If you need a premium electric vehicle that looks like a futuristic door stopper, does zero-to-warp speed in 2.8 nanoseconds, and makes farting noises, stop reading right now. The 2023 Audi Q4 E-Tron is not the EV for you.
That you can now use “Audi” and “EV” in the same sentence is — and isn’t — surprising at the same time. The Volkswagen empire looked very different in the pre-Dieselgate days, with electrification barely a blip on their radar as they instead bet big on “clean” diesels. We all know what happened next; once the dust settled, VW flipped the proverbial switch to EVs rather quickly.
The first fully ripened fruit of VW’s fully electric labours is the ID.4 crossover. Having debuted in 2021, it didn’t take long for the corporate spin-offs to pop up. And that’s exactly what the Q4 E-Tron is — a rebadged ID.4 that’s a little more luxurious, stylish, and most importantly, fixes the ID.4’s biggest issue. All at a price, of course.
The Q4 shares its powertrain with the top-spec, all-wheel-drive ID.4. That means two electric motors — one on each axle — and a 77 kWh battery pack working together to produce 295 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. Audi offers a base, rear-wheel-drive Q4 — putting out 201 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque — in the U.S., but having sampled this powertrain in the base ID.4, we don’t miss it. That said, this lesser powertrain has a range advantage: it’s rated at just under 430 kilometres on paper, versus 371 for the all-wheel-drive variant.
Still, that trade-off in range is worth it. You don’t get the same kind of neck-snapping, motion-sickness-inducing acceleration so prevalent in other EVs at this price point, but the Q4 is well-balanced. There’s enough punch (and grip) around town to embarrass hotshots in their GTIs off the line at a stoplight, and on the highway, the Q4 makes easy work of merging and passing, albeit not as dramatically as EVs like the Genesis GV60 Performance and the Kia EV6 GT.
Beyond the beans, the Q4 is well-mannered. Despite the 20-inch wheels, ride quality is excellent, with only the harshest of bumps, potholes, and other imperfections filtering through to your posterior. Wind and road noise are well-controlled; coupled with the lack of engine noise and no space-age soundtrack, it’s fairly serene behind the wheel. And even if you’re feeling frisky, the Q4 holds a line quite well and stays surprisingly flat, should you just so happen to carry a bit too much speed into your favourite on-ramp. In fact, aside from the lack of engine noise, the Q4 feels decidedly normal.
The Q4 even looks decidedly normal, breaking the unwritten rule that EVs need to look either like space-age eggs or futuristic door-stoppers. Not everyone wants to stand out, and the Q4 certainly appeals to such buyers, bearing a strong familial resemblance to everything else in Audi’s CUV lineup. In fact, we’d wager if you removed the badges and parked alongside a Q5, most people would think they’re the same vehicle. For those willing to trade off rear-seat headroom for a slightly more distinctive silhouette, Audi offers a coupe-ish version of the Q4 called the Sportback.
That sense of normalcy continues inside the Q4. It’s not as minimalistic as a Polestar 2, but the Q4’s cabin is exactly what you’d expect from something with four rings on the steering wheel: fit-and-finish is top-notch, visibility is excellent, and the logical layout is complemented by physical switchgear — more on that later. Audi’s MMI infotainment is easy to use, looks crisp on the 11.6-inch touchscreen display, and complemented by an equally crisp 10.3-inch all-digital gauge cluster.
The Q4 is also comfortable and roomy regardless of where you sit, and cargo space punches in at 702 litres with the rear seats up, and expands to 1,503 when folded. Funny enough, the Sportback version offers a touch more cargo space, at 739 L seats-up and 1,540 seats-down.
The one aspect to the Q4’s cabin that’s an unquestionable advantage over the ID.4 is, without a doubt, the switchgear. In all fairness, the Q4 still gets those insufferable haptic feedback touch panels on the steering wheel, and the rounded volume touchpad on the centre console is an unnecessary reinvention of the wheel. But Audi makes up for those transgressions by mercifully giving us physical buttons for the climate control system, a (mostly) conventional shifter on the centre console, and proper window switches. All told, it’s a vastly more intuitive setup than the ID.4.
But of course, that all comes at a price. The Q4 starts at a not-totally-unreasonable $63,400, but our particular tester was loaded up with a number of options — the priciest of which being the $14,500 Premium + Tech Package — resulting in a grand total of $82,490 as-tested before fees, taxes, and any federal and provincial EV rebates. That’s not cheap — the top-spec ID.4 with the same powertrain as the Q4 tops out in the mid-$50,000 range — but it’s competitive among other premium EVs. Both the dual-motor Polestar 2 and GV60 top out at the $80,000 range as well.
The premium EV space is an interesting one. Most competitors offer some sort of party trick, but the Q4 counters all that simply by being normal. It’s pleasant to drive, it looks like any other Audi, and above all, its interior controls don’t make you want to take a rubber mallet to the dashboard. If you like the idea of the Volkswagen ID.4 but simply can’t live with its interior, the 2023 Audi Q4 E-Tron is a great alternative. Just go easy with the options.