One of the most successful German-engineered luxury automotive brands, Audi AG delivered about 1.845 million vehicles globally in 2019. In the U.S., Audi sold just over 224,000 vehicles in 2019 and launched the brand’s first fully electric vehicle, the Audi e-tron – one of four fully electric models coming to the U.S. market in the next two years.
BY JOHN COULTER, CURRENT EV CMO
According to Audi, global deliveries of its e-tron increased by a massive 86.8% in the first half of 2020, compared to the same period last year. The increase, occurring in spite of the pandemic, has seen a total of 17,641 e-trons delivered around the globe. In Norway, which has a huge EV appetite, an incredible 92% of all Audi car deliveries there were e-trons.
In May 2018, the VW Group, which owns Audi, committed US$48 billion towards creating electric vehicle batteries and outfitting 16 factories to build electric vehicles by the end of 2022. Globally, the brand aims to be CO2 neutral by 2050.
The 2021 Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron is a 4-door, 5-passenger, all-electric coupe crossover built on a Volkswagen MEB platform. MEB stands for Modularer E-Antriebs-Baukastern, which, translated from German, stands for Modular Electric Propulsion Platform; a modular substructure for electric vehicles. The smart architecture consolidates electronic controls, reduces microprocessors, safely houses electric batteries, and advances the new driver-assistance technology that will be offered in many vehicles within the next 5 to 10 years. The Sportback’s MEB platform dramatically contributes to the car’s sporty, precise handling by keeping the high-voltage, 1,124 lb battery system low to the ground, enclosed in a flat block beneath the passenger compartment. The Sportback’s low center of gravity is at a level similar to that of a sedan. Its axle load distribution is near-perfectly balanced at 50:50.
The e-tron and e-tron Sportback are the first and second fully electric vehicles in the Audi lineup, helping to propel the brand’s commitment to 30% of the U.S. model lineup being fully or partially electrified by 2025. For 2021, these two e-trons are offered with optimized drive system hardware and software adjustments, which have improved efficiency, resulting in an EPA-estimated range of 222 miles for the e-tron (an increase of 18 miles), and an EPA-estimated range of 218 miles for the Q4 e-tron Sportback. The Q4’s EPA-estimated MPGe (city/highway/combined) is 76/78/77.
Audi has made significant technology improvements in its electric motor configurations as well. The Sportback’s front electric motor is able to be entirely disengaged, dramatically reducing power usage when not needed. Only when the driver demands more power or traction do both motors spring into action, bringing to bear the energetic dynamics of Quattro power, Audi’s renowned Four Wheel Drive technology.
Additionally, the usable amount of the high-voltage battery has increased for the 2021 e-tron lineup. The lithium-ion batteries in the e-tron and e-tron Sportback have a total capacity of 95 kWh and offer drivers access to a net energy figure of 86.5 kWh— almost 3 kWh more than the 2019 e-tron. The energy buffer is designed to help ensure customers enjoy sustained battery performance throughout the life of the vehicle.
Audi says the car’s “excellent range involves far more than just an energy storage unit with a large capacity. Just like the first member of the family, the Audi Q4 e-tron concept, the Audi Q4 Sportback also presents itself as an efficiency virtuoso, starting with the low aerodynamic drag of the body, whose drag coefficient is 0.26 and therefore 0.01 below that of the Q4 e-tron SUV. The compact electric product line also features a sophisticated recuperation strategy, leaving out no possibility for optimizing its range. The complex thermal management of the drive and battery, which involves a CO2 heat pump, also contributes to this.”
There are three Q4 e-tron Sportback trims: Premium (MSRP: $69,100), Premium Plus (MSRP: $78,000), and Prestige (MSRP: $82,300). All are eligible for a $7,500 Federal tax credit.
Since there is no transmission tunnel cluttering the cabin, the vehicle’s interior offers spaciousness and comfort. Legroom for both the front and rear seats is excellent. The virtual cockpit’s most important speed, charge level and navigation displays are located behind the steering wheel. The large-format head-up display with an augmented reality function is a new feature. It shows important graphical information, such as directional arrows for turning.
Control panels designed as touch elements on the steering wheel spokes can be used to select frequently used functions. Above the dashboard’s center console, and tilted toward’s the driver for greater ease of operation is a 12.3 inch touchscreen which displays and operates infotainment and vehicle functions. Since the center console no longer needs to be taken up by a gear lever or hand brake activation, it has become a spacious storage compartment that includes a cell phone charging cradle.
Explaining the Sportback’s interior, Audi says: “The color scheme emphasizes the sense of spaciousness. While light, warm colors dominate the upper section of the cabin, the dark carpet in the floor section provides a contrast. The headlining, the window pillars and the upper section of the door rail and dash panel are fitted with white and beige microfiber textiles. Sustainability is the top priority not only in terms of the electric drive in the Audi Q4 and Q4 Sportback: The floor covering is made of recycled materials. Instead of chrome-plated metal decor frames, the surfaces are covered with a high-quality multi-layer paint finish. The painted frosted Plexiglas on the applications creates an intensive depth effect. Four seats with integrated head restraints are upholstered with comfortable Alcantara material manufactured with exquisite workmanship. Double seams stitched with thick yarn adorn the upholstery.”
Another enhanced efficiency feature, available on Premium Plus and Prestige trims, are the dual charge ports, located on both the driver side and passenger side of the vehicle, which offer 110/240V charging ports. With your 1st 4 years of ownership, Audi gives you 1,000 kWh hours of charging at no cost at Electrify America Fast-charging stations across the country.
The Premium trim includes the following features: the S line exterior package; 20” 5-spoke wheels; Comfort pre-conditioning; a heated steering wheel; 4-zone climate control; Lane Departure Warning; heated front seats; a power tailgate; the Audi sound system; Audi virtual cockpit plus; privacy glass for rear windows and tailgate; heated, auto-dimming, power-folding exterior mirrors with memory; and Homelink & Integrated toll module.
The Premium Plus trim adds the following features to what already comes with Premium: Glass optic & aluminum look buttons; Dual charge ports; Driver assistance package; Ambient interior lighting; Heated & ventilated twelve-way power front seats; Heated Rear Seats; 4-way power lumbar for driver & passenger; Matrix-design LED headlights w/animation; a 3D Bang & Olufsen Sound System; and an Audi phonebox with wireless charging.
The Prestige trim adds the following features to what already comes with Premium and Premium Plus: a Head-up display with navigation information; individual contour front seats including massage functions; Full Leather package (dashboard, door armrests and center console); Multi-color LED interior ambient lighting; Dual pane acoustic glass for side windows; Air quality system (ionizer and aromatization); Power door closers; and Sunshades for rear windows.
The Q4 e-tron concept is identifiable as an Audi at first glance by the Singleframe with the brand logo, the four rings. Like the e-tron, the Q4 e-tron Sportback is easily identified as an electric by the broad, octagonal frame which takes the place of a traditional radiator grille. Air is designed to slip past the car by traversing via large inlets that extend from below the two matrix LED headlights all the way down to the front apron. The car’s prominently modeled fenders and large 22” wheels also distinguish the new Audi e-breed.
The Q4 e-tron features a broad, almost octagonal Singleframe in place of a traditional radiator grille. Air is channeled past the car via large inlets that extend from below the two matrix LED headlights all the way down to the front apron. The prominent large fenders of all four wheels are a further classic Audi design feature that distinguishes the brand. The Q4 e-tron’s widened features are designed to be highly organic and flowing. Its roof line slants down slightly toward the back, giving the silhouette a particularly dynamic look.
The 2020 Audi e-tron Sportback electric SUV gets the same top-tier United States safety ratings as the standard e-tron. Both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have carried over the Sportback's Top Safety Pick+ and 5-star rating, respectively, from the E-Tron SUV – due to its relatively minor differences from e-tron.
The recently introduced e-tron Sportback is expected to be followed by the fully electric e-tron GT high-performance sport sedan and Audi Q4 e-tron compact SUV. The e-tron SUVs are manufactured in Audi’s first vehicle assembly plant in Europe certified as carbon-neutral by Belgian testing company Vincotte. The e-tron family represents one of many Audi steps towards a sustainable future based on using resources such as energy and water carefully, and avoiding emissions of CO2, solvents and waste.