By now you will have probably considered buying an electric car. I don’t mean a plug-in or ‘self-charging’ hybrid, but a fully committed, 100 percent battery-powered vehicle.
If you can overcome the shock of the upfront price, and the ‘need’ to drive across the country without having to refuel, you’ll be presented with an exponentially growing choice of new electric cars. And that has to be good news, right?
So, let’s try to simplify your decision. Car manufacturers have gone down a couple of routes here. There are battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that also come as traditional cars. The Kia Niro, for example, is offered as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid and BEV. At a glance, nobody would know you are driving an electric car; it could just as well have a petrol or diesel engine.
A ‘normal’ electric car
The alternative is a purpose-built BEV, such as a Honda e, Kia EV6 or Porsche Taycan: cars that shout out their electric credentials. Some of you will doubtless want that, although the green slash on the number plates of all BEVs does make the point anyway.
In the grey area of this second category are designs that look like ‘normal’ cars, but are only sold as BEVs. The Audi Q4 is one of these; it resembles the natural stepping-stone between the Q3 and Q5 SUVs.
That means no styling flights-of-fancy, no Tesla-aping interior controls, just a straightforward family car that happens to be electric. Phew! What a relief.
Adding up the options
Jump in and it’s unmistakably an Audi: beautifully designed and of very high quality, with ample space for five and total familiarity.
It hasn’t been bedevilled with a large central screen that you need to continually fiddle with. The important things, such as the lights, sound system, cruise control and so on, all get reassuringly familiar buttons on the dashboard and steering wheel.
Not that the Q4 doesn’t offer some welcome technological advances, although its touch-sensitive slider controls can accidentally reset if you brush against them. Also, even the special Launch Edition I drove lacks the equipment we have come to expect in cars costing two thirds of the price – a reversing camera and radar cruise control, for instance. Everything is available, it just costs a lot more.
Home on the range
The Q4 is lovely to drive, though, with lucid steering, a decently tight turning circle and great all-round visibility.
The performance is just fine, too. The figures might not look spectacular – 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds and a top speed limited to 99mph – but welcome to the new world. You simply don’t drive an electric car quickly if you want to maximise range.
That figure is quoted as around 300 miles for the Q4 40 version, so reckon on perhaps 250 miles on a warm day, maybe 200 in winter. If you find a 125kW charging station on your journey, Audi says you can add 80 miles of range in just 10 minutes.
Making electric feel easy
It’s a pity one-pedal driving is not available on the Q4, a prized feature on other electric cars. The ride is also rather unforgiving on S line and Launch Edition models with their large alloy wheels. There’s another expensive option pack that adds clever suspension to deal with this, but it makes more sense to choose Sport or Vorsprung trim and have a softer setup in the first place.
Grumbles aside, Audi has worked its way around the issue of packaging batteries, electric motors and people better than most.
The Q4 helps you do your bit for the environment – it even has upholstery made from recycled plastic bottles – and save a vast amount of company car tax at the same time. It’s one of the most convincing electric cars on sale.
Peter Burgess writes for Motoring Research
TOP SPEED: 99mph
BATTERY SIZE : 82kWh
RANGE: 316 miles