Shanghai sees premiere of Audi's prettiest EV concept yet.
Just as they said they would, Audi has unveiled e-tron Sportback at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show, a stunning electric coupe SUV that’s clearly from a future where design is just as coveted (perhaps even more so) than engineering.
The Ingolstadt-based automaker is heralding it as their template for ‘e mobility’, no doubt a blanket term for forward-facing technologies within the automotive field such as autonomous driving ability and the total eschewing of an internal combustion engine, hence the name ‘e-tron’ that, like ‘quattro’, is stubbornly non-conformant to using capitalised first letters.
It will follow Audi’s first everyday usable electric car (called just ‘e-tron’ and based on the e-tron quattro concept from the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show) that it plans to market to their existing customer base in 2018, an all-electric SUV that will have over 500km of zero emissions range from its liquid-cooled 95kWh battery pack, dual electric motors generating up to 370kW, and enough torque to perform the century sprint in just 4.5 seconds. The Sportback should be identical from a powertrain standpoint when it’s tentatively launched in 2019.
Perhaps, then, the e-tron Sportback is more intriguing purely as a design study since Audi (along with parent company Volkswagen) have not been shy about detailing their electric powertrains, both in existing form and as a roadmap for the future.
The concept introduces us to several new design beats that could very well make it to production Audis before long, such as a their singleframe grille being itself set within a larger intake that serves as both fixture for the illumination elements as well as a method of channeling air around the car.
Clearly being styled as more of a sporty city dweller, albeit one jacked-up for crossover status eligibility, the e-tron Sportback’s many creases fold within its sculpted-looking aluminium body and widens to accommodate the extra track of those large wheels. And around back, the tail lamps are linked by a red light strip, echoing the second-generation Porsche Panamera.
Overall, it’s a cohesive and aesthetically effective package that Audi would be remiss to let fade into obscurity without incorporating at least some of it into their present-day portfolio. A valid criticism levelled at their cars is that they do not look significantly different than the models they replace. Of course, there are nuances and legitimate engineering innovation at play here, but that’s not what will ultimately sway buyers. Perhaps the striking and sophisticated but feasible designs explored here can and should be worn on mainstream Audis to bring a renewed fight to Mercedes-Benz and a resurgent Volvo.
The concept’s interior too is equally impressive, introducing a design that’s informed by elegance, technology, and functionality. Futuristic though it may look, there’s nothing fundamentally unworkable (aside from cost) about many of the elements that adorn this cabin. There are many screens that replace nearly all tactile buttons, sure, but Audi is already close to that reality.
Audi’s latest concept car being first shown in China is no accident, of course, as Dr. Dietmar Voggenreiter, Member of the Board of Management for Marketing and Sales at AUDI AG, explains:
“We have made a conscious decision to give the Audi e-tron Sportback its first showing here in Shanghai, because China is the world’s leading market for electric automobiles. That applies as much to the infrastructure and financial support as it does to sales. There are already about 150,000 charging stations in the country, with another 100,000 due to come on stream by the end of 2017,”
“We are well equipped for this rapid growth. In the next five years we will be offering five e-tron models in China, including purely battery-powered vehicles with ranges well in excess of 500 kilometers (310.7 miles) such as the Audi e-tron Sportback.”