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Auto review: Electric or gas? Audi e-tron vs. Audi SQ5

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

Cadillac Lyriq. Ford Mustang Mach E. Polestar 2. New, premium electric cars are coming and they will inevitably be compared to Tesla, the baseline for battery-powered success. But to sell in volume, these challengers must also outperform the gas siblings across the showroom floor.

Take the electric Audi e-tron Fastback and Audi SQ5 SUVs I just drove to Hell and back.

Hell, Michigan, that is. My favorite southeast Michigan drive route, the 120-mile journey tests a vehicle's tech, handling and range. The gas-powered, $45,000 Audi Q5 is the brand's best-selling vehicle, and its SQ5 performance version is the e-tron Sportback's peer in power, looks and handling.

Price them with similar features and an SQ5 costs $63,490 compared to my $79,390 e-Tron. For that premium you also get worse range, longer fuel stops and higher refueling prices. Oh.

I took off for Hell in the SQ5 without a moment's thought. The e-tron, well ... not so much. Drive an EV — especially a non-Tesla EV — outside its metro comfort zone and the trip conforms to your car, not the other way 'round.

I started my e-Tron with 174 miles of charge, and ... but Payne, I thought the advertised range for e-Tron is 218?

 

Yes, but the first rule of battery-powered cars is you only charge to 100% when needed. Repeated, full charges compromise battery durability. E-tron's 174 miles is shy of the Tesla Model Y's 260 miles (80% of 326-mile full range) — and well short of the gas-powered SQ5's 425-mile range (full tank, no 80% calculations needed).

The dreaded, range anxiety questions crawled into my head. Driving to Hell and back is 108 miles. But I also wanted to detour to Ann Arbor to pick up a Reuben sandwich from my favorite Zingerman's Deli.

How many miles does that add? Will cold December weather sap my range? Can I make it?

Gah, I hate those questions. Tesla answers them with its proprietary Supercharger network. Not e-tron, which is dependent on third-party chargers.

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