Audi's first production electric vehicle is a beautifully built and practical five-seater that is a hoot to drive
Electric dream come true The Audi e-tron has some bespoke exterior features, such as a semi-blanked grille, pronounced fender bulges and wide rocker panel profiles. PHOTOS: AUDI

Two new sport utility vehicles (SUVs) will join the Audi model line-up next year. The first one is the second-generation Q3.

But the arrival of the e-tron, the German carmaker's first pure electric vehicle, in the third quarter of next year will be far more exciting.

The e-tron is not a petrol-electric hybrid or a plug-in hybrid, but a battery-powered, electric motor-driven, five-seater SUV.

The e-tron's size is between that of a Q5 and a Q7. Its styling, both inside and out, resembles that of Audi's other Q models.

However, the e-tron does have some bespoke exterior features, such as a semi-blanked grille, pronounced fender bulges and wide rocker panel profiles along its flanks.

It is not as sleek as the recently launched Q8, but it is a handsome SUV.

Two electric motors power the e-tron. Each one is located transversely between the left and right wheels, with the motor shaft concentric with the output drive shafts.

A compact planetary transmission on one side of the motor provides both speed reduction and differential functions. Electric motors do not need a gearbox because their torque output is constant throughout the speed range.

However, because motors typically spin between 10,000 and 15,000 revolutions per minute, a one-step reduction is necessary to achieve conventional wheel and road speeds.

The complete modular assembly is so compact it is hard to believe that the power unit in front produces 168hp and the one in the rear produces 188hp, a total of 356hp.

Torque-wise, the front motor develops 247Nm and there is another 314Nm available from the rear motor. Altogether, the e-tron has 561Nm of torque that is instantly available.

When necessary, both motors can deliver 402hp and 664Nm for eight seconds, thus enabling the e-tron to sprint from rest to 100kmh in 5.7 seconds.

Even without the eight seconds of extra boost, the e-tron will charge to 100kmh in 6.6 seconds.

That is quite a feat when you consider that the e-tron weighs 2.5 tonnes, a figure that makes even the 2.25-tonne Bentley Continental GT seem relatively light.

The e-tron's battery set comprises lithium-ion cell modules that sit below the passenger compartment. Contributing to roughly 25 per cent of the SUV's total weight, this 95kWh battery helps keep the e-tron's centre of mass low.

The e-tron is the first production Audi with an electric quattro (all-wheel-drive) drivetrain, too.

The rear motor is the primary power unit. A power control system constantly monitors power and traction demands and decides when to activate the front motor.

All-wheel-drive is available when necessary. Meanwhile, torque distribution from left to right is managed by selective braking instead of complex differential control. The car has adaptive air suspension as standard.

Driving up Abu Dhabi's Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road proved that these systems work remarkably well. Through sweeping turns and tight hairpins, the e-tron kept all four tyres firmly planted and exhibited no signs of losing grip at either end.

Despite having to move 2.5 tonnes, the motors' instant torque was comfortably up to the task and accelerated the e-tron eagerly out of every corner.

Apart from driving up the aforementioned mountain road, I also did a few highway runs at 160kmh and drove across desert strips comprised of gravel and soft sand.

Although I started with only an 80 per cent full battery, I was still able to cover about 265km during this drive without emptying it.

Audi claims that the e-tron's unique energy recuperation technology gives it a maximum range of 400km when fully charged.

The e-tron will serve most Singapore drivers comfortably. On average, it should require a recharge only once every two days.

Anyone interested in electric cars and has about $400,000 to spend should rush down to the Audi showroom when it arrives. Seriously.