Audi plans to have its its first all electric car, the E-Tron, in showrooms next year. That car is pretty much a conventional SUV in appearance, albeit one that has been enhanced with various ruffles and flourished inside and out. But Audi is looking further down the road than that. For Shanghai, it wanted to show off its E-Tron Sportback, a concept car that has a little more wow factor than the somewhat straightforward E-Tron.
Automobile styles go through periods when certain design idioms are popular. Over the past 5 years or so, stylist have crammed more and more creases — called character lines — onto the flanks of their cars. There is one car in showrooms right now that has no less than 5 separate character lines all fighting each other for attention. Right now, the rage in the automotive world is the long sloping rear roof line. The objective is to take a big, boxy SUV and make it look like a sexy two door sports car.
That shape is great for reducing aerodynamic drag but not so great for getting the stuff that an SUV is meant to carry into and out of the vehicle. The Tesla Model X is a prime example. Tesla calls it an SUV but it’s really a 5 door hatchback with tall suspension and a higher seating position. Still, customers like cars that are emotional and there is no question that the swoopy look is more exciting than the box on wheels approach.
The Audi E-Tron Sportback concept features that long, tapering roofline. It will follow closely on the heels of the original E-Tron Audi chairman Rupert Stadler told the press at the 2017 Shanghai auto show, with production versions arriving in showrooms in 2019. The concept closely resembles the Tesla Model X, except with more creases along its sides.
The spec sheet say it will have a liquid cooled 95 kWh battery and 311 miles of range, but that is in the highly optimistic European test cycle. Subtract about 20% to get to the EPA equivalent. The car will have three electric motors making 429 horsepower (496 in boost mode) and a projected 0 to 100 kph time of 4.5 seconds.
Audi says the E-Tron Sportback’s Shanghai debut is a nod to China being the world’s largest EV market. “There are already about 150,000 charging stations in the country, with another 100,000 due to come on stream by the end of 2017,” says Audi’s Dietmar Voggenreiter. “In the next five years we will be offering five E-Tron models in China, including purely battery-powered vehicles with ranges well in excess of 500 km.”
The concept uses tiny cameras instead of side view mirrors, an idea whose time has surely come. In addition to a gee whiz interior, it does innovative things with exterior lighting, as described in the Audi press release. “The concept car’s lighting technology is an innovation that is visible by both day and night. Digitally controlled Matrix LED units at the front and rear produce an excellent light yield. Minuscule Digital Matrix projectors literally make their mark on the road ahead, turning light into a versatile, dynamic channel of communication with the surroundings.”