The new Audi E-tron is all-electric SUV to rival the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X. We’re among the first to experience it
Like mother, like son. Princess Diana caused quite a stir when she ditched her British wheels for something German – most famously an Audi 80 Cabriolet – and her youngest son has certainly followed in his mother’s footsteps.
Scan the gossip columns and you’ll spot Prince Harry behind the wheel of a number of Audi models, including this: a 2017 RS6 Avant. It was used by Harry and Meghan Markle on the way to Pippa Middleton’s wedding reception last year, and now, it could be yours.
So which car will be the choice for the #royalwedding ?
What car would you choose ❔ pic.twitter.com/jKCYJXmk6p
— Supercar Cat (@SupercarCat) December 3, 2017
For sale on Auto Trader for a not unreasonable £71,900, the superfast wagon comes with £11,330 worth of options and 4,464 royal miles on the clock. Factory-fitted accessories include a panoramic sunroof, privacy glass, night vision and – because Harry is a lad – a speed limiter removal.
Well, you need to get a wiggle on if you’re being hunted by the paparazzi.
Refreshingly, the dealer doesn’t appear to be charging a premium for the connection to the Duke of Sussex, and is offering “excellent funding solutions to suit your needs.” Needless to say, Harry wouldn’t have struggled for funding when he took delivery of the Audi, even if he was saving for a rather lavish wedding.
A ‘roaring exhaust’
Erin Baker, Auto Trader’s editorial director, said: “This is a smashing car perfectly suited to any aspiring Royal. The Audi RS6 Avant is one of the fastest estate cars on the market doing 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds, and it has a roaring exhaust to excite any petrol head.”
“The car boasts a 17 reg and low mileage, so it begs the questions why is the Prince selling so soon?”
While you spend all of four seconds pondering that question, we’ll leave you with a warning against buying the RS6 in the hope of making a quick dollar. In 2014, independent dealer Baron Cole paid over the odds for Harry’s old Audi RS3, before selling it to another dealer without making a profit.
We suspect Baron was royally flushed with embarrassment and he won’t be going anywhere near this RS6. You, on the other hand, can view the advert on Auto Trader here.
“Has it really been 20 years?” is what we’re all asking – even the men behind the car, we suspect. Yes, the Audi TT, the car that spearheaded Audi’s post-millennium slingshot to superstardom, is now 20 years old.
To mark the occasion, Audi has released a TT 20 Years special edition, and given the whole third-generation TT range a freshen-up.
Audi TT 20 Years
First, that special edition. The TT 20 Years does what it says on the tin. A total of 999 examples will be built to commemorate two decades of the model being in production.
It features fine Nappa leather in moccasin brown with specific Panuka contrast stitching – a curious callback to interior colour combinations seen on very early cars.
Stainless pipes, and badges on the steering wheel, gear lever and bodywork tell everyone it’s a 20 Years model. Arrow and Nano grey paint finishes are available for either coupe or roadster versions.
The best of the rest
The rest of the range gets significant upgrades too, with relatively major power increases featuring on what is a minor facelift. The 1.8-litre 180hp TFSI is being replaced with a 197hp 2.0-litre unit, while the existing 230hp 2.0-litre gets boosted to 245hp.
Both models are now categorised under the new Audi model structure – ’40 TFSI’ and ’45 TFSI’ respectively.
TTS models lose 4hp, going from 310 to 306, thanks to the addition of new Petrol Particulate Filters (OPF). The performance of facelift models does improve in spite of the power loss, however, with 0-62mph times reducing by 0.1 of a second for both the coupe and roadster – 4.5 and 4.8 seconds respectively.
Sport display for Virtual Cockpit
Inside, the Audi Virtual Cockpit gets a minor update, with a Sport display giving information on power, torque and G forces.
S Line models and above receive more supportive Super Sports seats, with Black Edition cars getting piano black inlays and a new slate-grey chrome finish for parts of the interior trim.
It’s still a looker
S Line models get a new, more defined, splitter and the OLED rear lights are no longer the preserve of the TT RS. Oddly, for Audi, the lights at the front haven’t changed, although the bumpers have got a bit of a nip-and-tuck, with exaggerated vent elements and a new three-dimensional grille design.
All models benefit from new wheel options because nothing is fresher than new footwear. As with big brother TT RS and R8 V10 Plus, the TTS now comes with a fixed rear wing, courtesy of the TT RS (in place of the active retractable item previously standard).
All in, it’s a pleasing if incremental update for the TT range, with the 20 Years special edition being an appealing nod to the model’s heritage.
The way Audi opens the news on the reveal of the cabin of its forthcoming e-tron all-electric model is rather telling: “New interior pictures show how the fully electric series production Audi will push digital boundaries without feeling alien to drivers”.
That’s the aim, really, for anyone hoping to bring EVs to market and make them go mainstream. Make the future, now and tomorrow, today, in a way that isn’t going to scare off consumers. That means blending current motoring conventions with the powertrains of tomorrow. Jaguar did it, can Audi?
So, how is this Audi of the future also the Audi of today?
Hiding in plain sight
One of the most critical things Audi has to get right when feeding us the future is the looks. It has to be contemporary and agreeable by today’s standards, not tomorrow’s. Fortunately, Audi knows a thing or two about how to make a good looking car. We’re relatively familiar with the outsides of the e-tron prototype, but it’s nice to revisit given the context of the cabin.
It’s sure to be a fine-looking thing when the disguises drop, with sharp lighting, a muscular stance and a Velar-rivalling sporty SUV rake. It’s Audi, so the Instagram appeal is almost implied at this point.
New tech that won’t scare you off
Perhaps the most groundbreaking piece of technology the e-tron looks to take to the showroom is the virtual mirror system. That’s right, cameras instead of wing mirrors – previously the preserve of the pie-in-the-sky concept car starter pack.
Cameras feed their image to high-contrast 7-inch OLED displays recessed into the front of the door above the handle. The screens aren’t dissimilar in shape to that of a conventional mirror – it’s just that they reside in the cabin.
Naturally, with new tech comes an array of features. The screens are touch sensitive with pinch-to-zoom. Different display options can be selected from within the MMI (Multi Media Interface) per the driving you’re doing – motorway vs urban or parking manoeuvres, and everything in between.
However, for all the advancement and added features in place of something as simple and conventional as mirrors, Audi is adamant the implementation is geared for quick learning and integration into a driver’s life on the road. This isn’t tech for tech’s sake – it has to actually improve and ultimately blend into our every day driving experience.
Typical Audi quality
The e-tron cabin isn’t short on token reminders that you’re driving the future. Audi is keen to point out “the stitching on the seats creates a motif reminiscent of [an] electric circuit board… as an option, contrasting stitching and piping in orange stand out brightly – taking their cue from the high-voltage electrical system”. You didn’t think there were gimmicks in the future?
Looks wise inside it’s an advancement of familiar Audi – swathes of interactive, high-quality control surfaces and materials with a forward-looking take on its angular cubist design philosophy. It’s sure to be a lovely place to while away the hours on a long, range anxiety-free journey.
Space and refinement
One significant benefit of an EV is cabin space, and the e-tron shouldn’t buck the trend, claiming “interior length, headroom in front and rear as well as knee room in the second seat row are top-class in the full-size SUV segment”. The lack of a drivetrain tunnel adds to the open-plan feeling of the rear, with what Audi calls a “flat plateau” instead.
Without the dulcet tones of an internal combustion engine thrumming away, the final hurdle any viable electric car worth its salt (the range and charge times are a given, right?) has to face, is refinement. With no engine, that’s a lot of silence for road and wind noise to disrupt.
Audi is adamant this won’t be a problem. “Acoustic comfort is one of the strengths of all Audi models. The Audi e-tron prototype raises this level even further: its body has special soundproofing and sealing in all zones that could transmit noise interference. The wind noise, which dominates the acoustic perception at speeds from around 52mph, barely gets through to the occupants”.
So has Audi done it? We’re in no doubt it’ll be a superb effort. Whether it can impress in the company of the new Jaguar I-Pace is another question. We eagerly await the production car’s reveal…
Audi made some of Europe’s most glamorous cars in the 1930s, but faltered in the post-war years and merged with Volkswagen in 1964. The models that followed were, in some cases, little more than rebadged VWs, and Audi had a middle-of-the road image, lacking the sporting pedigree of BMW or upmarket kudos of Mercedes-Benz.
What a difference a few decades makes. Today, Audi is one of motoring’s most-wanted brands, its cars both exceedingly popular and emphatically premium. So, what’s changed? There’s been some clever brand-building, for sure, but the roots of Audi’s renaissance lie in its products.
We cherry-picked four modern classic Audis from the company’s fantastic heritage fleet: the TT Quattro Sport, R8 LMX, Cabriolet and A1 Quattro. Each one is a significant part of the recent Audi story, yet all are decidedly different. Here’s why they matter.
Audi TT Quattro Sport
“Fire up the… oh, hang on.” This isn’t that red Quattro, but it’s very nearly as cool. The limited-edition Quattro Sport was the last hurrah for the Mk1 TT. Now a sought-after cult classic, just 800 were sold in the UK.
This first TT is still a fabulous piece of design: a rare example of a production car looking better than the concept. Launched in 2005, the Quattro Sport has an S Line bodykit, contrasting black roof, black tailpipes, bespoke 18-inch alloys and red brake calipers. Inside, Alcantara swathes the steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake, hard-shell Recaros were optional and the – virtually useless – rear seats were binned, replaced by a strut brace and luggage net. Total weight saving is 49kg.
There’s more power, too: the familiar 1.8-litre turbocharged engine gains 15hp for a 240hp total. Driving all four wheels via a six-speed manual ’box, it hits 62mph in a swift 5.9 seconds – 0.3sec quicker than the flagship TT 3.2 V6. Stiffer S line supension and a relocated battery (now in the boot) sharpen up the chassis.
Original Audi TT is well on its way to icon status now.
Quattro Sport has a black roof, Recaros and luggage net in place of rear seats. 0-62mph takes 5.9sec. pic.twitter.com/VRRlwQZ32d
— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) May 3, 2018
On the road, the Quattro Sport is agile and engaging, with lively steering, a snappy gearshift and confidence-inspiring brakes. It feels more akin to one of today’s 4WD hot hatches than a traditional rear-drive sports car, offering formidable point-and-squirt pace.
Ultimately, a Porsche Cayman delivers a purer driving experience, but the Audi is rarer and feels more exotic. Be quick, though: the Quattro Sport is the most desirable Mk1 TT and values are on the up. Expect to pay £5,500 for a high-miler, rising to around £13,000 for the best of the breed.
Audi R8 LMX
The 2006 R8 was Audi’s answer to the Porsche 911 and, in 550hp V10 guise, arguably Ingolstadt’s first supercar. This R8 is one of the crown jewels of Audi UK’s heritage fleet: a 570hp R8 LMX – number 23 of 99 made.
Like the TT Quattro Sport, the 2015 LMX is a run-out special edition. Costing a hefty £160,025 when new, it came with every virtually option available, including carbon-ceramic brakes, Bang and Olufsen audio and quilted Alcantara headlining. Most were painted Ara Blue, with a front splitter and fixed rear wing in bare carbon fibre.
The LMX also boasted ground-breaking new laser headlights – the first production car to offer this technology as standard. They deliver searing white light and a 600-metre range on high beam: around twice that of LED lamps. A camera system dips the lights automatically when it detects oncoming cars.
The 570hp heart of the Audi R8 LMX.
Something very special about a naturally-aspirated V10… pic.twitter.com/vNsmxh492L
— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) May 3, 2018
Our test-drive was conducted in glorious sunshine, so the LMX’s lasers were somewhat redundant. Fortunately, I made full use of its snarling, naturally-aspirated V10. Revving to 8,500rpm, this remains one of the great modern engines: fantastically responsive and brutally rapid (0-62mph in 3.4sec and 198mph). My only wish was for an open-gate manual gearbox, instead of the paddleshift auto fitted here.
The R8 has already joined the super-sports establishment, and the achingly desirable LMX is the original car at its zenith. Finding one will be a challenge, but the good news is that V8-engined R8s now start from £35,000. That’s a seriously special car for the price of an optioned-up Golf R. Tempted?
Discussing the Audi Cabriolet without mentioning Princess Diana is like talking about the Reliant Scimitar without mentioning Princess Anne. It simply can’t be done.
Diana’s decision to drive a German car was controversial at the time (what was wrong with a Rover 800?), but it gave the Cabriolet a huge boost. In 1994, sales nearly doubled after Diana was repeatedly photographed by the paparazzi, sometimes with the roof down and the young princes in the back. Inadvertently, she thrust Audi into public consciousness, and helped build the aspirational, upmarket brand we know today.
Many of the cars on Audi’s 50-strong heritage fleet are scarcely run-in, but this 1995 Cabriolet has 152,000 miles under its wheels. Thankfully, it still feels utterly rock-solid: clichéd ‘Teutonic build quality’ present and correct – even if Milton Keynes’ many roundabouts reveal some chassis-flex when cornering.
— Audi UK Press Office (@AudiUKPress) February 23, 2017
Indeed, despite its 150hp 2.6-litre V6, the Audi doesn’t like to be rushed. Throttle response is wooly, the steering feels vague and 0-62mph takes a leisurely 10.2 seconds. Better to retract the electric hood, recline the supportive seat and bask in the admiration of onlookers. Two decades on, this is still a great-looking car.
More than simply a footnote in Audi history, the Cabriolet hasn’t yet graduated to classic status – and that means they’re still very affordable. A good one will cost £2,500, while even the best examples are less than £5,000.
Audi A1 Quattro
Coolest alloy wheels ever? The rally-style turbines on the 2012 A1 Quattro are certainly in with a shout. This one-of-333 supermini also packs a 256hp punch, with a manual gearbox and, naturally, Quattro four-wheel drive. Even the 231hp S1, launched in 2015, can’t top that.
The A1 Quattro has its steering wheel on the wrong side and cost a wallet-wilting £41,020 when new. No wonder Audi only sold 19 in the UK. Today, however, such rarity is key to the car’s appeal; only the cognoscenti realise what it is. It’s also the reason that A1 Quattros simply haven’t depreciated. Assuming you can find one, expect to pay near-as-dammit list price.
In terms of oily bits, the uber-A1 is essentially an S3, with a 2.0-litre TFSI engine that delivers 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and 152mph flat-out. Audi ditched the A1’s torsion beam rear suspension for the S3’s four-link axle, making substantial modifications to the floorpan and fitting a new, saddle-style fuel tank. Standard equipment was comprehensive, including leather trim, sat nav and a Bose audio system.
— Niels van Roij Design (@NielsvanRoij) June 30, 2016
Unsurprisingly, the A1 is fiercely quick across-country. A neutral and forgiving chassis, combined with limpet-like grip and Quattro traction, means you can take huge liberties with cornering speeds. The engine is obviously turbocharged (it doesn’t fully wake up until nigh-on 4,000rpm), but there’s much fun to be had in riding that wave of boost. Shame the suspension is too stiff for broken British B-roads.
For most, the S1 is a far better option: cheaper, more comfortable and almost as quick. But the A1 Quattro showed Audi could do limited-run, hardcore hot hatches just as well as parent-company Volkswagen. It’s not a rational purchase, but the most interesting cars rarely are.
Audi’s growth strategy appears to be focused on climbing every sales mountain and fording every niche, which is why we’re faced with the imminent arrival of the Q8. Yes, it’s yet another SUV.
Although it’s based on the Q7, the new Q8 features a lower, coupe-like roofline, as Audi guns for the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, Range Rover Sport and BMW X6.
— Audi UK (@AudiUK) June 5, 2018
In a nutshell, the Q8 boasts an interior and a level of technology influenced by the new A8 luxobarge, with a body that fuses “an elegant four-door luxury coupe with a large SUV”. You may or may not agree with the ‘elegant’ part of Audi’s statement, but you’ll almost certainly struggle to the grasp Ingolstadt’s claim that it echoes the original Quattro. Wait, what?
But we’re not here to be judge and jury on the latest vehicle to jump on the bandwagon – we’ll leave that for when we see it in the metal. Instead, we’ll pick the bones out of one of the longest press releases on record to bring you the facts that matter.
At launch, the Audi Q8 will be powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel engine developing 282hp and 442.5lb ft of torque. That’s enough to propel it from rest to 62mph in just 6.3 seconds before hitting a top speed of 144mph.
The engine features mild hybrid technology, enabling it to coast between 34mph and 99mph with the engine switched off, with a start-stop range that starts as low as 13mph.
Two further engines will become available in 2019, with the 50 TDI joined by a smaller 231hp 3.0-litre turbodiesel (45 TDI) and a 340hp 3.0-litre petrol (55 TFSI). No, we haven’t come to terms with Audi’s new naming strategy yet, either.
At 4,986mm long, 1,955mm wide and 1,705mm high, the Q8 is 66mm shorter and 40mm lower than the Q7, but 27mm wider than its stablemate. The hunkered-down, aggressive stance is enhanced by a set of 21-inch alloy wheels. Subtle, it isn’t.
Vorsprung durch Bling
Initially, all models will be available in S Line trim, but a new high-end Vorsprung edition will follow, offering Valcona leather, all-wheel steering, head-up display and – wait for it – 22-inch rims as standard. Vorsprung durch Bling.
In the meantime, standard kit includes adaptive air suspension, MMI Navigation Plus, Matrix LED headlights and three-dimensional daytime running lights, which are mimicked on the back, similar to the approach used on the new A8.
The interior also borrows heavily from the A8, featuring a clean and simple design, two large touchscreens and a choice of interior finishes.
Unlike the Q7, the Q8 will not be offered with a seven-seat option, but interior space is on a par with its longer and narrower sibling. Boot capacity with the rear seats in place is 605 litres, but this can be increased to 1,755 litres with the seats folded down. The tailgate opens and closes electrically, as you’d expect.
Naturally, Audi buyers will be offered the chance to select from many options, including a 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system to deliver music “exactly how it was recorded at the concert hall”. David Hasselhoff in crystal-clear clarity, which will be music to the ears of German drivers.
And, while The Hoff would invite you to jump in his car, the Q8 will offer drivers the opportunity to get out of the vehicle to park it using their smartphone. That’s one for the future, but in the meantime, Audi will offer four driver assistance packages, with a range of systems that all but drive the car for you. Who needs KITT, eh?
Prices have yet to be announced, but we’d expect the range to start from around £65,000. The Q8 will be manufactured in Bratislava, with the first deliveries expected in the summer.
We spend a month with Audi’s heritage-fleet A4 DTM. How does it stack up as a daily-driver – and versus the related Mk5 Volkswagen Golf GTI?
Is the A7 just a coupe version of the latest Audi A8? We went to Cape Town to find out
Our verdict on the 450hp Audi RS4 – driven on UK roads for the first time
Six months of not only switching from petrol to diesel, but downsizing also. Are we mad?
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