Audi doubles its e-tron range with launch of sexy Sportback
Audi has revealed the second all-electric car in its e-tron line with a stylish new Sportback. Rocking the same 300-kW (402-hp) AWD powertrain and 95-kWh battery pack as the original e-tron SUV, it improves significantly on efficiency for increased range.
Where the fully-fledged e-tron SUV is rated for 250 mi (420 km) WLTP, the Sportback 55 quattro's coupe-style slanted rear window, combined with optional electronic mirrors, weight reduction and a few other aero tweaks, helps boost its range up to 277 mi (446 km).
Top speed is limited at 124 mph (200 km/h), while the 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) sprint is dispatched in a reasonably sprightly 5.7 seconds, provided you put the gear selector in Sport mode and floor it. Like the SUV, it's primarily a rear-wheel drive for efficiency's sake, but the front motor stands ready to kick in and assist in low traction or flat-out acceleration conditions, or if the car detects itself beginning to oversteer or understeer in a corner.
Like the e-tron SUV, it can charge at up to 150 kW on a DC fat charger, allowing a sub-30 minute 0-80-percent blast charge when required. Braking is fully regenerative, without pad touching disc, until you exceed 0.3 g of deceleration, and Audi has also found ways to recycle energy from waste heat to chip in with heating and air conditioning, further boosting efficiency.
One notable upgrade from the e-tron SUV is in the headlights, which offer an optional "digital matrix LED" system that uses micromirror technology for extremely fast and accurate control of your forward lighting. Each headlight uses a chip containing a million tiny micromirrors, each with an edge just a few hundredths of a millimeter long. These mirrors can be precisely angled using electrostatic fields up to 5,000 times per second.
Audi uses this system for safety, looking around corners and masking out oncoming drivers in high-beam situations. It'll also make pedestrians flash at night if it sees them potentially walking into your path, bringing them to your attention as well as alerting the pedestrians. On the freeway, it'll treat your own lane to a "carpet of light" that adjusts when you switch lanes, and an "orientation light" feature shows your predicted path forward as a set of slightly darkened tire tracks – a neat way to know what the lane centering assist feature is about to do. It's also there to party, giving you a little light show on the ground or garage wall when you fire the car up.
The interior looks suitably premium, and Audi has ensured back-seat passengers aren't cramped. While the sloped rear window does sacrifice luggage space for spunky looks and aerodynamics, there's still plenty of headroom and legroom for beanpoles in the back seat. The cabin looks great, with digital displays and touch screens all over the place. The two stacked screens above the center console do beg the question, though: why not combine them into a great big one that could be more versatile, more flexible and ... well, a bit more like what Tesla has trained us to feel like we deserve?
The looming Elon-shaped specter of Tesla may indeed be the e-tron Sportback's biggest challenge. This is a fine-looking, quick, comfortable and prestigious electric car. It can be expected to be of German-grade quality, and to handle like an Audi in the turns. But with base pricing beginning at €71,350 (approx. US$79,000) – and that for a lower-spec 230-kW (308-hp), 540-Nm (398-lb-ft), 71-kWh, 216-mi (347-km) Sportback 50 quattro version – it'll likely creep up past double the base price Tesla wants for a Model Y crossover that beats it handily on all the performance and range metrics, offers a US$7k upgrade to Tesla's excellent Autopilot system, and has the kind of Musky halo around it that German money can't buy.
On the other hand, the e-tron Sportbacks will start rolling off production lines in 2020, while the Model Y is scheduled for 2021. And while Audis tend to be cars you can buy and then just have, Teslas have thus far been cars you buy and then swear about for a long time before you see them. And the Audi looks cooler. And it's an Audi. So we're sure it'll do just fine.
Either way, a lot more electric Audis are on the way, with a portfolio of 20 models slated for launch before 2025. Plenty more photos in the gallery.