Audi Q6 e-tron (2023 prototype) review
Audi's new Q6 electric car is almost ready, and we've been driving an all-but-finished prototype.
James Fossdyke
James Fossdyke

Published on July 25, 2023

As any mathematician will tell you, there's quite a gap between four and eight. Which is why Audi is splitting the difference with the new Q6 e-tron. Sitting neatly between the Q4 e-tron and Q8 e-tron in the German brand's electric SUV range, it's the company's answer to the BMW iX3 and the Mercedes-Benz EQC. It isn't quite ready yet - Audi doesn't expect to launch the car properly until 2024 - but we had the opportunity to test drive a lightly disguised and somewhat unfinished prototype for size to get an idea of how the big hitter will stack up.

In the metal

Over the years, Audi has become a master of dazzle camouflage, and the company has put that expertise to good use in the Q6 e-tron prototype shown here. Although the camouflage looks light - there are no fake bumpers or shrouded headlights - the decals break up the lines quite effectively. Even so, it's clear to see the Q6 e-tron's basic shape, from the long wheelbase and short overhangs to the Q4-inspired roofline. And though Audi hasn't confirmed dimensions, it'll sit slap bang between the Q4 and Q8 e-tron models.

The more delicate lines are a little harder to make out, but the Q6 e-tron will almost certainly look and feel solid and clean, with a slightly curvaceous quality to it. But for all the effectiveness of the dazzle camouflage, some aspects are immediately obvious. There's the basic grille design, for example, and the lights, which have been unveiled in their entirety. And Audi is keen to talk about those lights, which use a development of the OLED technology found on the latest-generation Audi A8. The new tech comprises panels in the cluster that can adapt to the situation, while still maintaining the same luminance to comply with regulations.

That might sound simple, but it isn't. Audi hasn't confirmed exactly what will and won't come as standard, but the Q6 e-tron will be available with different levels of light functionality. Basic cars are expected to get 'conventional' taillights with a Q6 e-tron-specific signature, while upgraded versions will offer a choice of different light signatures, which will be controlled using an app or the car's touchscreen.

But the system is even cleverer than that. If you stand or drive too close to the rear bumper, the light signature will change from the chosen design to solid blocks of red, and if the driver turns the hazard lights on, the design will change to display a red triangle to provide even more warning to drivers behind. Similarly, the lights will do much the same thing if the navigation system knows about an upcoming hazard, and the car will use its lights to alert passing cars when the car is parked, or when the driver is opening the door.

And Audi isn't just planning to stick fresh technology in the Q6 e-tron's light clusters. The interior will be something of a departure for Audi, too, although the company hasn't officially revealed it yet. While the cabin of our test car was comprehensively covered over, we have seen some of the displays and a clear indication of how the new dash is likely to look.

Audi is planning to clean up the design of the Q6 e-tron's cabin, but the quality on which the company's reputation is based will doubtless remain. The exposed parts of our test car's interior all felt really solid and upmarket, while the switchgear was largely robust. However, there were issues with the controls on the steering wheel and door panels, where Audi has eschewed conventional buttons in favour of haptic panels. As in the Volkswagen cars that already use similar tech, the switches are too easy to press accidentally, and though they might make the car look modern, they feel a little cheap.

More promising is the selection of screens that dominate the Q6 e-tron's cabin. There's a new digital instrument display that builds on the solid foundations of Audi's existing, highly configurable and much-vaunted Virtual Cockpit technology, and there are two other screens in there. Chief among those is the main touchscreen, which is wide enough to almost meet the instrument display, and also houses the new touchscreen climate control system. From our brief interactions with it, the screen feels sharp and responsive, but we'd still rather use proper buttons to adjust the temperature or switch on the (remarkably effective) heated seats.

Tech isn't all that marks out the Q6 e-tron's cabin, either, because there's a generous amount of space in there. Huge amounts of legroom make it every bit as practical as an Audi A6, if not more so, and the headroom is just as good as, if not better than, that of the Q8 e-tron. The forthcoming, fastback-inspired Sportback version might not be so generously proportioned, but the conventional model is shaping up nicely. Whether it's had to borrow from the boot to do that remains to be seen - Audi still hasn't published the boot volume - but a quick look inside suggested it would be more than spacious enough. And it'll be combined with a 'frunk' under the bonnet.

Driving it

As befits the e-tron suffix, the Q6 e-tron will only be offered in electric form, with the '50' and '55' models joined by an SQ6 e-tron when the car is revealed later this year. After that, a less powerful '45' version will join the line-up to create an entry-level option, while a high-performance RS Q6 e-tron will be unmasked at the end of 2024.

Which of those variants will come to Ireland remains to be seen, but the '55' model we tested is set to come to right-hand-drive markets. When it does, it'll be powered by a 100kWh battery and two electric motors - one on each axle. Together, they will produce around 400hp and provide all-wheel drive, allowing the Q6 e-tron to get from 0-100km/h in less than six seconds.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the electric SUV will cover more than 600km on a single charge according to the official WLTP economy test. We suspect it won't achieve that in the real world, but even on a bitter day and single-figure temperatures, our test car offered a range in the region of 400km from an almost-full battery. Whether that will still be the case when the production car arrives is unknown, but it's a positive start.

That range is partly down to the new Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture on which the Q6 e-tron and the forthcoming electric Porsche Macan will be based. Audi won't say whether other brands such as Bentley, Volkswagen and Lamborghini will also use it, but the German company didn't rule it out, either.

Whatever, the system permits charging at up to 270kW - the same speed achieved by the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT - and that means it'll be able to add 250km of theoretical range in just 10 minutes at maximum DC charging speed.

The PPE also allows Audi to ensure the Q6 e-tron drives very well indeed. It isn't quite up to Porsche levels - Audi isn't trying to tread on its sibling company's toes - but the prototypes offered an impressive balance of comfort and handling. With air suspension all round, the car soaks up bumps with dismissive ease, particularly in its softest 'Comfort' setting. And that's despite our test car running 21-inch alloy wheels, which Audi claims make the car less comfortable than when it rides on the standard 20-inch rims.

The trade-off for that, however, is apparently slightly sharper handling. Audi admits it's trying to add a sportier edge to its cars, and the 'Dynamic' mode provides that. In its sportiest setting, the car grips tenaciously and feels impressively stable, even if that comes with a slightly firmer suspension setting. Of course, it's still heavy, and the steering still feels a bit unfinished with an inconsistent change in sensations away from the straight-ahead position, but it doesn't lean too much, and the power delivery is slightly rear-biased, giving it a bit more poise as you accelerate out of corners.

Our greatest praise, however, is reserved for the brakes, which have the tricky task of balancing conventional hydraulic braking with the regenerative braking of the electric motors. Often, manufacturers can struggle to balance the transition between the two, with inconsistent pedal feel and jerky braking as a result, but the Audi uses brake-by-wire technology to smooth out the pedal feel. The brakes just need a small squeeze to stop the car quickly, and that makes them feel really dependable and reassuring.

Refinement is a strong suit, too, although the Q6 e-tron is still in the development stage. While Audi might not have ironed out all the systems, it has ensured the Q6 e-tron feels smooth at any speed, while the motors and tyres are reasonably quiet. It's hardly silent, but it isn't noisy, either.

What you get for your money

Audi is yet to confirm Q6 e-tron prices and specifications for Ireland, but the car is expected to roughly split the difference between the Q8 e-tron and Q4 e-tron. That could mean a starting price in the region of €85,000, but we'll update this section when we know for sure.


Given we only tested a prototype Q6 e-tron, our findings are no more than first impressions, but we all know how important they can be. Fortunately, the Audi Q6 e-tron shows plenty of promise, from its supple ride to its spacious interior and from its smart design to the ample performance. If the price is right and the tech works as it should, the Q6 will have no problem competing with the most accomplished cars in this class, and it might even be the new front-runner.


Tech Specs

Model testedAudi Q6 e-tron 55 pre-production prototype
Powertrainelectric - two electric motors and lithium-ion battery pack of 100kWh capacity
Transmissionautomatic - single-speed, all-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions0g/km
Irish motor tax€120
Max charging speed270kW on DC
Charging port typeCCS combo
0-100km/h<6.0 seconds
Max power400hp (with overboost)
Rivals to the Q6 e-tron (2023 prototype)