It’s that awards time of year again. When autumn comes…
Like every motoring writer, I have to pore over lists of cars that have appeared in the previous 12 months to decide whether this one is more deserving of a gong than that one. Every year, during this process, I remember Jerry Seinfeld’s wicked demolition of awards ceremonies in All Awards Are Stupid where he concludes “The whole thing is a big jerk-off”.
Even so, I apply myself seriously to the task because I know that the results make a difference to customers’ choices and, therefore, to sales.
The European Car of the Year – perhaps the motoring award with the most dubious record for impartiality and probity – can add hundreds of thousands to the sales of a model, which really counts in important matters like the future of factories and the jobs of the people who work there.
When it comes down to it, however, the judges’ choices can turn on the most trivial peccadillos. This year, for instance, I have been torn between Škoda’s Enyaq and Audi’s Q4 e-tron as the all-electric SUV of the year and I am tempted to cast my vote for the Škoda just because the Audi Q4 e-tron’s touchscreen and audio controls drove me up the wall.
Both are fabulous cars, no two ways about that. Design, engineering, finish, polish, build quality are all impeccable. The interior of the £50000+ Q4 is so gorgeous you can’t help but reach out to trail your fingers along those sumptuous surfaces. Its square-bottomed steering wheel is the one I have most enjoyed in my hands since the incomparable Audi R8. With its short front end, long cabin and sturdy haunches, the proportions of the body are vividly individual. Looking at it across the street when it was standing next to a new Discovery, I realised one looked completely contemporary while the other was looking a little tired.
It may be the third all-electric car Audi has produced, but the Q4 e-tron is their first ever with rear-wheel drive (except for the R8, of course, but that’s in a separate dimension of existence). For a company that has been associated with front-wheel drive for almost a century, this is a departure indeed. And it works beautifully. With 200+PS on tap and a suspension set-up designed to make the most of it, this becomes one of the most exhilarating – you might say electrifying – of all SUVs to drive. Straight ahead performance may not be blazing, but with the drive options set to Dynamic, you can show the naughtiest sequence of country bends and corners to this car and it will eat them alive.
So, where’s the argument? Why doesn’t the Audi swan off the stage with the statuette in its hand? Because the touch controls on the screen and steering wheel of this car are so fallible that they might cause an accident when you bang your head on the boss in despair. It’s almost impossible to increase the volume on the audio with the buttons on the steering wheel without muting the whole system and then when you unmute, it returns to zero volume, so you have to start all over again. You can tap the station selector on the radio until your fingertip turns blue with pins and needles and it won’t give you what you want. How could they get this so wrong in a car that is so right in all other ways?
With apologies to Ingolstadt, therefore, we tear open the envelope and declare that the winner in the all-electric SUV category for 2021 is…
The Škoda Enyaq.
Author Rating 4.5/5