After many delays, Audi has a new E-Tron on the market. It’s the Q4, a little SUV based on the same MEB platform that sits beneath the Volkswagen ID.4’s skin.
That means a similar layout and, most significantly, the identical 82-kWh battery pack here wrapped with a much more premium look and feel to match its premium price of $48,800, to start.
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. Once meant to be an affordable entry to the world of electrification, the Y seems to get more expensive by the day. Today’s starting price? $65,990.
Given that financial delta, this Audi versus Tesla fight might seem unfair. Read on to see these two are more evenly matched than you might think.
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? Well, it stole the bulk of its look from the Model 3, a car unveiled over six years ago. At best, the Model Y is an inoffensive, slightly more bulbous version of a sedan that is in desperate need of 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. That, plus a choice of four exterior colors and three separate wheel designs, gives the Audi an edge when it comes to factory personalization.
Exterior Design Winner: 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.
Me, I like a little 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. There are a few cheap plastics to be found, and the swaths of fingerprinty piano black surfaces are a real drag.
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 an early adopter and extreme proponent of big touchscreens in cars. When the Model S was first introduced that was an exciting thing. 12 years later, Tesla’s user interface looks and feels dated. That everything from wiper speed to brake regen mode is buried in menu after menu is a real annoyance, too.
More troubling is the continued absence of both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It’s clear that this situation is unlikely to ever change. The Model Y has dozens of pointless games and streaming media services. 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. Its navigational experience is a little dated, too. However, the presence of both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless at that, obviates those concerns. And, with the Q4 offering both a proper gauge cluster and a heads-up display, it’s the clear winner.
Safety is a bit more debatable. 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, meanwhile, has parking sensors, forward collision warning and obstacle avoidance, plus lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alerts, and blind-spot warnings. The Model Y offers many of the same features, but lacks cross-traffic alerts and, with Tesla opting to remove ultrasonic sensors, it currently 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 leaps forward with far more aggression than the Q4, even when the latter is on its most aggressive throttle mapping. That’s not to say the Audi is slow. It, too, is properly quick. A 5.8-second zero-to-60 time is more than respectable, but the Model Y’s 4.8 clearly has it beat.
Really, though, how quick does your small, family-oriented SUV need to be? In this category, ride quality is far more important, and here the Audi comes out on top. The Model Y just has a tendency to crash over every bump, the sounds of compression transmitted directly 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.
When it comes to handling, again the Audi wins. Neither of these are the most engaging of corner carvers, but the Audi tracks with more confidence than the Tesla, which can feel a little wayward through quick transitions or when faced with broken pavement.
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.
Driving Dynamics Winner: Audi Q4 E-Tron
There can be no debate on this one: the Model Y wins. Tesla provides a 330-mile EPA estimate for the Long Range flavor of the Model Y, which drops down to 303 for the Performance trim. In my experience driving multiple Model Ys over the years the 330-mile figure is a bit optimistic, but not far off from the truth in ideal conditions. (That is: reasonable temperatures, no headwinds, 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. Step down to the Q4 40 E-Tron, which lacks all-wheel-drive, and the range figure gets a healthy bump, up to 265 miles of range.
The Q4 50 Quattro has an 82-kWh battery pack. Do the math on that range and pack size and you come out to a 2.9 mi/kWh efficiency rating. In my testing of the Q4 50 Quattro, I actually scored exactly 2.9. That’s despite spending a good portion of my testing time at highway speeds, where many EVs struggle thanks to increased air resistance. So, rest assured that 241 is at least a realistic figure. And, frankly, I think it’ll be plenty for most.
When it comes time to refill the battery, most folks will charge at home most of the time. But, for juicing on the go, Tesla again comes out ahead. 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. That gap narrows if you factor in the myriad other charging networks the Audi can utilize. However, since the Model Y can also use most of those, it still comes out ahead.
Range Winner: Tesla Model Y
Tesla Model Y pricing tends to change with the weather, but as I write this a base Model Y Long Range in the cheapest color (white) with no options comes out to $65,990 plus a $1,200 destination fee. (The company recently offered discounts for those 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 car I tested was the top-shelf Prestige trim, which adds on an augmented-reality heads-up display and brilliant, matrix headlights. From there, your only options are bigger wheels plus premium exterior colors. The Premium starts at $61,900, $4,090 below the Tesla.
Even with every option box ticked compared to an entry-level Model Y, the Audi is easier on the wallet.
Value Winner: Audi Q4 E-Tron
Overall Winner: Audi
While design is subjective and you could definitely make the case for the Tesla to be the winner in the driving dynamics category, the Audi has the lead in most areas. That leaves only range as the clear win for the Tesla, and while it is a substantial victory there, again I think that 241 miles is more than enough for most people in most circumstances. Fast chargers are hardly ubiquitous, but they’re common enough to allow road trips to most places without too many extended pit stops.
Most importantly, the Q4 has more comprehensive safety features, more reliable driver assistance, and a far more affordable price. 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.