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The Q4 E-Tron represents a new entry point into Audi’s growing electric vehicle family. The compact crossover is smaller and less expensive than the Audi E-Tron mid-size electric SUV that jump started the electric era for the brand back in 2019, back when Tesla was the only luxury electric car maker of significance. Now everybody’s doing it.

Audi recently rolled out the second iteration of the E-Tron with the 2024 Q8 E-Tron as Mercedes ramps up production of the EQE SUV and BMW the iX, which are both priced more than the Q8 E-Tron. The Q4 E-Tron straddles a different set of prices and segments: Starting at just over $50,000, the Q4 is at least $20,000 less expensive and better able to compete with more accessible electric crossovers ranging from the Tesla Model Y to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Genesis GV60, among nearly a dozen others.

That includes the Volkswagen ID.4, with which the Q4 shares the brand’s global electric platform and an 82-kwh battery pack. The entry-level electric Audi features a better interface than the ID.4, but it comes up short of the luxury hallmarks intended to make it feel a class above.

Q4 50 E-Tron Quattro

I tested the $54,495 Q4 50 that upgrades from standard rear-wheel drive to a dual-motor all-wheel-drive setup. The $7,600 Prestige top-grade package best distinguishes it from the feel of the ID.4 with adaptive cruise, a virtual cockpit with 3-D mapping from Google that is the best native navigation system on the market, a heated steering wheel, Sonos audio, and dual-pane acoustic glass that hushes cabin noise from the 20-inch wheels (19-inch wheels are standard). The upgraded wheels come courtesy of the $2,200 S line plus package; a few other options bumped the total price to $64,765. That’s about $10,000 more than a similarly equipped ID.4 AWD Pro S.

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The specs and driving dynamics are more similar than different. The pack sits under the cabin floor and feeds a rear 148-kw motor (201 hp) and 69-kw front motor (94 hp). The system makes 339 lb-ft of torque, and Audi quotes a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds in Dynamic mode with Boost engaged. It’s plenty quick, with good acceleration that lacks the kind of jolt that throws you back in your seat. That’s a good thing. It’s even, predictable, and smooth. The rear can get squirrely, too, as if hinting at an RS performance variant to come.

But its character is inconsistent. Audi tunes the suspension to the firm side, even in Efficiency or Comfort modes, and it could use more damping from its front struts and four-link independent rear suspension to soak up the road while cruising. Despite the firmness and overall planted feeling, it’s still prone to lean like other crossovers, which is understandable given its 4,900-pound curb weight. From the steering to the handling, it’s a duller, more distant driving experience than in other Audis. The cabin remains quiet, though.

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Pump the brakes, bang the drum

The inconsistent, neither-here-nor-there impression carries over to the regenerative braking system. There’s no one-pedal drive, but there are about four settings to please most drivers’ tastes. Paddle shifters adjust three regenerative brake settings, then there’s a “B” setting on the console gear switch that acts as a step above the most significant regen setting.

The tester defaulted to no regen braking every time I touched the accelerator. It was more than frustrating until I found the setting in the touchscreen to shut it off.

A more compelling feature was Efficiency Assist, which mimics adaptive cruise control but for braking. It automatically adjusts the regen based on the lead car to optimize efficiency, even without adaptive cruise control set. It sounded better than it performed, at least in my limited testing. On curves it misread the lead car a couple times so there was no regen, but on straight stops it worked as designed and nearly to a stop. Pressing the brake into a stop and another hard press put the Q4 in auto hold so I could take my foot off the brake without the car creeping, which was a nice touch.

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The Q4 does most of its braking through the motor/generators instead of the actual brake pads, which are activated when the driver presses the physical brake. It also explains why Audi went back in time to put drum brakes at the rear: they won’t be used much, so might as well cut some cost. A firm, initial grab gives way to softness in the middle of the pedal before it corrects and grabs. But it felt inconsistent.

Interior advantage

One of the competitive advantages of the VW ID.4 is the roomy interior, and that mostly applies to the Q4, but with a much better—and much more familiar—touchscreen interface. With more than 37 inches of rear legroom, there’s enough room to stack 6-footers front and back in comfort.

The panoramic sunroof eats into some headroom, unlike the full fixed glass roof in higher-end models of the ID.4. The rear middle seat is best used for an armrest or to fold down the middle of the 40/20/40-split rear seats. One comfort curiosity comes from the way the dash angles the 10.1-inch touchscreen and climate panel toward the driver. The dash then juts out like a shelf over the passenger side, crimping legroom.

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Good thing the touchscreen, 10.3-inch instrument cluster, head-up display, and voice commands more than make up for it, and combine to be one of the easiest and most functional infotainment systems to use. It’s shocking that the ID.4’s nuisance of an interface comes from the same family.

Average efficiency

The 2023 Q4 E-Tron has an EPA-rated range of 236 miles, with all-wheel drive. The coupe-like Sportback variant does aero better with a 242-mile range. In either case, its 2.8 miles per kwh falls a little short of our benchmark of 3.0 miles per kwh for good efficiency in an electric. With its 400-volt architecture, it can charge on a 240-volt plug in about 9 hours at a rate of 9.6 kw; CCS DC fast-charging at 150 kw replenishes it from 5-80% in 36 minutes. It’s average in charging rates and times.

It’s subjective to say if the Q4’s advantages and cachet are worth $10,000 more than the ID.4, but it seemed more than enough to me. The tougher question, however, is if it’s worth that much more than the Hyundai Ioniq 5, winner of our Best Electric Car To Buy 2023 award, or the Genesis GV60 or Jaguar I-Pace. Or, all the imminent electric compact crossovers from other luxe brands.

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