Electric cars are cool. I've been using them every day for over five years with increasing enjoyment due to the great dynamics of their drive and the nearly silent, very calm locomotion they provide. But I will not buy one, regardless of the manufacturer or price range. Because the developments in enhancing and refining automobiles and driving technology are so significant that I would rapidly regret a purchase, the next model generation is already making significant strides forward.
For example, the Audi e-tron, now known as the Audi Q8 e-tron, bears little resemblance to the vehicle I drove four years ago. Audi experts tackled and finely refined the motor, battery, energy management, chassis and steering, and even the body as part of a significant model overhaul. As a result, the e-tron now runs much better but travels much further than it did four years ago, and it charges the power much faster. Buyers of the original generation Audi e-tron can only console themselves with one argument: they received their premium electric vehicle for a far lower price.
But one after the other. We chose an SQ8 55 e-tron Sportback for our initial test drive. This is the most powerful variant, with a hatchback and three electric motors: two on the rear axle with 98 kW of peak power each and one at the front with 124 kW. According to the previous counting method, this equates to a drive power of 370 kW, or 503 hp. The drive train is powered by a battery, which can currently store 114 kWh of gross electricity, of which 106 kWh are usable for driving. In terms of power supply, that's a lot more than before: more than 86 kWh weren't previously possible. On the one hand, the rise was obtained by adopting new cell chemistry: Audi currently uses lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese (LNCM) batteries instead of NCM batteries.
Furthermore, prismatic cells are now being used instead of pouch cells, which are built utilizing so-called stacking technology. The cell material is layered on top of each other, effectively filling the rectangular space of the battery module. This allows for up to 20% more active cell material to be accommodated in the battery cell without raising space requirements. You can already tell that things are getting better.
And you can see that on the onboard computer: the starting range is only 385 kilometers. However, with careful driving, the Sportback should be able to travel up to 513 kilometers. To anticipate: We failed. For time concerns, but also because driving the strongly propelled Audi Q8 e-tron up to 210 km/h is just too much fun. Our average power usage on the test lap with many uphill sections was 28 kWh/100 km. In purely mathematical terms, we would have needed to stop at a charging station after 380 kilometers.
However, we may have seen another significant improvement: the maximum charging capacity has also increased. On a DC fast charger, it only has 150 to 170 kW. Others now provide noticeably higher peak performance. But the Audi e-tron's strength has always been its high charging power, not just a few seconds or minutes, and is available for a long time. And Audi engineers have kept a good charging performance: the SQ8 e-tron can be charged for more than 100 kilometers in less than ten minutes.
We could not test this due to inadequate DC fast chargers along the test route. However, the significant changes to the chassis and steering that the Audi e-tron has seen during the product revision are thanks to new, firmer front axle chassis bearings, new air spring and damper control tuning, and a new steering gear ratio. Several winding roads on the test track provided a variety of possibilities to test the chassis, but it was never pushed to its limits.
Our Audi in the new Ultra-Blue paint job sat well on the road, navigated around turns with agility and without tire squeal, and then sent all of its power back to accelerating the wheels—from a standstill to 100 km/h in just over four seconds a remarkable performance for an electric SUV weighing more than 2.6 tons especially as the steering responds directly and substantially faster to even the tiniest changes in angle, allowing for sporty, precise tracking. Yes, three years of effort on the chassis by the experts paid off.
Technically, the Audi Q8 e-tron electric SUV is at least up to date again, and in many ways, it outperforms specific competitors in this class. The crossover has also improved in appearance, thanks to aerodynamic modifications and a new single-frame mask that combines the headlamps more closely and connects them via a light strip.
The new Audi rings, which will be two-dimensional in the future, will be utilized for the first time on the Q8 e-bonnet and tailgate. The sensor unit, which is necessary for the precise operation of the numerous support systems, is protected at the front by the flat four rings. The rings could light up if EU bureaucrats pull themselves together. Thus far, so good.
We would have preferred a cockpit redesign not because it has a very traditional design, but not because there is anything wrong with the operating logic or the materials used. However, to better place the monitors of the two cameras' external mirrors, do the following: The display in the driver's door is far too low and causes the driver to take his eyes off the road for far longer than is necessary, whether going onto the freeway or changing directions on a country road. According to Audi, the issue has been identified. However, converting the cockpit would have required too much intervention and would have been prohibitively expensive, so it was postponed until the new model generation was announced for 2026.
Speaking of pricey, the facelift still needs to leave the Audi Q8 e-tron electric SUV's pricelist. In the future, nothing will be sold for less than 74,400 euros, and the Q8 e-tron Sportback with a tiny battery will cost at least 76,650 euros. For our ultra-blue test car of the type SQ8 e-tron Sportback, we would need to fund at least 99,000 euros—a six-figure sum with virtual external mirrors (a surcharge of 1650 euros). Buy? a new vehicle? Never before in my life. However, a lease offer could be appealing. The Brussels factory has only recently begun production.