Audi Q4 E-tron 40 2021 UK review

Even so, the Q4 is quite a strange-looking car. When you stand back and take it in, you’ll quickly see that it looks much less like either a Q3 or Q5 from some angles than some slightly angry, high-rised, 150%-scale modern take on the original A2 hatchback. The car’s bonnet and front overhang are very short, its cabin and wheelbase are both very long in proportion to its overall length, and its waistline is high, with an awful lot of metalwork on show below it.

Luxury car design convention has held for decades that the length of a car’s bonnet, and the distance presented between the front wheel arch and the base of the windscreen – ‘the premium gap’, as it has become known – are key in defining the visual appeal of a car you might be inclined to pay a premium for. Well, the Q4 E-tron hasn’t got one; couldn’t really have less of one, actually. 

It has, instead, a slightly stunted, snub-nosed look in profile, those busy body surfaces and two-tone arches and sills all clear attempts to disguise the sort of proportions that would otherwise look awkward and bulky. It might have been fair enough, of course, if the Q4 had come along earlier, for Audi to have simply declared that “electric cars are different” and that it isn’t fair to judge them for aesthetic appeal as you might an equivalent combustion-engined car. Ten years ago, or even five, we might have swallowed that. 

But today – when EVs like the Jaguar I-Pace, Honda E, Polestar 2 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 have all showed us differently? Surely, it’s for Audi to justify its standing as a design brand, and its premium positioning, with a better-looking electric car? In my view, they’ve missed the target by a distance here.

The view from the inside of the Q4 outwards isn’t much more familiar. You sit at a midway compromise of normal- and SUV-typical eyelines, but your view of the front of the car and the wider world outside is hampered by steeply raked A-pillars, a steeply raked windscreen, and by that short bonnet that slopes away from you as it advances, whose forward extremity is therefore quite hard to judge. The car’s windscreen angle is like that in order to provide good aerodynamics for the Q4, no doubt; also to provide room to accommodate the projector for the car’s augmented-reality head-up display, which Audi touts as a major technical selling point, ahead of the driver.

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