All-Electric Audi Sportback E-Tron Bows In Shanghai


Audi finally gives us its answer to the Tesla Model S and it's only five years late.

Being one of the world’s leading automakers currently means having a very diverse portfolio of skill sets. Included among talents such as space-age materials expertise and knowledge of aerodynamics is the role of futurist. The automobile is changing fast, and if it goes the route that Jaguar predicted with the I-Pace, we’ll soon all be driven by electric crossover SUVs. With the Shanghai Auto Show hours away, the Volkswagen Auto Group has gone ahead and revealed just that with its answer to the I-Pace, the Audi e-tron Sportback Concept.

As a design study intended to acquaint buyers to the types of vehicles Audi’s futurists expect to dominate the world of tomorrow, the Audi Sportback e-tron Concept is a five door hatchback with the fifth door being similar to the type we find on the A7. Up front it appears that Audi has heavily tampered with what is typically a clean monotone face that has an expression of focused anger thanks to a trim and sleek light strip at the top. A black surrounding area creates the signature Audi hexagonal grille by framing a textured silver body panel where air inlets would usually reside. Given that this is an e-tron model, it's propelled by electric motors that need no air intake to function, allowing the front end to be tailored for low drag coefficients.

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Admittedly, this design study skews away from what Audi has been doing to vehicles like the e-tron quattro concept and lends a more futuristic taste to the car, leading us to believe that the production version, which will follow in 2019, will take a more gradual step towards an electric sub-brand look. Then again, BMW jumped into a different design philosophy with its i sub brand so it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see another German brand do the same. In order to compete with the upcoming onslaught of next-generation electric cars, the Audi e-tron Sportback Concept boasts a range of 310 miles (500 kilometers) with 320 kW of energy, which can be boosted to 370 kW when needed, all coming from one electric motor up front and two in the rear.

These allow for a rush from 0-62 mph in 4.5 seconds. Despite being more car-like than the SUV, the Sportback e-tron Concept rides a bit high. Even with a moderate lift that better helps the e-tron Sportback e-tron follow its mission to be one of the most versatile and useable electric cars around, a low center of gravity and a 52:48 front/rear weight distribution keeps the package nimble on the road. Comfort is of high priority, and the aerodynamic bits and bobs, including the archway between the two headlights, keep the car quiet when slipping through the air, though 23-inch wheels don’t exactly cushion from road imperfections as well as smaller wheels do.

Even so, they help retain the coupe image of this crossover/car mashup by adding visual weight to the bottom. Aiding in that pursuit is an array of 250 LED lights inlaid into two large light area fields on the front end. Inside, the Audi is just as sophisticated as the exterior, if not more so. Positioned near the center of the car are touchscreen systems below the display in typical Audi ergonomic masterpiece fashion. Volkswagen Auto Group chose Shanghai as the location for unveiling because China its currently the biggest driver towards vehicle electrification. Both the US and Chinese markets will be fertile for the e-tron, though, and we cant wait to see what the production version looks like in 2019.