Audi e-tron Sportback breaks cover
Striking new SUV Coupé lines up alongside the original e-tron as the Audi electrification continues to gather momentum
Audi has unveiled its new Audi e-tron Sportback to mark the next step in its ambitious BEV and PHEV launch programme. Unveiled at the 2019 LA Auto Show, the second Audi BEV will be available in the UK from early 2020, and alongside its e-tron sister car will spearhead the roll-out of a fully electric e-tron portfolio that will be at least 20 models strong by 2025.
The dynamic new SUV coupé offers up to 300 kW of power, a WLTP range of up to 240 miles in UK specification form and a wealth of advanced technology, including digital matrix LED headlights which are available for the first time in a series-production vehicle.
The sleek and even more aerodynamically efficient new alternative to the more classically styled e-tron is set to open for ordering in the UK early in 2020 ahead of first deliveries in the second quarter of the year.
“With its familiar SUV proportions and classic design the e-tron provided the perfect entry point for Audi customers approaching fully electric driving for the first time, and has very successfully paved the way for the new e-tron Sportback to head in an even bolder design direction,” says Director of Audi UK Andrew Doyle.
“As its styling would suggest the e-tron Sportback is positioned to offer a more sporting bias, and this is reflected in the fact that our specification line-up for the model in the UK will begin at S line level - but this is still fundamentally an Audi e-tron. Anyone who has already savoured that car’s amazing refinement and the numerous features that make it so easy to live with can rest assured that the Sportback doesn’t change the status quo on these fronts.”
The exterior design
The Audi e-tron Sportback combines the power, presence and space of an SUV with the elegance of a four-door coupé and the progressive character of an electric car. It is 4,901 millimetres long, 1,935 millimetres wide and 1,616 millimetres high. Its roof extends flat over the muscular body, dropping down steeply to the rear—in typical coupé style— and flowing into the steeply raked D-pillars. The lower edge of the third side window rises towards the rear— a typical Sportback feature.
A total of thirteen paint finishes are available for the all-electric drive SUV coupé, including the new colour plasma blue, metallic, which is exclusive to the e-tron Sportback. The logo on the electric charging flap features the eye-catching high-voltage signal colour orange, which can also be applied to the brake callipers on request.
In the UK S line is the foundation specification, meaning that striking 21-inch alloy wheels and a full body-colour finish for the wheel arches and sills are standard. To continue the S line theme followed elsewhere in the Audi range bumpers are also more distinctively contoured, air inlets are more pronounced and a spoiler and full-width diffuser add emphasis to the rear end while also contributing to the Sportback’s outstanding aerodynamics. An S line emblem adorns the radiator grille, while the illuminated aluminium door sill trims feature an S logo.
Top aerodynamics for extended range
In S line form, and equipped with the optional virtual exterior mirrors, the Audi e-tron Sportback achieves an outstanding drag coefficient value of just 0.25—even better than its Audi e-tron sister model. This is primarily due to the coupé body shape and the associated lower aerodynamic drag behind the car.
The high separating edge of the Sportback minimises swirl in the airflow in this area, which ultimately also benefits the consumption. In the WLTP cycle, the SUV coupé has a range of up to 240 miles on a single battery charge. Around 10 kilometres of the increased range versus the e-tron can be attributed to the aerodynamically more favourable body.
The optional virtual exterior mirrors, whose wing-shaped supports integrate small cameras, are another contributing factor to efficiency. The captured images appear on high-contrast OLED displays in the transition between the instrument panel and the door. If the driver moves their finger toward the surface of the touch display, symbols are activated with which the driver can reposition the image.
In addition, the mirrors adjust automatically to three driving situations: On the motorway and during turning and parking manoeuvres, they provide optimum visibility for each scenario. The aerodynamic refinement also extends to areas hidden from view. Among others, these include the controllable air intake with channels for cooling the front brakes and the fully lined underbody, including the aluminium plate to protect the high-voltage battery.
The digital matrix LED headlights
With the digital matrix LED headlights, which are due to become available for the e-tron Sportback in mid-2020, Audi presents a worldwide first in a production vehicle: Broken down into minute pixels, their light can illuminate the road in high resolution. The design is based on a technology abbreviated as DMD (digital micromirror device) and is also used in many video projectors.
At its heart is a small chip containing one million micromirrors, each of whose edge length measures just a few hundredths of a millimetre. With the help of electrostatic fields, each individual micromirror can be tilted up to 5,000 times per second.
Depending on the setting, the LED light is either directed via the lenses onto the road or is swallowed by an absorber in order to mask out areas of the light beam.
In the Audi e-tron Sportback, the digital light performs multiple tasks. It can generate dynamic leaving-and coming-home animations that appear as projections on a wall or on the ground. Not only does the digital light system deliver cornering, city, and motorway lighting as versions of the low-beam light with exceptional precision, it also supplements the high-beam light by masking out other road users with even greater accuracy.
Above all, however, it offers innovative functions such as lane light and orientation light.
On motorways, the lane light creates a carpet of light that illuminates the driver’s own lane brightly and adjusts dynamically when he or she changes lane. In this way, it improves the driver’s awareness of the relevant lane and contributes to improved road safety.
In addition, the orientation light uses darkened areas masked out from the light beam to predictively show the vehicle’s position in the lane, thereby supporting—especially on narrow roads or in highway construction zones—the lane assist functionality. The marking light feature is also used in conjunction with the optional night vision assist. The light automatically draws attention to any pedestrians it detects, thereby reducing the danger of overlooking pedestrians in the immediate vicinity of the lane.
Electric motors, electric all-wheel drive, suspension
The Audi e-tron Sportback 55 Quattro allows the driver to savour efficiency and performance in a supremely calm environment. Each axle is fitted with an asynchronous electric motor that is fed with a three-phase current by the power electronics. With an output of 265 kW and 561 Nm (413.8 lb-ft) of torque, the two standard electric motors pack a powerful punch in launching the SUV coupé from a standstill – locally emissions-free and in virtual silence.
The Audi e-tron Sportback 55 Quattro takes just 6.6 seconds to reach 62mph, and its top speed is electronically limited to 124mph. By shifting from drive range D to S and fully depressing the accelerator pedal, the driver can activate boost mode. Here, the drive generates 300 kW of output and 664 Nm (489.7 lb-ft) of torque for eight seconds. This enables the SUV coupé to sprint from 0 to 62mph in 5.7 seconds.
Two-stage planetary gearboxes with one gear range transfer the torque from the electric motors to the axles. A switch, which the driver can operate with the thumb and forefinger, is used to select the gears. It is embedded in an elegant lever that is set low above the centre tunnel and serves as a hand rest.
Electric all-wheel drive ensures outstanding traction and on any terrain. With it, Audi is writing a new chapter in the history of Quattro drive. It continuously regulates the ideal drive torque distribution between both axles—within fractions of a second.
In most driving situations, the Audi e-tron Sportback relies exclusively on its rear electric motor—for exceptional efficiency. If the driver requests more output than it can provide, the front unit is instantly activated. This also happens predictively before slip occurs in icy conditions or when cornering fast, or if the car understeers or oversteers.
A key factor behind the sporty character and outstanding transverse dynamics is the low installation position of the drive components—resulting in a centre of gravity that is much lower than in a conventional SUV.
All of the heaviest components are concentrated in the centre of the vehicle. The axle load distribution with a ratio of almost 50:50 is perfectly balanced; the self-steering behaviour is neutral. With components such as the five-link suspensions, the progressive steering and the electrohydraulic brake system, the suspension combines the latest technologies, which together ensure agile vehicle handling and a high degree of comfort.
The dynamic handling system Audi drive select—fitted as standard in the Audi e-tron Sportback— allows the driver to switch the method of operation of multiple drive components between seven profiles. This creates a marked difference between smooth-rolling comfort and sporty, stable handling.
The sport adaptive air suspension with controlled dampers which will be a standard feature of all UK e-tron Sportback models makes a major contribution to this versatile character. At higher speeds, the body is lowered, noticeably improving airflow around it and extending the vehicle’s range. In total, the system is capable of varying the ride height by up to 76 millimetres.
High-voltage battery system and recuperation
The battery system of the Audi e-tron Sportback 55 Quattro stores 95 kWh of gross energy (86.5 kWh net) and operates at a rated voltage of 396 volts. It is fitted as a wide flat block beneath the passenger cell, to which it is bolted at 35 points. The battery system is exceptionally rigid and crash-proof—thanks to a solid protective frame and an aluminium laminate that holds the 36 cell modules.
These are arranged on two levels, as a long lower “floor” with 31 modules and a short upper floor with five modules. Each module integrates twelve ‘pouch cells.’ The cooling system is located beneath the cell chamber.
During deceleration actions of up to 0.3 g—which applies to over 90 per cent of such actions in everyday driving—the high-voltage battery is charged by the electric motors, primarily by the rear electric motor, which act as generators in these situations.
The recuperation system provides for variable regulation of energy recuperation between both electric modules—both in coasting mode when the driver releases the right-hand pedal as well as during braking. The degree of coasting recuperation can be set to three stages by means of paddles on the steering wheel and is even more strongly differentiated than on the e-tron.
When braking from 62mph, the Audi e-tron Sportback can recuperate a maximum of 300 Nm (221.3 lb-ft) and 220 kW. As with its sister model, this amounts to more than 70 per cent of its output and more than any other production model. Overall, the SUV-coupé attains up to 30 per cent of its range through recuperation.
The wheel brakes, whose innovative electrohydraulic activation concept allows them to respond with exceptional speed, come into play only at deceleration forces greater than 0.3 g. Depending on the driving situation, the control system decides individually for each axle whether the SUV coupé recuperates using just the electric motors, just the wheel brakes, or a combination of both. The transition between electric and hydraulic braking is smooth and virtually imperceptible. Brake forces remain constant.
On the wheel brakes of the Audi e-tron Sportback, the developers have substantially reduced what is referred to as residual brake torque—the losses that occur during brief application of the brake pads against the disk.
This benefits both efficiency and range. The same applies to three additional measures: During normal vehicle operation, the front electric motor is almost completely decoupled from the drive. An increase in the usable range of the high-voltage battery combined with a reduction in several of the volume flows in the coolant circuit means that the pump has to provide less power.
The highly flexible thermal management, which comprises four separate circuits, regulates the temperature of the high-voltage components with maximum efficiency. This enables rapid DC charging, a long battery life cycle, and reproducible performance even under heavy loads. The standard heat pump, which harnesses waste heat from the high-voltage battery, can use up to 3 kW of actual power losses for heating and air conditioning the interior—which is exceptionally efficient. Depending on the outside temperature, that can boost the Audi e-tron Sportback’s range by up to ten per cent in customer operation.
Continue driving in just 30 minutes: the charging line-up
On long-distance routes, the Audi e-tron Sportback 55 Quattro can charge with direct current (DC) at up to 150 kW at fast-charging stations. In just under half an hour, the battery reaches 80 per cent of its capacity—sufficient for the next leg of its long-distance trip.
Charging at public AC charging stations can be performed using a standard mode-3 cable. Up to 11 kW of power is available here, which can be increased to 22 kW with an optional second onboard charging device that will be available in summer 2020. Audi’s own charging service, the e- tron Charging Service, provides easy access to more than 120,000 public charging points.
It is currently available in 21 European countries and will be rolled out in the UK towards the end of 2019. Whether AC or DC, 11 or 150 kW—a single card is all that is required to start the process. The Plug & Charge function, which is also due to follow in 2020, will make charging even more convenient: The car authorises itself at the charging station and activates it.
Audi also offers a range of solutions for charging in the garage at home, depending on the capacity of the domestic power supply. The standard compact charging system is suitable for a standard UK household three-pin socket and for a 230-volt single-phase industrial outlet with an output of up to 11 kW.
The optional charging system connect will be available for ordering at market launch. It offers smart charging functions, for example, preferred charging at off-peak times. The combination with a suitable home energy management system allows the vehicle to be charged preferably with self-generated solar power, provided that the house is equipped with a photovoltaic system.
With a wheelbase of 2,928 millimetres, the Audi e-tron Sportback has ample space for five occupants along with their bags. Rear headroom is just 20 millimetres less than in the Audi e-tron. The rear footwell is virtually level—just a flat step remains where once the centre tunnel would have bisected the space.
Including the 60-litre stowage compartment underneath the bonnet, which houses the vehicle tool kit and charging cable, the car offers a total of 615 litres of luggage capacity. Folding down the rear seat backrests increases the luggage capacity to 1,655 litres. The tailgate opens and closes electrically, by foot movement as an option.
The interior of the Audi e-tron Sportback features a seamless blend of design and technology. A generous arc that spans the instrument panel, extending from door to door, harmoniously integrates the cover for the Audi virtual cockpit. Its sleek display stands visually free in space. The wrap-around in the door trims also integrates the screens for the optional virtual exterior mirrors.
The instrument panel with its two touch displays is angled towards the driver and therefore particularly ergonomic. When deactivated, the uppermost panel blends almost invisibly into the large gloss-black surround. Open sidewalls in the centre tunnel console emphasise the impression of lightness.
As usual with Audi, carefully coordinated upholstery materials, colours and inlays abound. Sports seats are standard, with more figure-hugging S sport seats with integrated headrests available as an option.
When the Audi e-tron Sportback is driven in an urban setting, its interior remains almost completely silent, thanks to sophisticated soundproofing and aeroacoustic measures. This ensures that HiFi sound is even more enjoyable, especially with the optional Bang & Olufsen Premium 3D Sound System on board. It allows the music to be enjoyed precisely how it was recorded, without any artificial effects. Another attractive infotainment module is the Audi phone box, which sets benchmarks in terms of connection and sound quality as well as wireless charging.
The operating concept
As with all full-size class models from Audi, the e-tron Sportback also features the MMI touch response operating system with two displays. A tactile and acoustic pulse confirms when a finger activates a function. On the upper 12.1-inch touch screen, the driver controls the infotainment, telephony, navigation, and dedicated e-tron settings. The lower 8.6-inch display is used to input text and to operate the convenience functions and climate control. The menu structure is intuitively logical and flat in the same way as a smartphone; the graphics are clear and condensed.
Standard equipment on the Audi e-tron Sportback also includes the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit. Its display excels with an extremely high resolution of 1,920 x 720 pixels and can be switched between two views using the “View” button on the steering wheel. An optional “plus” version featuring an additional display centred around the power meter is also available. On request, the display and operating concept can be expanded to include a head-up display that projects important information onto the windscreen.
In addition to operation by the two touch displays, the driver can activate a host of functions using natural language voice control. The system understands freely worded commands and searches queries. The dialogue manager asks questions if necessary, allows corrections, offers choices, and also defers to the speaker when interrupted. In doing so, it accesses information stored in the vehicle as well as the knowledge from the cloud.
Navigation and Audi connect
The Audi e-tron Sportback is equipped as standard with the MMI Navigation plus and the DAB+ digital radio. The top-tier infotainment system supports the high-speed data transmission standard LTE Advanced and comes with an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot for the passengers’ mobile devices. The navigation system makes intelligent destination suggestions based on previous journeys. The route is calculated both on board in the car and online on the servers of the map and navigation provider HERE, which monitors the overall traffic situation in the region.
The wide range of Audi connect navigation & infotainment functions complements the route guidance perfectly. Highlights include online traffic information, navigation with Google Earth™, the e-tron route planner, the hybrid radio, and Car-to-X services. The most recent of these is the on-street parking service, which helps find parking spaces on the roadside and traffic light information. In some cities, the latter connects the car to the central computer controlling the traffic light systems and provides information to the driver in the Audi virtual cockpit.
A further component of the package is the cloud-based Amazon voice service Alexa, which is fully integrated into the MMI operating system of the Audi e-tron Sportback. The driver can use it to perform a range of tasks such as placing orders and sourcing information, and it also offers access to more than 80,000 Alexa Skills.
In addition, the free myAudi app can connect the car to a smartphone, which allows the owner of the Audi e-tron Sportback to manage all charging processes remotely. These include checking the battery and range status, starting the charge processes, programming timers, and displaying driving statistics.
On long-distance trips, the e-tron route planner displays the necessary charging stops along the route—both in the app as well as in the MMI. In the process, it continuously updates the charge planning based on the traffic situation and to take account of driving behaviour. Another function of the myAudi app is preheating/precooling prior to departure, which is powered by electricity from the outlet.
The optional deluxe auxiliary air conditioning system allows the customer to specify in detail whether the interior, the steering wheel and the seats—depending on the equipment level—are to be heated.
The driver-assist systems
The driver-assist systems that Audi offers in the e-tron Sportback support drivers and reduce their workload in many situations. The Audi pre sense basic and Audi pre sense front safety systems are fitted as standard.
Audi offers the assist package City specifically for urban traffic. It includes the intersection assist and rear cross-traffic assist functions as well as the lane change and exit warnings. Audi pre sense 360°, the combination of Audi pre sense front, rear, and side, is fitted. This system detects collision hazards and initiates targeted protective measures—from full braking to tensioning of the seat belts.
Highlights of the assist package Tour are the adaptive cruise assist, which simplifies longitudinal and lateral control, as well as the efficiency assistant. The latter uses data from the on-board sensors, the navigation system, and Car-to-X services and signals to the driver when it makes sense to take their foot off the accelerator pedal.
In combination with the adaptive cruise assist and traffic sign recognition, the efficiency assistant can also brake and accelerate the SUV coupé predictively. The turn assists, collision avoidance assist, and emergency assist functions round out the Tour package. Audi also offers the park assist, the night vision assist, and the 360-degree cameras that allow the driver to select from multiple views.
The central driver assistance controller operates as standard behind the driver assistance systems in the Audi e-tron Sportback. It continuously computes a differentiated model of the surroundings. Depending on the selected options, data is received from up to five radar sensors, five cameras, and twelve ultrasonic sensors.
At market launch: Edition model “edition one”
The Audi e-tron Sportback, which is being built in the CO2-neutral plant in Brussels, will reach its first UK customers in the second quarter of 2020. To mark the launch, Audi will offer a limited run “edition one” version finished in plasma blue and taking the S line model as its basis.
Its additional specification will include the virtual exterior mirrors, aluminium-look body detailing, exclusive 21-inch wheels, orange brake callipers, the panoramic glass sunroof, the Bang & Olufsen Premium 3D Sound System and the comprehensive Tour assist package. The interior also features customised contour comfort seats with exclusive Monaco grey seat covers in Valcona leather.