The first Audi e-tron vehicles have arrived in South Africa a little earlier than expected but will officially launch in 2022 as per schedule. I was offered the opportunity to spend nearly a week with the e-tron 55 Advanced, it is the SUV model. The other five e-tron variants are: S Line; Sportback S Line; S Sportback; GT and RS GT. Yes, you read that correctly, Audi is launching six new EVs in South Africa next year.

Introducing the Audi e-tron 55 Advanced

The model I drove is the SUV, with standard features that include a range of interior, safety and convenience, performance and technological features. It has a total of 300kW of power and 664Nm of torque. Its battery capacity is 95kWh, and officially, range is between 369-440. I always include manufacturer estimates when I mention this because real world usage is different, which I’ll get to later. It goes from 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds.

Standard features on the e-tron 55

The e-tron SUV I had was equipped with four zone climate control, adaptive air suspension, contour ambient interior lighting, electric front seats with heating, comfort key with sensor controlled luggage compartment release, lane change and rear traffic assist, rear view camera, parking aid plus, Matrix LED lights with dynamic light design & turn signals, Audi connect emergency call, navigation and infotainment, Audi virtual cockpit plus, Audi smartphone interface, Bang and Olufsen premium sound system with 3D sound, and MMI navigation plus with touch response.

Optional extras on the e-tron 55

My test car had the headliner in black, aluminium roof rails, trailer hitch, brake calipers painted in orange (see pic above), decorative inserts in matte aluminium, 21-inch wheels, safety steering column with electric axial and inclination adjustment, panoramic glass sunroof, 360-degree cameras, leatherette dashboard and leather sports steering wheel, virtual mirrors, Audi phone box, LTE support for the phone box, door power latching, head-up display, side airbag, charging system connect, 22kW on-board charger.

Charging cables

Standard charging options include the etron charging system “compact”, household plug type M, industrial plug CEE 32Amps, Mode 3 charging cable for public charging (AC 22kW), on-board charger 11kW (AC), vehicle inlet CCS type 2 and an Audi wall bracket for convenient charging at home. There were at least three cable types that you may require.

Audi says each customer will get an industrial socket installed at their home with a cost of up to R5000 covered by the company so it charges faster than the standard 3 pin plug.

Driving the e-tron

Audi kept the looks on its e-tron EV the same as its regular internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. If you had to look at first glance, you would find it difficult to tell it’s an EV until you notice the two stalks in place of the side mirror. And the orange e-tron branding on the sides.

This is an optional feature, but it’s actually a camera, with the feed sitting inside the door on the sides. Yes, it is an adjustment but once you know it’s there, you know where to look. I loved this feature, mostly because I’m short sighted and I could see even better. You can touch it to adjust and move it around or zoom if you want to. Once you do it the first time, chances are you don’t have to change it, thus fingerprints won’t be an issue. It’s also the most attention grabbing feature. Everyone who noticed it took pics and asked loads of questions.

Starting up the e-tron is like any other EV, it is silent. You notice everything switch on and light up, so you know it’s on. It has various driving modes like dynamic, sport, efficiency, comfort, auto, individual, off-road or all-road. I think these modes are important in any EV because if you’re running out of range, you should immediately switch to efficiency, or if you’re taking a slightly longer drive than usual (mini road trip) so you can ensure you’re getting back without a dead battery.

I found that the regenerative braking modes were not as aggressive as the BMW options. There is an automatic and manual mode to choose from, but I didn’t quite experience the same amount of regen like I did on the iX, where as soon as I lifted my foot off the accelerator it would recharge, though it did coast more by not using any range.

It was a comfortable drive, as comfy as an Audi gets; and inside the cabin was quiet. I like the inside (optional) lights at night, it has themes; I loved the Caribbean blue effect.

The e-tron had all the power and then some when I needed it, which is why I love driving EVs – it’s the instant torque for me.

Accessing charging stations

I mentioned earlier, Audi will be installing home chargers for customers but as someone who only had it on test, I couldn’t experience that. Therefore, charging it at home didn’t make sense because it would be much slower. I did try, and it said the car would charge in about 60 hours! For homes that have phase 3 power, installing a proper home wallbox charger will be faster than 7.4kW (up to max 22kW).

Naturally, I made use of all the public DC chargers in my vicinity or route. I used an app called PlugShare to find chargers, however, they don’t include some, like the new ones being rolled out by Audi.

If you’re using a DC charger, you’re very likely using the cable attached to that charger, therefore the supplied ones in the e-tron, located in the frunk, didn’t need to be used. I had the most luck using the Jaguar Land Rover ones as they were readily available and reliable.

Charging the e-tron

The e-tron has a cool charging flap on either side of the vehicle (DC on the right; AC on the left). I simply opened it, tapped the charge card supplied by Audi where applicable, plugged the charger in and it was recharging in less than a minute.

While I did use fast chargers, they were max up to 50-60kW so it couldn’t charge up to 80% in 30 minutes like you probably have read about (these are for up to 150kW chargers). I charged at between 30-50% when I was nearby out of convenience and stayed at the mall for around 1-1.5 hours, which was sufficient.

The most range I achieved from a charge was 347km, which was more than sufficient for my urban lifestyle. I also went on a road trip to Cullinan, outside of Pretoria, about 80km one way from me, with plenty of range upon return. I didn’t feel like I’d be running out of power.

It’s also great that I could use the dedicated EV bays at malls for the charging. It helps cos you can kill time in the mall while doing so. I was at the Audi dealership too, where they offer customers free coffee and a lounge area. I also didn’t have to pay at the Audi dealership (i.e. tap the charge card provided by Audi), but I did use it all other public chargers not owned by Audi.

I love that EVs will bring all brands together, in a sense that you can use any charger you come across as they are all Type 2 chargers (the same as the standard that is USB-C on phones). It would be an absolute nightmare if chargers were different. South Africa uses the EU standard.

Final thoughts

The arrival of six Audi e-tron models is going to be exciting for the EV market in SA, where about 15 models are expected to become available in 2022. The only thing holding us back is the high import duties, which we’re hoping changes in the near future, given what 2022 holds.

I’m so glad I got to experience the e-tron ahead of the official launch, just so i’m familiar with how it works. While EVs are essentially the same thing, each manufacturer executes it very differently, from the settings to modes and types of regenerative braking. Some have apps, some don’t. The Audi one will be going live this December, so I couldn’t test that properly. I hope to have more to share when the vehicles launch.

Pricing for the e-tron range

Model Price
etron 55 advanced R1,990,000
etron 55 S line R2,045,000
etron 55 Sportback S line R2,115,000
etron S Sportback R2,425,000
etron GT R2,715,000
RS etron GT R3,300,000

This is just my experience ahead of the official launch next year. I’m sure there will be more info shared when it does launch here. I’m looking forward to trying the GT and RS GT e-tron.

Professional pics shot by Saaleha Bamjee