After years of using the e-tron name on all kinds of concept vehicles and plug-in hybrid hatchbacks, Audi finally took the wraps off of the SUV that will bear this name in the marketplace in the second quarter of 2019. The all-electric e-tron is a 5-passenger SUV with a range that should compete with the long-distance EV champs out there today. Audi isn’t saying just yet what the e-tron’s range will be, but Audi of America president Scott Keogh said the car will have “well over 400 kilometers” of range on the new European WLTP test.
That would translate to a range of “well over” 248 miles, but since the tests are different and Audi is waiting for final EPA figures, Keogh simply told a story about a range test that happened earlier this month. Audi engineers drove an e-tron on a 175-mile drive that had an elevation increase of 7,000 feet. The EV finished the drive with an estimated 12 miles of range left in its 95-kWh battery pack. When the crew charged up at lunch and then made the return trip — this time going down the same 7,000 feet — it had an estimated 94 miles of range left in the battery. Not bad for an electric SUV that can also tow 4,000 pounds.
That sort of engineering is one of the things that Audi highlighted during the e-tron introduction in San Francisco, California, that I just attended. Various engineers talked about the safety features built into the battery pack, like the a “box-in-a-box” system that takes the battery pack’s modules — 36 of them with a total of 432 cells — and puts them into little shoeboxes that sit inside a larger frame that is able to transfer any crash energy around the modules themselves, hopefully minimizing danger from ruptured cells. The pack is also protected by an aluminum underbody plate that reduces aerodynamic drag. In fact, the various aero tweaks have driven the cD down to 0.27. One of the most important changes is the fact that the side mirrors have been replaced by cameras, something Audi calls “virtual mirrors,” which were responsible for a 0.05 drop on their own, according to Audi’s Stefan Dietz.
Of course, since these side cameras will not be legal in the U.S., we expect the model here to have a cD of around 0.32. Both European and U.S. models will get the refreshed grille, which contains the EV’s controlled air intake that only opens when the powertrain needs cooling, once again improving aerodynamics.
As an Audi, the e-tron still has the Quattro four-wheel drive system, here powered by two electric motors, one on each axle. “The Audi e-tron is what most of the Audi customers and a lot of people in the world expect,” said Audi powertrain expert Joachim Doerr. “It is a real quattro.”
The front drive motor in the e-tron produces 125 kW peak power, with 10 kW more in boost mode, while the rear offers 140 kW and 25 kW more available in boost mode. So, altogether, the e-tron offers 265 kW of power, with 300 kW available in boost mode. That means the SUV can go from 0–60 miles per hour in 6.4 seconds, with that number dropping to 5.5 seconds in boost mode.
The MSRP for the entry-level Premium Plus trim will start at $74,800 before any government incentives. Two other trim levels are the Prestige at $81,800 and the Edition One at $86,700. The Edition One is limited to the first 999 e-trons in the U.S. and includes things like orange brake calipers and Daytona Grey paint.
As the brand’s first fully electric vehicle (its first plug-in was the A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid, which still sells in small quantities), Audi has put some thought into how to get its drivers to charge up.
“Charging at home is the big new thing for e-tron drivers, because charging at home replaces the drive to the fuel station,” said Audi’s Johannes Eckstein. This is why Audi wanted to create an “attractive” charging system. In this case, that means offering a basic version called the Compact system, which can refill the battery in 8.5 hours using an 11 kW charger. Those figures are only going to be available in the EU, though. In the U.S., the Compact system will be similar, but it will have its power output limited to a maximum of 9.6 kW, so a full recharge takes about 10 hours.
In “selected markets,” a more powerful charging system called Connect will offer up to 22 kW, so a full charge takes just 4.5 hours. When connected to a DC Fast Charger, the e-tron will be capable of charging at up to 150 kW speeds, and Audi announced a nationwide Audi charging plan that will let all U.S. e-tron owners get 1,000 kWh of charging at Electrify America stations in the first 4 years of ownership. Audi is also partnering with Amazon to offer home charging stations. And the e-tron will have Alexa connectivity as well.
In Europe, the e-tron Charging Service will simplify drivers’ daily lives by combining 220 different operators and a network of over 72,000 public charging stations into one account, one contract, and one card. E-tron buyers will be able to test out the service with a free trial period to see if it does make their charging lives easier.
“We are doing that pretty much ahead of our competition,” Eckstein said.
All told, Audi’s message tonight was that, while it wasn’t first to the electric vehicle space, it has had the time to get it right. After what feels like a decade of concepts with the e-tron name, it’ll be nice to see how these things operate out in the real world. Interested parties can reserve one now with a $1,000 refundable deposit at Audiusa.com/reserve.
All images credit: Sebastian Blanco for CleanTechnica