When watching movies or TV, one of my favorite things to see is a guest or a supporting actor step into a role and then complement the story (and its the stars whose names are on the marquee) beautifully. Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain, for example, or Glenn Close on The Simpsons. Or even Heath Ledger, whose cold and measured Joker upstaged Batman at every turn in The Dark Knight.
Luckily for the all-electric 2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron, it leaves an impression more like Zellweger’s lovable Ruby or Close’s winsome Mona Simpson than the sinister clown with the smile-shaped scars. Acting alongside the headline-grabbing RS E-Tron GT, the Q4 E-Tron is much less dynamic, but it also carries far more mass appeal thanks to its trim, understated design and practical crossover shape. Audi calls the Q4 E-Tron accessible and premium, and after a day driving the SUV family's sleek Sportback variant around Southern California, I’m inclined to agree.
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|Quick Stats||2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron Sportback Prestige|
|Motor||Front Asynchronous / Rear Permanent-Magnet Synchronous|
|Output||295 Horsepower / 339 Pound-Feet|
|Price As Tested||$66,690|
The 2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron comes with one of two powertrains. The standard, single-motor rear-wheel drive version has 201 horsepower, and although Audi doesn’t publish torque for that model, I’d bet it has the same 229 pound-feet as the rear-drive Volkswagen ID.4 with which it shares a platform, motors, and battery.
Spring for dual-motor all-wheel drive on the Audi and you’ll get 295 hp and 339 lb-ft, good for a sprint to 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds. An 82.0-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery (77.9-kWh net usable) comes standard, which gives the rear-drive Q4 265 miles of EPA-rated range. The dual-motor Q4 will go 236 miles as a conventional SUV or 242 miles as a slightly more aerodynamic Sportback (all of which are Quattro models).
Audi didn’t have any single-motor Q4 E-Trons for me to sample during my day in foggy Oceanside, California, so I took the wheel of a Sportback Quattro and pointed my way toward some twisty roads. Before hitting the curves, my route took me up a relatively traffic-clogged freeway, where I set the Q4’s selectable brake regeneration to its maximum “B” mode using the gear selector. Unfortunately, you still have to touch the brake pedal to come to a complete stop. Why automakers don’t at least allow drivers the option to regenerate as much energy as possible is beyond me, especially since one-pedal driving is pretty easy to get used to.
That complaint out of the way, I began to appreciate the Q4 E-Tron’s smoother, quieter ride relative to the Volkswagen ID.4 with which it shares most of its mechanical bits. The suspension feels taut, but never harsh, and there’s less road noise that makes its way into the cabin. The asynchronous front electric motor improves response at higher speeds relative to a more common permanently synchronous design – I’m not sure I noticed, but the Q4 is quick enough for most folks (if not as blazingly fast as the Genesis GV60 Performance, which holds a 134-hp edge).
Once I found my canyon road, the 2022 Q4 E-Tron Sportback exhibited impressive composure, if not much enthusiasm. A handful of surprise mid-corner bumps elicited very little rear-axle sway, helping the SUV feel planted and secure. What's more, the Q4 is pretty neutral in its behavior; lifting off the accelerator tucks the front end in nicely, giving the crossover very pleasant handling balance.
There’s a lot of body roll, and the steering is overly light and almost completely numb, but the Q4 E-Tron is willing to get a little frisky every once in awhile. Audi wouldn’t admit whether an SQ4 E-Tron is on the way (perhaps sharing bits with the Euro-only ID.4 GTX), but the pleasant suspension tuning on the car I drove makes me think the platform can handle some added performance.
Volkswagen Bones, Audi Cosmetic Surgery
The overall stance almost matches the platform-sharing Volkswagen ID.4, with the Q4’s 108.7-inch wheelbase down 0.2 inches and its 180.7-inch length up by the exact same amount – height and width are likewise within half an inch of the less expensive VW. In spite of that, the Q4 has a personality all its own, with a shield-shaped grille motif and narrow LED headlights that look more mature (and less fun, admittedly) than the smiley Vee-Dub. Chiseled accents on the front and rear fenders tie the Q4 E-Tron in with other Audis, imparting the box-flare vibe that the company’s been known for since the 1980s.
On the Q4 SUV, a thin black accent line separates the fin-shaped D-pillar from the rest of the roof, while the Sportback receives the arching roofline and triangular rear quarter windows that one would expect of Audi’s coupe-like body style. The Sportback also gets a nifty little spoiler on the hatch that splits the hatch glass into two parts. Both body styles share a large set of taillights with a full-width LED strip connecting them.
Inside, the Audi Q4 E-Tron features a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.1-inch central touchscreen, with a dash design that looks a bit like the geometric-chic A3. Spanning the top of the dash is an attractive piece of wood trim, giving the interior a hint of modern sophistication. The only odd design choice is a futuristic steering wheel with a flattened top and bottom, which Audi says eases entry and exit and provides better forward sightlines. Although unusual, it looks pretty cool.
Overall, however, the Q4 is much more conventional-looking inside and out than EVs like the Genesis GV60 and even its own Volkswagen ID.4 fraternal twin. That’s a deliberate move on Audi’s part – the Q4 E-Tron is supposed to convince Q3 and Q5 owners to go electric on trade-in, thanks to its familiar design.
Unfortunately, the materials used inside the Q4 draw more comparisons to the cheap-feeling ID.4 than the posh Audi E-Tron GT. The door panels have padded window sills and armrests, and the dash top has a spongy coating of soft-touch plastic. But vast expanses of the lower dash and doors get hard, scratchy materials that don’t feel great if you’re bolstering your knee against them on a long trip or in a fast corner. The center armrest is also difficult to adjust for shorter drivers who sit closer to the wheel. I had the same complaints about the A3 sedan I recently drove – entry-level Audis are getting cheaper inside, no denying it.
The Q4 E-Tron makes use of Audi’s MMI infotainment software, which is reasonably easy to use thanks to quick touch response and simple menu layouts. Climate controls occupy the space beneath the screen, employing simple, physical buttons, and a multi-purpose clickwheel on the center console handles volume and seek/tune functions. Meanwhile, a sliding gear selector borrowed from the E-Tron GT looks slick and feels richly damped when moving through its reverse-neutral-drive detents. The primary and secondary controls are much easier to use than the ID.4’s, and they’re the biggest reason to select the Audi over its platform-mate.
The Audi Q4 E-Tron also has a few fun talents to show off. If you opt for the flagship Prestige trim level, which is only available with all-wheel drive, Audi will allow the driver to select from four different lighting patterns for the LED daytime running lamps. The Prestige also gets a sophisticated augmented-reality head-up display that projects driving directions and safety alerts right into the driver’s field of view. Features like these endeared me a bit to the Q4 – they’re mostly useless baubles, but sometimes luxury is more like play than work.
Charging Into The Future
The Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform, intended for smaller EVs like the Q4 E-Tron, is limited somewhat by its 400-volt electrical architecture. With a maximum charge rate of 150 kilowatts, the Audi will replenish its battery from 5 to 80 percent in 36 minutes on a DC fast charger. Using its on-board charger plugged into a 240-volt outlet, the Q4 completely recharges in about 9 hours, while an at-home wallbox does the deed in 7.5 hours. Audi’s next-generation EV platform, which arrives in 2025, will improve on all of those metrics.
For now, though, the Q4’s charging and range performance are adequate for most consumers but still pretty middle-of-the-road. The Audi’s closest competitor, the Genesis GV60, features an 800-volt charging architecture that enables a charge rate of 265 kW. Its 77.4-kWh battery gives it a range of 248 miles in base form or 235 miles in its more powerful Performance trim.
Helping make the Q4 E-Tron’s case is a reasonable base price for the rear-drive model of $48,800 plus $1,195 destination. If you opt for dual-motor all-wheel drive, you’ll pay at least $56,595 for a Q4 E-Tron SUV or $57,995 for a Sportback. That’s a fair bit cheaper than the $59,985 Genesis GV60, which admittedly comes standard with all-wheel drive (for now). But shoppers who need neither the performance nor the traction of a dual-motor setup might appreciate getting into a luxury-branded electric SUV for less than 50 large.
As equipped, though, my Prestige Sportback cost a healthy $66,690, with its only option being metallic paint. That’s about six grand more than a GV60 Advance, which would be the better EV if long road trips and limited at-home charging were in its future.
But the subtle Q4 E-Tron nevertheless plays an important role in the automaker’s electrified aspirations. Its reasonable base price might convince returning Audi customers to take a chance on – and then fall in love with the convenience of – at-home charging and zero tailpipe emissions. The Q4 is also one of the least expensive premium-branded EVs, which could have some appeal to brand snobs also looking to cut their carbon footprint. Although it may never get top billing against its movie-star E-Tron GT sibling, the 2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron quietly acts well its part.
Gallery: 2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron Sportback Review
2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron Sportback Prestige