by Jay Traugott
Introducing the 2021 Audi e-tron S, a more powerful version of the all-electric e-tron SUV that also comes packed full of the German automaker's latest technologies. Audi has a lot to prove with its e-tron lineup of battery-electrics, and the e-tron SUV was the first one to arrive. There's also the e-tron Sportback and e-tron Sportback S featuring a more coupe-like body style, though interior space is compromised. For those who desire a luxurious EV SUV with sufficient passenger and cargo room with more power than you'll ever need, the e-tron S is for you.
But there's another reason why the 2021 e-tron S is a cause for celebration: it's the first volume-production EV to have three electric motors. Combined with Audi's all-wheel-drive and advanced torque vectoring, the e-tron S is also capable of handling just about any tough road situation in its path.
See trim levels and configurations:
Single Speed Automatic
If you were already a fan of the standard Audi e-tron SUV, then chances are you're going to like what you see here. But don't assume Audi just added some 'S' badges and called it a day. The e-tron S is two inches wider than the base version due to 0.9-inch wider wheel arches on each side. Audi has also restyled the front and rear bumpers with a more aggressive look. The diffuser at the rear end now extends nearly the entire width of the SUV, while designers applied silver attachments at the front and rear ends. The aluminum side mirrors sport the 'S' logo for further differentiation.
Buyers can opt for the body's lower section to have a contrasting color compared to the rest of the vehicle. 20-inch wheels come standard with optional 21- and 22-inch rims. Matrix LED headlights are also optional extras.
For improved aerodynamics, Audi gave the e-tron S airflow-optimized wheel-arch extensions that not only look good but enable a drag coefficient of only 0.28.
In general, the e-tron S interior is identical to that of the standard e-tron, but there are some exceptions. The standard leather and Alcantara-upholstered sports seats and gear shift have an 'S' logo. Decorative trims such as brushed aluminum are standard though carbon trim is optional. An ambient lighting package comes at no additional cost.
Audi's excellent all-digital MMI touchscreen system featuring two large central displays is once again on hand, housing the navigation and infotainment systems. Audi's virtual cockpit and MMI navigation come as standard while a head-up display can be tacked on as an option.
Those who desire an all-electric performance-focused SUV with sufficient space for people and cargo will probably prefer the e-tron SUV over the Sportback body style.
Power comes courtesy of three electric motors, two of which are located at the rear axle and one at the front. They produce a combined 496 horsepower and 717 lb-ft of torque. Performance? Try 0-62 mph in only 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph. A high-voltage battery powers these motors with a gross energy capacity of 95 kWh, and 86 kWh of which is usable. Official EPA range figures are not yet available, though on the European WLTP test cycle the e-tron S has an estimated range of up to 226 miles.
To help maintain efficiency, just the rear electric motors are used during normal driving while the front motor is activated only when the driver desires more performance or requires more traction, such as when driving in the snow. What's interesting is that the rear motors send torque directly to each wheel through a single-speed transmission, thus eliminating the need for a mechanical differential. Audi engineers equipped the e-tron S with a more pronounced rear bias for a sportier drive. Drivers can even put the ESC stabilization control into "sport" and the handling system to "dynamic" mode in order to drift.
Without question the Audi e-tron S's main competitor is the Tesla Model X, specifically the Performance trim. There's also the Mercedes-Benz EQC, another luxury all-electric SUV, though a high-performance version is not yet available. If you're not interested in an all-electric luxury SUV but still desire exhilarating performance, there's the BMW X5 M.
Official pricing and launch date for the North American market has not yet been announced, though sales are due to kick off in Europe this fall. The 2021 Audi e-tron S will have a starting price of 93,800 Euros, so expect something similar to that figure for the US.
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