Audi’s first regular-production electric model, the e-tron Quattro, will arrive in showrooms in about a year. We got our first good look at the model when the firm released 250 camouflage-clad prototypes on the streets of Geneva, Switzerland, in March 2018. We later learned about what’s under the sheet metal, and now Audi is giving us a preview of what it’s like to ride inside its next SUV.
The e-tron is significant partly because it will usher in the design language that will characterize every upcoming electric member of the Audi lineup. The camouflage intentionally leaves little to the imagination. We can tell the e-tron stands out from Audi’s gasoline-powered crossovers with a powertrain-specific octagonal grille that’s wider, shorter, and accented by chromed vertical slats. It’s flanked by sharp headlights that give the e-tron the typical Audi look. Around back, we see intricately designed lights connected by a thin LED strip. In terms of size, it’s slightly bigger than the Q5.
What you see above is what you’ll get, albeit without the psychedelic wrap. Peter Mertens, Audi’s board member for technical development, told Digital Trends the company remains committed to bringing the model to production with cameras in lieu of door mirrors, a forward-thinking feature car companies have tried to make a reality for years. Each camera transfers the footage it captures to a seven-inch OLED screen neatly integrated into the corresponding door panel, so you’ll still look left or right to see what’s behind you. The driver can zoom in and out of the image and choose between three modes designed for highway driving, turning, and parking, respectively. It’s a feature that improves range by reducing drag while giving the car a high-tech, futuristic look. It’s cool, right? It’s also illegal in the United States, so the e-tron we’ll see in showrooms will come with regular, old-fashioned mirrors. Audi is working on changing the regulations.
There are three additional screens inside the e-tron. The first one replaces the analog instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. It’s the familiar driver-configurable virtual cockpit found in other members of the Audi family, like the latest A7 and the all-new Q8. The second one displays the infotainment system. We haven’t tested it yet but we expect good things; we’ve previously praised Audi’s infotainment system as one of the best on the market. Finally, the third screen groups the climate control functions and lets the front passengers use the handwriting recognition function to manually write an address into the navigation.
Going electric allowed interior designers to carve out more space for people and gear than in a comparable gasoline-powered SUV. There is no need for a bulky transmission tunnel, there is no mechanical link between the front and rear wheels, so the rear passengers benefit from what Audi calls a flat plateau. Special soundproofing and body sealing keeps wind noise at bay while the electric motor emits only a gentle hum. It creates a calm, relaxed atmosphere in which to rock out to the available 16-speaker, 705-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Fully digitalized, the e-tron Quattro will usher in an on-demand over-the-air updating system that lets customers purchase features days, weeks, months, or years into the ownership period. Buyers will be able to upgrade how the headlights illuminate the road, for example. It’s conceivable they’ll also be able to unlock more range and/or more power, either for a weekend trip or for the life of the vehicle.
The sheet metal hides an electrified version of the MLB platform used widely across the company’s lineup. In this application, it’s built around a 1,576-pound, 95-kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted directly under the passenger compartment, right in between the axles. Performance specifications remain under wraps. All we know at this point is that — as the name Quattro implies — it will offer weather-beating all-wheel drive. Audi isn’t ready to talk about real-world range yet, either. Mertens promised Digital Trends the e-tron Quattro will be “very, very competitive” in that respect but he didn’t go into specific details. We know the e-tron will become the first volume-produced electric car compatible with 150-kilowatt charging, which is capable of zapping the battery with an 80 percent charge (roughly 200 miles) in 30 minutes. To put that figure into perspective, Tesla’s Supercharger stations top out at 120 kilowatts.
The 2019 Audi e-tron Quattro will make its world debut in the United States before the end of the year. Sales will begin shortly after, though Audi has already started taking deposits in certain markets. The company told British magazine Autocar it’s considering offering the e-tron Quattro through a monthly subscription service, a model Volvo has already adopted.
When it lands, the Audi e-tron Quattro will fight in the same segment as the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace. The crossover will be part of a multi-pronged foray into electric car territory. Audi will launch a second battery-powered model named e-tron Sportback about a year after the Quattro makes its debut.