“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”
Remember those days? Mirrors never lie, we were told, except when you’re behind the wheel of a car. In this case, what you see in the side mirror is distorted and the car behind you is even closer to gate-crashing your boot than you initially feared.
That, and my bathroom mirror always puts my hair parting on the other side of my head.
The new Audi e-tron doesn’t have the first problem. It’s the first car available in Australia to swap the traditional side mirror for a camera and a digital screen.
This means objects in the mirror are precisely as they appear, and the camera can also doctor the image to provide a clearer view. You’ll especially notice this after dark.
Audi also claims the smaller surface area has made the SUV more slippery through the air by reducing the overall ‘drag coefficient’ from 0.28 to 0.27. This is said to slightly extend the driving range.
They also claim it reduces wind noise, making for a quieter cabin. And the slimmer housing improves outward visibility, especially useful at intersections. Fogged-up mirrors are consigned to the dustbin of history and adjusting the view is no more complicated than using a smartphone.
You get the idea. It’s the bee’s knees.
The only trouble is mirrors are among the most vulnerable parts of a car (after the top of the rear bumper when you’re pulling the baby’s pram out). Replacing a camera is going to be a whole lot more expensive than a pane of glass and an indicator light.
The good thing about the e-tron is that it’s an Audi. Anything that hits an Audi will almost certainly come off second best.
You especially notice this inside. The door closes with the solid thunk that immediately sets it apart as something that was hewn from rock in Germany.
Canberra’s Questacon has to test all of its interactive equipment to ensure it can withstand a tirade of little human fingers pounding it for days. We should just sign a contract with Audi. There is not a piece of plastic, leather, or button anywhere in the e-tron that won’t still be here in millennia. And just as refined as day dot.
Audi describes it as ‘haptic feedback’, but even the virtual buttons on the two touch screens let out satisfying clicks when pressed. Ideal in a moving car when a small bump could be the difference between adjusting the heated seats and phoning your mother-in-law.
It’s astonishingly quiet inside, partly because the e-tron is Audi’s first fully electric car. A motor over each axle and a 95 kWh lithium-ion battery provide a combined total of 300 kW of power (in boost mode). It’s not as savagely quick off the line as you might expect, but it’s still a silky smooth whoosh up to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds.
Audi also went to great lengths to create what they bill as the sound of the future. The engineers dug out their science-fiction movies and musical instruments so that whenever you plant your foot or lift it off, the e-tron does its best rendition of a spaceship.
Range is estimated at 436 km, but unlike a petrol car that can be filled in minutes, you’ll rarely want to push it too close to the edge. It’s also a hefty thing, weighing 2.5 tonnes, so drive with enthusiasm and the kilometres melt away like butter in a saucepan. An extra 100 km would be nice.
But then again, imagine what the range would be like if it had conventional mirrors?
2022 Audi e-tron 55 Quattro
- $146,100 (plus driveaway costs)
- Two electric motors, 95 kWh lithium-ion battery, 300 kW / 664 Nm
- Single-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
- 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds
- 436 km range
- 2,490 kg.
This vehicle was provided for testing by Audi Centre Canberra. Region has no commercial arrangement with Audi Centre Canberra.