Audi’s rise over recent years has been an impressive one. With a model line-up that continues to grow at an impressive rate every year, the company has built up an impressive stable of SUVs, to match the sedans that it was originally known—and loved—for.
Advanced technology has never been far away from Audi and with the launch of the E-tron, it manages to tick the technology box and also add to that burgeoning line-up of SUVs. The first all-electric series production Audi, E-tron has front and rear electric motors that work alongside a high-voltage battery pack and gives a combined output of 300 kW and 664 N·m (490 lb·ft) of torque. Such power levels enable the E-tron to reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in under 6 s (officially figured at 5.7 s) and a top speed of 124 mph (200 km/h).
The power pack allows the E-tron to record a potential range of 248 mi (400 km) on the WLTP driving cycle, helped largely by the vehicle’s energy recuperation system, which is responsible for 30% of the range. E-tron recovers energy in two different ways: by means of coasting recuperation when the driver releases the accelerator; or through braking recuperation (depressing the brake pedal). In both cases, the electric motors function as a generator and convert the E-tron’s kinetic energy into electric energy. At up to 0.3 g of deceleration, the car recuperates solely via the electric motors. The wheel brakes are involved only when the driver decelerates by more than 0.3 g using the brake pedal.
Talking of braking, Audi is claiming a breakthrough, courtesy of its new electrohydraulic actuation concept. The OEM believes it is the first manufacturer the world to use this concept in a series production vehicle with electric drive. When braking from 62 mph, the Audi E-tron can recuperate electric power with a maximum of 300 N·m (221 lb·ft) and 220 kW. That figure corresponds to more than 70% of its operating energy input. It also claims that no other series production model can achieve such a value.
An Audi wouldn’t be an Audi without a four-wheel-drive system and the E-tron features a new Quattro generation—with electric all-wheel drive—that continuously and fully variably regulates the ideal distribution of drive between the two axles—within a fraction of a second. In most cases, the electric SUV mainly uses its rear electric motor in order to achieve the highest efficiency. If the driver demands more power than it can supply, the electric all-wheel drive redistributes torque as required to the front axle.
Having seen other manufacturers introduce EVs that are fun to drive, Audi set desirable dynamics as one of the benchmarks for E-tron. As such the drive components are set low down and central on the vehicle, while the battery pack has been ‘optimally matched’ to the dimensions of the vehicle and packaged between the axles to form a broad block underneath the passengers. The result is a center of gravity that is similar to that of a sedan and axle distribution of as close to 50:50 as possible.
As well as the dynamic characteristics, this powertrain layout has also benefitted the aerodynamics, which has thereby improved overall efficiency. Other aerodynamic breakthroughs on the new car include virtual exterior mirrors (for the first time on a production car, says Audi), air suspension, and an aluminum plate that covers the base of the vehicle and protects the battery and ensures the underbody is fully lined. When equipped with the virtual exterior mirrors, the E-tron achieves a Cd value of 0.27. With a typical use profile, that drag coefficient allows for at least 25 more miles per battery charge compared to a conventionally shaped vehicle.
It might be an alternative powertrain, but the E-tron slots neatly into the range by adopting the same exterior design elements. Like the rest of Audi’s SUV range, the E-tron boasts an octagonal-design Singleframe grille with vertical struts. Its center section is largely enclosed and presented in platinum grey—identifying it as a fully electric model. Also setting it apart from the other models are four horizontal struts at bottom of the car’s headlights, creating the E-tron-specific signature in the daytime running lights.
Inside the car, there are the usual impressive selection of technologies, including tips within Audi’s virtual cockpit on improving efficiency and economy. The system uses radar sensors, camera images, navigation data and Car-to-X information to detect traffic and any potential issues along the route. In combination with the adaptive cruise assist, the efficiency assist can also brake and accelerate the electric SUV predictively.
Now that it has kicked off its crusade into the battery-powered market, rest assured there will be no relenting by Ingolstadt’s finest when it comes to electric vehicles. The company has revealed that the E-tron is the first of 12 production EVs that will be introduced before 2025.