The E-Tron was the first car/SUV which Audi has designed from the ground up as a pure EV. Later variations include the E-Tron Sportback. These are all full-sized SUVs with large battery packs starting from 71kW up to 95kW. Furthermore, all E-Tron’s were designed from the start to tow, with a towing capacity of up to 4,000 lbs. Therefore, for a large premium SUV its all looking good on paper to be a truly viable electric tow car right? Well, yes, but E-Tron’s appear to have an Achilles’ heel, poor efficiency.
Key Audi E-Tron Specs
- Official Towing Capacity – 4,000 lbs
- Availability – Now
- Price – Starting £66,900
- EPA Range – 204 Miles
- Estimate Towing Range (50%) – 102 Miles
- Maximum Charge Rate – 150 kW DC Fast Charger
Audi E-Tron HP & Torque
- AWD (Quattro) – 402 HP and 490 lb-ft of torque
Audi E-Tron Towing Capabilities
I remember back in 2018 when we first started to get details on the capabilities of the Audi E-Tron. It wasn’t long after that I first saw the image above of the prototype E-Tron towing a trailer with a sports car on the back. Up until that point, it was only the Tesla Model X which had been seen towing a trailer and had an official towing capacity from the manufacturer.
What the photo above showed me was that Audi was being serious with the development of the E-Tron as a true Sports Utility Vehicle, and a decent towing capacity would be provided. Even today, as I write this not all electric SUV manufacturers are providing a decent towing capacity (Ford Mustang Mach-E). Hence, I was very happy when Audi officially stated the E-Tron could tow up to 4,000 lbs.
Shortly after the initial reveal of the E-Tron Audi then released the video below on the making of the E-Tron. I’ve included the video below for reference, but be aware its a long watch (41 minutes). Hence its only really for proper car nerds such as my self. However, within that video at 23 minutes, Audi emphasizes that towing capabilities were always part of the E-Tron’s development.
There is another reason I wanted to include the Making of E-Tron video above, as there is a statement within that video at just over 16 minutes that shocked me that they included it at the time, and upon reflection now shows Audi’s overconfidence in their EV engineering abilities with regards to the E-Tron 50/55 etc.
“The pioneer in the field, Tesla has now lost much of its mystique. Production problems, in particular, have damaged its image” – Audi E-Tron Making of Documentary/YouTube
For Audi to make a statement such as that they must have been pretty confident that the E-Tron was going to be at least equal/beat the Tesla equivalent (Tesla Model X) when it comes to the key criteria of an electric car, range. Well, several years on with the E-Tron in the hands of journalists and the public the E-Tron does appear to be a good/well-made luxury car, as you would expect from Audi. However, in terms of being a good electric car, well, the real-world range has turned out to be a little disappointing.
Audi E-Tron Towing Test With A Caravan/Camper In Norway
Currently, the only E-Tron towing test I have to reference is from Norway, but luckily its a good one. It isn’t just a towing test of the Audi E-Tron towing a caravan/camper, but a Mercedes EQC 400 and Tesla Model X towing identical caravans. Hence, its a comparison test against the key competition for the E-Tron. The video below is only a very short preview of the completed test. Below I’ve provided a link to the full article on the trip (which is in English) and I’ll reference the key findings from their trip below as well.
You can read the full article detailing the results of their trip here. However, I’ll quickly summarize what they found out about towing with EV’s and more specifically for this article, how the Audi E-Tron performed. If you have read any of my previous articles on electric tow cars you should not be surprised to hear that on average they found the range reduction while towing to be around 50%.
How Did The Audi E-Tron Perform While Towing?
In terms of power, it shouldn’t really be surprising to most people at this point, but no electric car which is rated to tow will leave you wanting on power/torque, and that includes the E-Tron. This is one of the key reasons once the development of electric tow cars really hits its stride and electric charging networks are sufficiently developed electric tow cars will be the best tow cars, period.
However, when it comes to range/efficiency when towing, the Audi E-Tron did fall behind the Mercedes EQC 400 and the Tesla Model X. Travelling at 70 km/h (44 mph) the Audi E-Tron consumed 21.2 kW/h per 100 km, compared to 18.9 kW/h in the Mercedes EQC 400 and 17.6 kW/h in the Tesla Model X.
Hence, the E-Tron consumed around 20% more energy to travel the same journey as the Tesla Model X pulling the same caravan in the same weather conditions.
It should be noted, the Audi E-Tron was on slightly larger 21-inch wheels compared to the 20″ wheels on the EQC and Model X. However, those slightly heavier wheels are not going to account for a significant proportion of that 20% energy efficiency difference.
The E-Tron’s Real Max Charging Speed… Is Actually Pretty Good
Above I’ve been discussing how while I’m impressed that Audi developed the E-Tron with a decent 1,800 kg towing capacity from the start, the efficiency/range of the E-Tron is disappointing. However, its also important to highlight areas where the E-Tron does perform well and charging speed is one of them.
This is only a very brief look at charging speeds, I’m going to be writing more content on electric tow car charging speeds in the future, as its going to be a very important topic. Anyway, I’ve included a video below from Bjørn Nyland who does excellent EV tests in Norway. At the 7 minute mark in the video below Bjørn shows how fast the Audi E-Tron, Mercedes EQC 400, Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X (pre-2019) can really charge.
So first off, the results of the charging speed for the Tesla Model X in the video above are not representative of the current generation Model X Long Range/Performance which has been upgraded to use V3 250kW Tesla Superchargers, so bear that in mind.
I wanted to include the video above as it shows how the Audi E-Tron from a 10% to 100% charge is able to consume close to its maximum rating of 150kW throughout the charging session. That is impressive compared to the other electric cars in the video above, which I should note are all electric cars which can tow.
Audi E-Tron Features and Reviews
To round out this article on the Audi E-Tron, I wanted to include a couple of reviews of the E-Tron below, discussing its features/capabilities as a whole. The first video from Kelley Blue Book is not really a review, its a quick video showing what a 3,000 mile trip across the US in an E-Tron is currently like. Using Electrify America fast-charging stations produced mixed results, both in terms of the performance of the chargers and the E-Tron its self.
The second video below is from Fully Charged and the latest version of the E-Tron to be made available, the Sportback. While Robert does appear to be impressed with the build quality/features of the E-Tron (except for the camera mirrors), the main issue comes down the high consumption figures the E-Tron produces.
The concerning thing is with this latest revision of the E-Tron in Sportback form Audi doesn’t appear to have been able to address the relatively high consumption figures. Therefore, the E-Tron currently stands as one of the least efficient EVs on the market. That poor efficiency obviously impacts its day to day practicality under normal driving conditions, but particularly so if the E-Tron is used for towing.
My Thoughts On The Audi E-Tron…
So as you can tell with the comments that Audi made in their E-Tron video above, they were gunning for Tesla with the E-Tron. They wanted to show that they could make a better car. Well, I do honestly believe that the E-Tron is currently put together better than many Tesla’s. However, that doesn’t make the E-Tron a better car overall. Due to the issue of high consumption and the impact on the real-world range with the E-Tron, it doesn’t compare well to the competition.
The 4,000 lb towing capacity of the Audi E-Tron is competitive and much better than the zero official towing capacity for the Ford Mustang Mach-E for instance. If you only ever wanted to tow over very short distances, the Audi E-Tron might work for you as a very limited use electric tow car. But as a long-range electric tow car, the practicality of the E-Tron is severely limited.
The charging rate close to 150kW on a compatible charger is great and would come in very handy as a counter to the high electrical consumption of the E-Tron’s electric motors. However, until 150kW+ electric chargers are truly a common occurrence around the US, with charging bays suitable for towing, the E-Tron is a hard sell as a viable long-range electric tow car.