The Tesla Model What?
Only a few months after the debut of the Audi e-tron Sportback comes its more high-performance sibling. Introducing the 2021 Audi e-tron S Sportback, a nearly 500-horsepower four-door coupe body style crossover serving as a sexier alternative to the more conventionally styled e-tron S SUV. If you don't require the extra cargo space out back and can also sacrifice a bit of rear-seat headroom, then the Sportback is for you. However, it does cost a bit more but, then again, none of Audi's all-electric e-tron models come cheap.
Like its e-tron S counterpart, the e-tron S Sportback features a segment-first: triple electric motors. Not only does this allow for plenty of power, but aids in overall driving dynamics and handling. Combined with plenty of luxury, outstanding build quality typical of the brand, and the latest in connectivity and driver-assist technologies, the 2021 e-tron S Sportback will have zero problems finding buyers.
One of the first things you might notice about the new e-tron S Sportback in these photos is the lack of conventional side mirrors. That's because they're only standard. Buyers can opt instead for virtual exterior mirror cameras that send images of what's happening to interior display screens. Not only is this cool but helps to improve drag coefficients. Other aerodynamic-minded design points include flow-optimized wheel arch extensions and a controllable cooling-air inlet to help cool the front brakes.
Compared to the standard e-tron Sportback, the S variant has widened wheel arches that give it a bolder appearance while helping to achieve a drag coefficient of just 0.26 even though the vehicle is 0.9 of an inch wider than the regular Sportback.
Additional unique styling elements include more aggressive front and rear bumpers and a rear diffuser than stretches nearly the entire width of the body. There's also some silver trim at both front and rear as well as aluminum exterior mirror caps. A set of 20-inch wheels come standard with optional 21-inch and - starting later next year - 22-inch wheels. Audi's Matrix LED headlights are another option.
The overall interior design is nearly identical to that of the standard e-tron Sportback, but Audi specifically went with darker colors in the S version. A few standard features include electrically-adjustable sport seats covered in leather and Alcantara, aluminum trim elements (with optional carbon), and ambient lighting.
The all-digital MMI touchscreen system featuring two large displays is another familiar sight. Combined with the optional head-up display, numerous online services, and a navigation system, they make up the virtual cockpit that's largely free of conventional buttons and knobs. Expect overall build quality and fit and finish to be outstanding.
The e-tron S Sportback sacrifices interior volume for more aggressive exterior styling. Rear seat passengers lose some headroom and there's less cargo space available behind that seat. Such is the price of style.
The e-tron S Sportback is the latest all-electric vehicle to join Audi's lineup but along with the e-tron S SUV, is also the first series-production vehicle ever to have three electric motors. Two power the rear axle and the third powers the front. However, only the rear motors are engaged during normal driving; the front motor is only activated when additional performance or additional traction is required. Those rear motors send torque directly to each wheel through a single-speed transmission; there's no need for a mechanical differential.
And speaking of power, the e-tron S Sportback has a total of 496 horsepower and 717 lb-ft of torque. Going from 0 to 62 mph requires just 4.5 seconds and top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph.
On a full charge, the estimated range is 226 miles on the European WLTP test cycle. Official EPA testing has yet to happen.
And for those who enjoy some drifting from time to time, simply set the ESC stabilization control to "Sport" mode and the drive select dynamic handling system to "Dynamic" mode. In case of rocks or other objects on the ground, ride height can be adjusted by up to three inches.
Audi is the first automaker to introduce a Sportback body style to its all-electric SUV lineup, but don't expect it'll remain this way forever. BMW is hot on Audi's trail, as is Mercedes-Benz. But for right now, the most direct Audi e-tron S Sportback competitor is the Tesla Model X Performance, which starts at $94,600.
Audi has not announced US pricing for now, but the 2021 e-tron S Sportback will begin at 96,050 euros in Europe, just 2,250 euros more than the e-tron S SUV. Sales are due to begin this fall in Europe and sometime after than in the US.