by Jay Traugott
Audi, like its Volkswagen Group parent company, is going all-out with electric vehicles. Last year, the luxury German marque unveiled the 2019 e-tron SUV and now at the 2019 LA Auto Show comes the 2020 Audi e-tron Sportback. It's nearly identical to the SUV save for the sexier and sleek exterior styling and some interior space compromises. Audi claims the e-tron Sportback combines the power of a spacious SUV with the elegance of a four-door coupe. Hard to argue with that. Above all, it's a proper daily and long-distance driver thanks to a powerful battery and electric motor offering excellent driving range.
Along with a luxurious and high-tech interior, such as Audi's virtual cockpit featuring the MMI Navigation system, the new e-tron Sportback will undoubtedly lure wealthy buyers to showrooms who might otherwise opt for a Tesla.
Single Speed Automatic
Audi describes the e-tron Sportback's exterior styling as "elegant, efficient, and expressive." We say it also looks quite muscular. The roof extends flat over the body and drops steeply to the rear, flowing into the steeply raked D-pillars. Notice that the lower edge of the third side window rises towards the rear.
To let the world know the e-tron Sportback is fully electric, the vertical struts in the Singleframe front end are painted in a light platinum gray. There are also LED headlights, composed of four horizontal segments that create a unique light signature in the daytime running lights. And speaking of lights, the e-tron Sportback features Digital Matrix headlights, the first time this tech has ever been fitted to a production vehicle. These news DMD modules utilize around one million micromirrors, capable of tilting around 5,000 times per second. Unfortunately, due to US safety regulations, these lights will be limited to European-spec models for now. Ditto the optional virtual exterior side mirrors that are actually cameras.
Other notable exterior styling traits are wheel arch trims and sills finished in matt anthracite, while the diffuser and door sills are painted black. Audi also offers a black styling package that accentuates the area of the Singleframe, side windows and bumper. 20-inch wheels come standard but higher trims, such as the First Edition, have 21-inch wheels. Upon request, 22-inch wheels can be had.
Step inside and you'll find the familiar Audi Virtual Cockpit replacing traditional gauges and offering bespoke readouts related to the vehicle's electric drive system and other related features. There's a huge touch-activated 12.1-inch MMI screen located in the center console that should be quite familiar to anyone who's driven the current generation A6, A7, A8, and Q3. An 8.6-inch display sits below it for operating frequently-used features such as climate control. There's also a head-up display and an optional Bang & Olufsen Premium 3D Sound System.
There's enough seating for up to five passengers and rear headroom is only 0.8-inch less than in the e-tron SUV. Storage remains plentiful, thanks in part to the 2.1 cubic inch frunk, which also stores the charging cable. There's a total of 21.7 cubic feet of luggage capacity and this increases to 58.4 cubic feet by folding down the rear seat backrests. The rear tailgate opens and closes electronically via foot movement.
Like the e-tron SUV, the e-tron Sportback is powered by two asynchronous electric motors, one up front and the other at the rear. The latter is more powerful in order to achieve the ideal rear-biased handling balance. The two electric motors produce a combined 95 kWh, translating to 402 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 mph takes place in the mid-five-second range. Official EPA range data is not available just yet, but Audi is targeting around 220 miles of range – a solid improvement over the e-tron SUV's 204-mile range thanks to the more aerodynamic Sportback styling and an extremely low drag coefficient of just 0.25.
Audi has not released official pricing for the US-market 2020 e-tron Sportback that will cross swords with the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace but expect a price increase of around $2,500 over the regular e-tron SUV, which starts at $74,800. Chances are Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels will be on offer, as well as an S Line package complete with its highly desirable sport air suspension.
Audi will also offer a limited-edition 'Edition One' model, painted in Plasma Blue with exclusive 21-inch wheels, orange brake calipers, a panoramic glass sunroof, and 'Edition One' puddle light projectors. This trim's interior comes packed with premium upgrades, such as contour seats wrapped in Monaco gray Valcona leather.
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The 2020 Audi e-tron Sportback will go on sale in Europe this spring while US deliveries will begin sometime thereafter.