Before a wheel turns, it's easy to get comfortable in the driver's seat of the Q4 e-tron. There's plenty of adjustment in the seat, wheel and mirrors and visibility in all directions is quite good.
Although the Q4 shares its electric powertrain and its key dimensions with the ID.4 and Enyaq, Audi has managed to put its own stamp on how it drives. It feels smaller and more agile, somehow.
That could be a lot to do with the standard fitment of 'progressive steering', which is Audi-speak for variable ratio. It means that, the further away from straight ahead that you turn the wheel, the quicker the steering becomes. It's subtle, but it can make a car feel nimble in the corners.
Other than that, the Q4 brilliantly balances excellent body control with decent comfort. And to that is added premium level refinement, even allowing for the fact that an electric powertrain is always quiet.
The '40' model gets a 150kW motor, which means up to 204hp, along with 310Nm of torque from rest. It's pleasingly rapid in an effortless manner and, though the motor turns the rear wheels only, the traction is exceptionally well managed.
This version also gets the bigger of two batteries available, allowing for an official range of up to 511 kilometres in Advance specification. Audi quotes an average energy consumption figure of 17.3kWh/100km and, over two hours of mixed-road driving, with the air conditioning in use, we got close to that with no effort at all.
What you get for your Money:
Irish pricing for the Audi Q4 e-tron starts at €41,465 on-the-road. That price includes all incentives open to private buyers of electric vehicles (as of July 1), and a €1,750 fee for 'delivery and service plan'.
The base model, badged '35', features a 51.5kWh battery and 170hp electric motor. Its battery can be charged at up to 110kW with a DC charger and the maximum range between charges is 335km.
Both 35 and 40 can be ordered in Advance, Sport and S line specifications. The minimum equipment level includes heated front seats, that new steering wheel, rear parking sensors, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth and more.
Audi Ireland expects the Q4 e-tron Sport to be the most popular trim level. Amongst other things, it adds upgraded door mirrors with auto folding and puddle light projectors, unique exterior detailing, 'sport' seats, electric-opening tailgate, a reversing camera and adaptive cruise control. Prices for the Sport start at €47,064 in '35' spec.
The best-looking variant is the S line, adding 20-inch alloys and a sportier exterior look, S-embossed sport seats - upholstered in a mix of synthetic leather and fabric - and sport suspension.
Incidentally, the entry-level Advance 40 Q4 e-tron is priced at €51,850.
In September this year, Audi Ireland will launch the Q4 e-tron Sportback with a more raked design to its rear, while a quattro four-wheel-drive variant with an extra drive motor and up to 299hp will debut in time for 2022 registrations.
If you only compare the Audi Q4 e-tron with its Skoda and VW siblings, it looks a little expensive, but ever has it been thus in the Volkswagen Group, and the Q4 undoubtedly feels like a premium product. Looking elsewhere in the segment, there aren't many other all-electric compact SUVs that mix badge kudos with decent value for money. For now, Audi tops the lot.