Audi SQ8 e-tron long-term report: Is there anything to like about EVs?

James Baggott attempts to focus on the positives of running an electric car on a day-to-day basis

The SQ8 packs a lot of performance
Audi SQ8 The SQ8 packs a lot of performance

If you’re new – or have never tried – life with an electric car, it’s pretty easy to moan about them.

Public charging woe and long waits for battery charges are well documented, but after a few months with our Audi SQ8 e-tron electric long-termer I am starting to appreciate the benefits of running an EV too. So in the interests of balance, I wanted to focus on a few of them for this update.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you won’t have failed to notice car manufacturers are hurtling towards an electric future and chances are, if you haven’t tried one yet, it will only be a matter of time before you do.

The SQ8’s boot is put to the test
The SQ8’s boot is put to the test

But what are the benefits of making the switch? Well, for many there are the cost savings that can – and I emphasise the word ‘can’ – be had. Currently, you don’t pay vehicle excise duty, or road tax as it’s more commonly known, for EVs and if you’re clever with your charging, they can be cheaper to run.

As I explained in a previous report, that hasn’t exactly been the case for me as my home energy tariff is not set up for electric cars. This is because the downside of more expensive daytime rates (I work from home) would have actually increased my bills if I’d switched to an EV-specific rate.

However, if you get an electric car-specific energy tariff, and don’t work from home, there certainly can be savings to be had. I have a few friends who own electric cars and they get free charging at work too which naturally brings their fuel bills down considerably.

Even if you can’t charge for free, or get a decent home tariff, I must admit the fact you can leave home every morning with a full ‘tank’ of fuel is definitely a benefit. I have a serious dislike of petrol stations so, the more I can avoid them, the better.

There’s also the distinctive power delivery of an electric car to enjoy. As there are no pistons or turbos to spool up, torque is delivered the minute you press the accelerator and this translates into super quick getaways. While there’s no noise to go with it, the instant power really is quite addictive.

Electric cars are also incredibly smooth and this Audi is a prime example of that, plus it’s very comfortable to drive and relaxing. Speaking of sounds, I also love the Tron-like hum it makes when reversing and at low speeds. It’s all very futuristic.

There are also environmental benefits to consider. While the internet will argue for decades about the impact of mining for the precious metals required to make the batteries, I don’t think you can disagree with the zero tailpipe emissions and the reduced noise pollution.

I live next to a busy bus route and they’ve recently changed all the buses to full EVs. The reduced noise is noticeable and the fact they’re not chugging away, belching out smelly back clouds of diesel fumes outside my front door is a welcome relief. I do also feel like I’m doing my bit driving around in an EV and definitely don’t feel guilty when I need to make a short journey by car.

However, I won’t hide the fact that the transition to an electric car has been hard. I still won’t drive the SQ8 over long distances when I know I’ll need to charge, such is my distrust of the awful public charging infrastructure we still have to endure. Yes, it’s getting better, but I can’t deal with the added stress of not knowing if the charger I’ve planned to use is working or busy when I get to it.

Recently I have been playing around with the Sport settings in the e-tron and the added boost this gives you away from the lights is superb. Even though the car is incredibly heavy – nearly three tonnes – it still manages to get off the line quickly enough to make other car drivers raise an eyebrow.

It’s hard to miss the SQ8
It’s hard to miss the SQ8

I’d like the regenerative braking to be a little simpler to understand, though. In most EVs, you take your foot off the accelerator and there’s some level of ‘engine braking’ that puts some charge back into the battery. Most EVs have a ‘B’ mode that can increase this further still.

The SQ8 is different and adjusts the regeneration it thinks you require with a mix of on-board sensors and sat nav. So, if you’re approaching traffic lights or a roundabout, it will sometimes kick in, other times not at all. You can overrule it using the paddles on the steering wheel but it’s nowhere near good enough and I’d much rather it was either on or off.

Recently the Audi has been called into action for all manner of every day chores and I’m always impressed how it copes. A trip to the garden centre saw it swallow some 2.4m posts and probably a few too many plants with ease. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a mishap with a tray of pansies so had to treat it to a hand car wash. With a shine to the orange paint it hadn’t seen since it arrived, there was certainly no missing me on the way home.

One other benefit of electric cars is that everyone you meet wants to talk about them. I’ve never known anything in the modern history of motoring that splits opinion quite like an EV and everyone wants to give you their opinion. I’m still pretty agnostic to them and on balance find the additional hassle that requires running one outweighs the benefits of owning one, but with a few more months left to get used to it that may change.

  • Model: Audi SQ8
  • Price as tested: £118,105
  • Engine: Electric motor with 114kW battery
  • Power: 496bhp
  • Torque: 973Nm
  • 0-60mph: 4.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 130mph
  • Range: 265 miles (claimed)
  • Emissions: 0g/km CO2
  • Mileage: 4,452