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In Japan, we are gifted with over 2,000 courses spread out all over the country, there are literally world-class courses everywhere, and some of my favorites are over 2 hours drive from Tokyo. Generally, golfers in Japan have not embraced EV or electric vehicles to date, as these longer trips make golfers nervous about the EV’s range, and a lack of infrastructure has probably kept us in our gas guzzlers.

But inevitably, electric is where everything is going, and we all know that in 10 years we will own an electric car. However is the time to change now? The latest models boast more range than ever, are reasonably priced, and with moves to build public infrastructure is it time golfers seriously started to consider going greener? (Every pun intended). With that in mind, we took a test drive of the latest Audi Q4 Etron to a course just over 120km for Tokyo. Here is what we found out...

Design

Starting with the design, it is a fantastic-looking car. From the rear, like the bigger E-Tron you have the full-width light bar, you have the roof spoiler as well, a very stylish rear bumper and with the absence of exhausts, there is a balance and a modern look to it, particularly with the E-Tron logo which is embossed. There is also a Sportback version which has a more tapered back end giving it a more sleek look.

From the side, it looks quite like a Q3 but it's actually about 10cm longer because it's built on a completely different platform for Electric vehicles. The design language is very nice with the creases in the doors and quarter panels accentuating the lines of the car. There is also SUV roof bars giving it that SUV feel of 'outdoorsyness'.

In terms of wheels, the entry-level car gets 19-inch alloys as standard, but as you move up the range you can get 20-inch for the mid-range level, and 21-inch for the higher range which in my opinion fits the car way better.

At the front, there is a huge grill which is very unnecessary when you think about it as there is no engine to keep it cool, but it does give it that Masculine SUV vibe. This does come in other options such as all blacked out or with body-color highlights. The lights are the standard LEDs that we have seen from the last few generations of Audis. And there are some vents at the sides again just part of the styling rather than offering any function.

Interior

The inside of the Q4 is pretty nice, which you would expect from Audi. The shape of the dashboard has lots of angels and gives it a modern feel, it's wrapped in different trims in grey and black which is really sharp. The hexagonal steering wheel which you get on the higher-spec versions is really cool, when you turn the car on the buttons and switches on the wheel light up which is a really cool feature. Seats are plush, comfy yet sporty, and fully loaded, the S for S-line is embossed in the leather which is a nice touch, and the door cards and headliner are plush and luxurious.

The seating position is actually really good in this car, is very adjustable, and has a sporty feel but with lots of headroom. The interior feels modern with a large screen and nice carpeting with an angled dash giving it a futuristic look. There is plenty of connectivity offered with a USB port, a 12v port, and wireless charging. Two cup holders and decent-sized door bins won’t see you lacking for storage.

The infotainment system is intuitive and easy to use, it ties in with the digital dash for navigation, etc so some really nice display setting options. Once you plug your smartphone in it has Apple or Android car phone views which are super easy to use. Climate control is also simple and easy to use with some nice buttons easily operable while keeping your attention on the road.

In the back, it is very spacious and feels roomier than the Q3 with plenty of head and legroom. Again, plenty of storage in the door bins, and the middle armrest is available too. The floor is flat and nothing cumbersome if someone is sitting in the middle, you wouldn’t realize the batteries are underneath.

The trunk is large with a volume of 520 liters which is plenty of space for some reasonable golf bags, and the seats do collapse to provide a massive space if needed.

Performance

So before I get into this, I should point out that it was my first time driving an EV and I definitely didn't know much about range etc. On the Friday evening, before golf, I was doing some errands after picking the car up, and I immediately loved it, it was responsive and fun to drive, nippy, and handled really well. When you roll down the windows it makes a slight whirr sound which is cool, and very reminsenct of electric motorbikes used in the 80's movie 'Tron' ( coincidental naming perhaps?).

When I got back to my apartment which doesn't have a charging station. The car was at 82% which I presumed if compared to my petrol car, would be sufficient to get me my 240km round trip. Let's see.

I must admit I was a bit late out the door, and once on the expressway I put the foot down, it drives at speed easily and I was making good time. Fortunately, I arrived at the clubhouse on time. Unfortunately, when I looked at the battery it read 33%. Oh no, was this EV newbie going to be stuck somewhere in Saitama on the way back? Deciding not to worry about it for now, I focused on the 18 holes before us. 

After a cracking day on the course, we got back in the Q4 for the return journey, I found using Google maps that there was a charging station at one of the parking areas on the Tohoku expressway about 50km into the return journey. Thinking my math was solid- I hit the road. It was shot day and we had the AC on and driving at a good pace, after about 10 minutes I realized the battery was going down quicker than the KMs were suggesting! So I decided to save some battery by slowing down and turning off the AC. This actually did the trick and the battery-by-distance readout became accurate. We made it to the service area and thankfully nobody was in either the only quick charger or the regular chargers (3)  We set it on charge for 30 minutes and headed in for some ramen. When we came back the cycle ad finished but the car had only gained 20% after 30 min! So I put it on again and headed for coffee. with another 20% in the car, we had just over 50% and proceeded the rest of the way home (with the windows down!) We made it back to the dealership no problem with 10% to spare! 

The Verdict

The Audi Q4 Etron is a great car. Starting at 5,990,000~ for this level of a luxury car, I feel it's well worth it. To install a regular charger at your home will cost about 1 million yen, doesn't take up much space, and is a relatively easy installation, but it does take 8 hours to charge the car to 100%.  A quick charger costs about 3 million yen and is the size a big refrigerator and requires more infrastructure for set-up. But, If like me you live in an apartment with no charging, then you need to find a nearby quick charging station, which will give you about 20% on a 30-minute charge. And only get you to 80% in total with back-to-back charging. In terms of fuel costs, the EV costs 90% less to run. Which over a year or two will certainly give a large cost saving.

Admitedly, it is impractical for me in my current abode to get an EV, But I won't give up as I know more and more courses are installing chargers for patrons and the range of the battery is constantly improving, so I feel it won't be long until we indeed, get that little bit greener with an EV. 

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