San Francisco - Hot on the heels of arch-rival Mercedes-Benz’s EQC that was revealed earlier this month comes a direct challenger from Ingolstadt.

The e-tron is Audi’s first standalone fully-electric vehicle and takes the form of a midsized SUV that’s slightly smaller than a Q7. The zero-emission mud-plugger is currently under consideration for South Africa and if it does get the green light it should be here by early 2020.

Although it doesn’t look radically different from its Q-badged siblings, there is a rather interesting design touch that we’ve only seen in concept cars until now - the side mirrors have been replaced by small housings with cameras inside, which transmit images to screens mounted in the door panels. This is a world first for cars, although Mercedes recently launched a similar system in its new Actros truck.

But back to faster topics - the e-tron delivers the kind of performance you’d expect from a high-end battery powered SUV these days, with a claimed 0-96km/h sprint time of 5.5 seconds. This is thanks to a pair of powerful electric motors - one mounted on each axle for the additional benefit of quattro all-wheel-drive capability.

What doesn’t inspire confidence is that Audi is being cagey about how far it’ll actually go on a charge, although the company has previously mentioned a range of over 400km in accordance with Europe’s WLTP standard.

The e-tron is fed by a 95 kWh battery that can be charged up to 80 percent in 30 minutes at a fast-charging station. It also uses various recuperation systems that can boost range by up to 30 percent, and it’ll coach the driver to optimal efficiency using predictive data from the navigation system, radar information and the camera system.

Drivers can choose from seven drive modes that aim to make the SUV comfortable and capable on a wide variety of surfaces. These vary everything from torque distribution to damping and ride height - the e-tron’s air suspension system being capable of adjusting the vehicle’s height by up to 76mm.

The driver’s command centre is Audi’s latest dual-screen MMI touch response operating system first introduced in the new A7, which eliminates virtually all of the traditional knobs and buttons. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster is standard and includes some e-tron-specific graphics.

It’s well connected too, offering navigation with a route-planner that shows the required charging points, automated billing at said charging stations and various remote-control functions linked to the driver’s phone.

IOL Motoring