2023 Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron Review: Not Quite Special Enough

Funky looks and an upscale interior can’t quite overcome the Q4 E-Tron’s Volkswagen ID.4 underpinnings.

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2023 Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron Review: Not Quite Special Enough © 2023 Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron Review: Not Quite Special Enough

One look at the 2023 Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron and you might think something’s different. Everything from its unusual ‘Sportback’ shape to its closed-off grille and dazzling LED lights make it seem like something exciting, with the promise of a unique and interesting experience. Sadly, actually getting behind the wheel and driving the Q4 breaks that promise. 

To be fair to the Q4 E-Tron, few Audi crossovers are all that engaging to drive. It isn’t like the gas-powered Audi Q5 is quickening any pulses. However, at least with something like the Q5, you know you’re driving something expensive, something special. It rides, steers, and handles with a sophisticated authority that lets you know you’re driving an Audi. But after driving the Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron, I came away feeling like I’d just driven … a car. 

<em>Nico DeMattia</em>
Nico DeMattia

Admittedly, in Audi’s defense, it wasn’t working with the blankest of canvases when it made the Q4 E-Tron and ‘nondescript’ was sort of the name of the game. Being an electric car for a legacy brand, Audi seems to have wanted it to drive like a normal car. But did Audi take it just a little too far?

2023 Audi Q4 E-Tron Sportback Specs

    The Basics

    The Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron is essentially a rebadged version of the Volkswagen ID.4. That might sound like hyperbole, but it isn't. It’s based on the same MEB all-electric architecture as the ID.4, it has the same battery pack, the same powertrain, and even the same rear drum brakes. You read that right—rear drum brakes on an Audi in 2023. Under its more premium, funky looking skin is the beating heart of an electric Volkswagen. 

    Nico DeMattia

    I have little love for the modern trend of coupe-ifying SUVs, with automakers giving them cute names like ‘Sportback.’ I think they usually look worse than the normal SUVs they’re based on and their typical lack of rear passenger and cargo space make them worse packages overall. However, as far as coupe-ish SUVs go, the Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron is a pretty good looking vehicle. Its proportions are a bit odd, with its incredibly short overhangs, but they’re handsome and there are some interesting design choices. Its muscular rear fenders, sharp shoulder line, cute little rear spoiler, and blocked-off grille make it look unique in a sea of boring crossovers. I still think the standard Q4 E-Tron looks better than this Sportback model but the latter’s quirkiness is appealing. 

    That quirkiness completely disappears inside, though. Open the door of the Q4 E-Tron and you’re met with a typical, corporate Audi interior. Look closely and you’ll notice that the Q4 isn’t identical to other Audis, like the Q3 or A3, but there’s no question that it shares the four-ringed bloodline. That’s not to say the Q4’s cabin is bad—it’s incredibly well made, everything feels sturdy and high quality, and most of the materials are excellent—it’s just boring to look at. And that was after only a week—imagine how it will feel after a year or two.

    Audi Reviews photo

    Nico DeMattia

    Unlike the VW ID.4, the Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron is only available with an all-wheel-drive, dual-motor setup. Its two motors make a combined 295 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, which draw juice from an 82-kWh (76.6 kWh usable) battery pack. Audi claims zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and that feels accurate, but the Q4 E-Tron never feels particularly enthusiastic about doing it. Customers will never be left wanting for power as it’s more than capable of passing slower traffic and exploiting gaps in traffic. Just don’t expect any excitement from its performance.

    Driving the Audi Q4 E-Tron Sportback

    I’m sad to report that driving the Audi Q4 E-Tron Sportback isn’t anywhere near as interesting as it looks. In most areas, it’s painfully mediocre and in one area it’s downright bad. The highlight of the Q4 E-Tron’s driving experience is its steering. It’s appropriately weighted for a comfy electric crossover and accurate enough to easily place the Audi EV on the road. However, the rest of the Q4 isn’t quite as sharp. While its soft suspension makes for a comfortable ride, it can’t keep up with its steering, sloppily exhibiting too much body roll during sudden direction changes. 

    That same suspension also causes it to feel a bit ponderous at highway speeds. It isn’t horrible, but it certainly lacks the rock-solid high-speed stability usually found in Audis. Even an Audi A3 feels more stable at speed than the Q4 E-Tron, which is concerning given their size and price differences. 

    <em>Nico DeMattia</em>
    Nico DeMattia

    However, the biggest issue with the Q4 E-Tron by far is its brakes. They’re some of the weakest brakes I’ve felt in a modern car. The first half of the pedal travel is far too soft and provides little to no actual deceleration. Then it gradually comes in as you travel further down the pedal. Such a soft pedal makes every braking situation feel sketchy until you recalibrate your brain to use it and even then it isn’t exactly confidence inspiring. Audi claims regenerative braking is enough to compensate for its rear drum brakes and that’s probably technically true but it certainly didn’t feel that way.

    The Highs and Lows 

    I’m not trying to say the Audi Q4 E-Tron is all bad. There are some redeeming qualities to Audi’s smallest EV. Its cabin tech is great, with an easy-to-use MMI screen that features haptic feedback and a digital gauge screen that’s nice to look at, easy to understand, and full of customization. As a tradeoff for the meh handling, the Q4 also rides well, which makes it a comfortable daily runabout, and it’s more spacious inside than its odd shape would suggest. 

    Nico DeMattia

    Unfortunately, there are quite a few lows. The aforementioned brakes are just not acceptable in a premium car in this price range, it lacks any sort of superior specs to the cheaper Volkswagen ID.4, and its color, interior, and trim options list is painfully dull. The only non-monochromatic color is Navarra Blue which is nice but it’s also one of the most common modern Audi colors. For something that looks like it would be fun and exciting, it has a pretty boring color palette. 

    Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron Features, Options, and Competition

    The entry-level Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron Premium starts at $59,990, which isn’t cheap, but it does come with some decent standard equipment. Right from the factory, it gets 20-inch wheels, LED headlights, a 10.25-inch digital gauge screen, three-zone climate control, and a panoramic sunroof. Being a Prestige model, my test car came with the upgraded Audi Virtual Cockpit digital gauge screen, a Sonos surround sound system, a gimmicky but still kind of cool augmented reality head-up display, and Matrix LED headlights. 

    <em>Nico DeMattia</em>
    Nico DeMattia

    In the world of sporty-looking, compact, electric crossovers, the Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron has two main competitors—the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E. The entry-level Model Y Long Range starts at $56,380, has 330 miles of range, and is much quicker than the Q4, hitting 60 mph in a claimed 4.8 seconds. Meanwhile, the entry-level Mustang Mach-E is cheaper, starts at $47,495, has a similar range at 247 miles, and is just as quick to 60 mph as the Q4, but is only rear-wheel-drive. However, the Mustang can be optioned with an extended-range battery and all-wheel drive for similar money to the Q4 (depending on spec) and will have both more range and more power.

    If I were dead set on an Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron though, I’d have to stick with my test car’s spec. The Q4 E-Tron just doesn’t provide an exciting enough driving experience to not be had with all of the goodies. Loading it up with all of its available tech and luxury makes it feel like an Audi, which could very well be the reason customers buy it.

    • Nico DeMattia
    • Nico DeMattia

    Nico DeMattia

    Range, Charging, and Efficiency

    The Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron’s 241 miles of range is pretty average for an EV crossover in its price range. While I didn’t deplete its battery in my short time with the car, I never had a reason to doubt Audi’s claimed figure. I saw efficiency of around three miles per kWh, which would get it close to its 241 miles of claimed range, though that efficiency did obviously drop quite a bit while testing its performance. 

    According to Audi, the Q4 Sportback E-Tron will recharge its battery from flat to full in 9.5 hours on a 9.6-kW home wall socket, or 7.5 hours with an 11.5-kW wall charger. Its peak charging speed is 150 kW when using a public DC fast charger and Audi claims, at that speed, it can go from 5 to 80% state-of-charge in 36 minutes. 

    <em>EPA</em>
    EPA

    Sustainability

    The Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron is built at the Zwickau, Germany plant, which only manufactures EVs for the VW Group, such as the VW ID.3 and ID.4. In an attempt to make it as environmentally sustainable as possible, the Zwickau plant gets much of its electricity from hydroelectric power plants, as well as wind and solar parks. It also gets electricity from natural gas, rather than coal-burning power plants, and has the latest in energy-saving building materials. 

    Value and Verdict

    At basically $60,000 to start, the Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron isn’t cheap. It does come with some nice options as standard, its range is pretty decent, and its cabin is a nice place to spend some time, even if it is a bit boring looking. Is it a good value? That depends on what you prioritize in an electric premium crossover. If you want an electric car more than anything else, the Tesla Model Y is probably the right car for you. But if you want a premium crossover, and the electric part is secondary, then the Q4 might be a good choice, but the Mustang Mach-E is also a great option. 

    However, as an actual car, I can’t help but be disappointed with the Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron. Its looks promise something fun and interesting, but its driving experience is nothing of the sort. Its suspension feels sloppy, its brakes are subpar to say the least, and it lacks the sort of solidity Audis are known for. On paper, the Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron seems like decent value for money but when you drive it, you realize that it just feels like a Volkswagen ID.4 in a stylish three-piece suit. 

    <em>Nico DeMattia</em>
    Nico DeMattia

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