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The 2022 Audi Q4 e-tron.

sagmeister_potography/Courtesy of manufacturer

Audi today unveiled its smallest and most affordable electric vehicle. It’s called the Q4 e-tron and it will, strangely, also be the brand’s longest-range electric offering.

The 2022 Q4 e-tron will arrive in Canada in the fourth quarter of this year, with a sleeker-looking Sportback version to follow early next year. The Q4 will be Audi’s third fully-electric model line on sale here, following the original e-tron SUV and the sporty e-tron GT sedan.

We don’t yet know how much the Q4 will cost – that will be revealed in June – but a spokesperson for Audi Canada confirmed it will be priced below the $85,600 e-tron SUV, which will make the Q4 the brand’s most affordable EV to date.

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“The Q4 e-tron is really an important pillar in Audi’s electrification strategy,” said Oliver Hoffmann, the board member in charge of technical development at Audi. The Q4 is the brand’s first compact EV and the first built on this dedicated EV architecture, he explained. As such, the company will likely be counting on it to become Audi’s best-selling EV.

The Q4 has Audi’s largest infotainment displays, a new Sonos stereo system, as well as an augment-reality head-up display.

Courtesy of manufacturer

Despite its compact size and lower price, the Q4 will also be Audi’s longest-range EV. The Q4 e-tron 50 quattro is rated for 488 kilometres of range, while the Sportback version is expected to do slightly better, rated at 497 km. (For reference, Audi’s $130,000 flagship EV only manages 488 km). A rear-wheel drive version of the Q4 gets 520 km of range, but it won’t be offered in Canada.

All of the above range estimates come with a caveat in that they’re based on the WLTP testing scheme which is more generous than the EPA ratings used in North America. Based on how other Audi models’ WLTP-rated ranges have translated, we’d estimate the Q4′s EPA range will be around 400 km. A spokesperson for the company confirmed the Q4 will be Audi’s most affordable, most compact and longest-range EV when it arrives in Canada.

The reason the smaller Q4 has more range than its older, more expensive stablemates is partly due to the fact it weighs less, and that it is especially aerodynamically slippery. The main reason though, is that this new SUV is built on Volkswagen Group’s dedicated new electric-vehicle architecture, dubbed MEB, explained Martin Kraus, manager for the Q4 models. As a result, it doesn’t need to make structural accommodations for combustion engine technology.

The compact Q4 has the trunk space of Audi’s mid-size Q5 SUV and the rear-seat roominess of Audi’s large Q7, Kraus said. There’s no front trunk, but since there’s no central tunnel intruding into the cabin between the seats, that space is devoted to extra storage.

The Q4 has the rear-seat roominess of Audi’s large Q7.

Courtesy of manufacturer

In the cabin, the Q4 has Audi’s largest infotainment displays, a new Sonos stereo system, as well as an augment-reality head-up display. The latter appears to the driver as a massive transparent screen positioned about 10 metres in front of the car. On it, the system displays navigation directions in the form of large arrows that look as if they’re floating above the road. The idea, in theory, is that you’ll never miss another turn again.

The vehicle’s liquid-cooled battery has a 77 kWh net capacity, with two motors providing all-wheel drive and a total output of 295 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque. It’ll do 0-100 km/h in 6.2 seconds and tow a trailer load of up to 1,200 kg.

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On a road trip, you can fast charge the battery at a rate of 125 kW, which results in a gain of around 100 km in 10 minutes. (That’s under ideal conditions, using WLTP range estimates). An optional heat-pump is said to reduce the loss of driving range in cold weather, so you should be able to crank up the cabin heater without also cranking up the range anxiety.

The Tesla Model Y is a natural competitor to the Q4. On paper, the Tesla out-accelerates the Audi, getting to 100 km/h in just 5.0 seconds. The Model Y Long Range also offers significantly more driving range than the Q4, with an EPA-estimated 525 km of driving before the battery runs out. As we and others have noted, Tesla’s EPA-ranges are overly optimistic, so the real-world difference in driving range between the Q4 and Model Y probably won’t be as large as it appears.

The trunk space is akin to Audi’s mid-size Q5 SUV.

Courtesy of manufacturer

Audi doesn’t have “Full Self-Driving” as Tesla dubiously claims to offer, but the Q4 will have many advanced driver assistance systems like automatic emergency braking, and a collision avoidance assist that helps steer around obstacles.

Overall, the Q4 would appear to be Audi’s most convincing and competitive EV offering to date. Neither Mercedes nor BMW have anything like it yet.

If you’re looking for a more affordable electric SUV, you might look to Volkswagen’s new ID.4. Including the federal government incentive, it costs $40,000 and is underpinned by the same dedicated MEB electric architecture as the Audi.

Expect to see a lot more of the MEB architecture in the future. According to VW Group, this platform is the “the technical and economic backbone” of its big push into the EV market. By 2025, across its many brands, the Group aims to sell one million electric vehicles every year beginning in 2025.

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sagmeister_potography/Courtesy of manufacturer

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