Audi Design Chief Respects BMW's Brilliant Idea

Design / Comments

It's what changed SUVs forever.

BMW did something revolutionary back in 2008 that changed the SUV segment forever. This was the year when the first-generation BMW X6 was launched and it was an instant success for the German automaker. The SUV coupe was born. Although it took a few model years, competitors such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz launched their SUV coupes, the Q8 and GLE Coupe, respectively. But it was BMW's genius that started it all.

The formula was simple: take an existing SUV, in this case, the BMW X5, retains all of its main components including drivetrain, dashboard layout, and other basic elements, and simply redesign the body with coupe-like styling. The result is a far sexier-looking vehicle albeit one with reduced rear-seat headroom and cargo space. Turns out millions of customers could care less. Last month, Audi launched the 2020 e-tron Sportback, a far sleeker version of the Audi e-tron SUV. Compared side by side, we know which of the two we'd pick. And so does Audi's design chief Marc Lichte.

Front Angle View Audi AG
Side View Audi AG
Rear Angle View Audi AG

Speaking with Autocar, Lichte admitted he'd pick the e-tron Sportback over the e-tron SUV. He also admires BMW's coupe meets SUV idea.

"I have a big respect for BMW for coming up with the idea to combine a coupe with an SUV but, honestly, I don't like it. We thought 'how can we do this in a very attractive way?' and you will see the e-tron Sportback [is the result]. I love it."

It turns out Lichte and his team turned to another certain Audi model for the e-tron Sportback's main design inspiration, the A7. "We took the bottom part of the e-tron, cut the roofline and added the A7 roof. Very simple."

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2019 Audi e-tron Front Three-Quarter Right Side View Audi AG
2019 Audi e-tron Right Side Profile Dynamic Audi AG
2019 Audi e-tron Rear Three-Quarter Right Side View Audi AG

When the 2020 Audi e-tron Sportback made its live debut at the 2019 LA Auto Show we discovered, much to our delight, overall headroom and cargo space isn't dramatically less than the e-tron SUV's measurements. For example, the e-tron Sportback offers only 0.8 inches less headroom than the SUV while cargo space is rated at 21.7 cubic feet, compared to the SUV's 28.5. While output for both electric SUVs is the same, the Sportback's range will reportedly be around 220 miles. The SUV is rated at 204 miles, with the difference coming from the Sportback's more aerodynamic design.

2018-2020 Audi A7 Sportback Front Angle View Audi AG
2018-2020 Audi A7 Sportback Side View Audi AG
2018-2020 Audi A7 Sportback Rear Angle View Audi AG

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