Many delays laterAudi’s new E-Tron is now available. It’s the Q4, a little SUV based on the same MEB platform that sits beneath the Volkswagen ID.4’s skin.
This means that the layout is identical and, more importantly, the identical 82-kWh lithium battery pack. It’s wrapped in a premium look and feel to match its premium $48,800 price.
It’s easy to compare the Q4 to its VW corporate cousin or even the other Audi E-Tron models; we thought it’d be more interesting to line Audi’s latest up against Tesla’s stalwart SUV, the Model Y. The Model Y used to be an affordable entry point to electrification. But it’s becoming more expensive every day. Today’s starting price? $65,990.
This fight between Audi and Tesla might seem unfair given the financial delta. Continue reading to discover that the two are closer than you might imagine.
Here’s a break down of the 2022 Audi Q4 50 vs Tesla Model Y by category:
Design will always be subjective, but it’s hard to get excited about the Model Y’s style. Why? It took the Model 3’s look, which was unveiled six years ago, as its main source. The Model Y, while not offensive, is a slightly larger, more bulbous sedan that desperately needs a visual refresh.
Audi’s Q4 E-Tron, on the other hand, has a thoroughly modern look. Creased fender flares at every corner give it some subtle aggression, while the big grille at the front identifies its family lineage even if it’s only there for looks.
Silver insets front, sides and rear provide some visual flair, though buyers have the option to black all that out if they like — as on the car I tested. This, along with the choice of four exterior colors, and three distinct wheel designs gives the Audi an advantage when it comes to factory personalization.
Award-winning Exterior Design: Audi Q4 E-Tron
I fear these cars’ interior designs may prove to be even more subjective, but it’s hard to see the inside of a Model Y as approaching the level of quality you’d expect from a $65,000 car. Every time I sit in one, I’m reminded that it was designed to simplify manufacturing and minimize cost. If you love digging through touchscreen menus while you’re driving, then you’ll probably prefer the Tesla.
For me, I appreciate a bit more tactility.
That said, the Audi’s interior isn’t perfect. We’ll start with the good: Materials and overall fit and finish are far higher on the Q4. You can find a few inexpensive plastics, but the large areas of piano black with fingerprints are really annoying.
However, the leather seats look and feel great and, crucially, buyers can choose between three different interior trims compared to the Tesla’s two. There’s plenty of room, even in the back seats — which, by the way, have their own climate controls and a pair of USB-C ports.
There’s a touchscreen up front, of course, but discrete HVAC controls with real buttons live right underneath. A gauge cluster lives behind the steering wheel, something Tesla’s Models 3 and Y both do without, plus an augmented-reality heads-up display on the higher trims.
But it’s not all good news.
While the Audi’s steering wheel controls are comprehensive, they are capacitive touch buttons with little space between them. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I accidentally triggered voice commands when trying to raise the volume. Meanwhile, the steering wheel heater might be the weakest I’ve ever experienced, and the heated seats are tepid at best.
Finally, there’s no frunk, which I know some of you feel strongly about. That helps give the Model Y the edge on cargo capacity: 34.3 cubic feet with the seats up compared to the Q4’s 24.8.
The Audi’s better materials, additional displays and overall design make it look and feel far better, but those steering controls and the relative lack of cargo space make it hard to pick a winner.
Interior Design Winner: Draw
Tech and safety
Tesla was a pioneer in the use of large touchscreens in cars and a strong advocate for them. This was the Model S’s first introduction. 12 years later, Tesla’s user interface looks and feels dated. The fact that every option, including brake regen and wiper speed is hidden in menu after list is an irritation.
Worse, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still absent. It’s clear that this situation is unlikely to ever change. Model Y is home to dozens of useless streaming media and games. I’d trade them all for the ability to use Google Maps and easily stream from YouTube Music.
Audi’s infotainment system, on the other hand, has a cleaner, modern look, but occasionally sluggish performance. The navigation experience is also a bit outdated. However, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay wireless eliminate those worries. And, with the Q4 offering both a proper gauge cluster and a heads-up display, it’s the clear winner.
Safety is somewhat more difficult to determine. Ostensibly, the Model Y’s misnamed Full Self Driving package provides greater benefits than a traditional, active-safety setup like on the Audi. However, given the questionable state of FSD as of the moment, I’m not factoring that into the comparison.
The Audi, on the other hand, features parking sensors, forward collision warning and obstacle avoidance as well lane departure and rear cross-traffic alerts. While the Model Y has many of these features, Tesla decided to discontinue ultrasonic sensor installation. It also lacks parking assistance.
Tech and Safety Winner: Audi Q4 E-Tron
For outright speed and acceleration, there’s no question: the Tesla wins. The Model Y is faster than the Q4 even at its most aggressive throttle mapping. That’s not to say the Audi is slow. It is also very quick. A 5.8-second zero-to-60 time is more than respectable, but the Model Y’s 4.8 clearly has it beat.
How fast can a small SUV that is family-oriented be? The Audi wins this category because of its ride quality. The Model Y is prone to crashing over any bump, allowing the noises of compression into the cabin. The Audi itself isn’t exactly a standout in this regard, especially on the 20-inch wheels that my test car rolled into my life on. (If you’re configuring your own, the 19-inch wheels are the ones to get.) However, it’s the far more pleasing choice over broken, uneven asphalt and concrete.
The Audi is the clear winner when it comes down to handling. The Audi is more confident than the Tesla when it comes to corner carvers.
Given the handling and ride quality I’m calling this category for the Audi, but if you’re someone who prioritizes outright shove over all else, you might call it for Tesla.
Driver Dynamics Winner: Audi Q4 E-Tron
This is a fact that can’t be debated: The Model Y wins. Tesla offers a 330-mile EPA estimate on the Long Range Model Y. This drops to 303 for Performance trim. My experience with multiple Model Ys over many years has shown that the 330-mile figure is a bit too optimistic. However, in ideal conditions it is close to the truth. (This means: moderate temperatures, no headwinds and flat terrain.
Audi’s Q4 50 E-Tron Quattro, on the other hand, is rated by a relatively paltry 241 miles by the EPA, though that steps up by one whole mile if you opt for the slightly slippier Sportback trim. With no all-wheel-drive, the range figures go up to 265 mi for the Q440 E-Tron.
The Q4 50 Quattro comes with an 82-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. You can calculate the efficiency rating at 2.9 mi/kWh by adding up that range and pack sizes. I scored exactly 2.9 in my Q4 50 Quattro testing. That’s despite spending a good portion of my testing time at highway speeds, where many EVs struggle thanks to increased air resistance. You can rest assured that 241 seems to be at least realistic. And, frankly, I think it’ll be plenty for most.
Most people will charge their battery at home when it is time to recharge. Tesla wins again for juice-making on the go. Tesla’s supercharger network covers nearly 1,500 locations in the US. The Q4 E-Tron’s primary high-speed charging network is Electrify America, which now has more than 800 locations and is growing rapidly. This gap is narrowed when you consider the many other charging networks Audi has access to. The Model Y is able to use many of these, but it still wins.
Range Winner: Tesla Model Y
Tesla Model Y pricing is subject to weather changes, but the base Model Y Long Range in white with no options costs $65,990 plus a $1200 destination fee. The company recently offered discounts to those who were delivered in December.
The cheapest Q4 E-Tron starts at $48,800, but that’s the single-motor version, so it’s not a fair comparison. Step up to the Quattro flavor and you’re looking at $53,800 plus $1,195 destination. That model lacks adaptive cruise and some other niceties, like parking assistance, driver’s seat memory, and a power liftgate. You’ll need the Premium Plus trim to add those things and a starting price of $60,400, still $5,590 cheaper than the Tesla.
The Prestige trim is the most expensive, which includes an augmented-reality head-up display and brilliant matrix headlights. There are only two options: larger wheels and premium exterior colors. The Tesla Premium is $61,900 and $4,090 lower than the Tesla.
The Audi is a lot more economical than a Model Y entry-level model, even with all the options checked.
Value Winner: Audi Q4 E-Tron
Audi is the overall winner
Design is subjective. While you could argue for the Tesla to win in driving dynamics, the Audi holds the lead in most other areas. Only range remains the Tesla’s win, which is a significant victory, but I think 241 miles is enough for most people. Fast chargers are hardly ubiquitous, but they’re common enough to allow road trips to most places without too many extended pit stops.
The Q4 offers more safety features, better driver assistance, and is much more affordable. Despite all the delays in bringing its all-electric SUV to market it’s clear that Audi’s Q4 E-Tron was worth the wait.
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