Audi has pulled the covers from its new e-tron Sportback concept at the Shanghai Auto Show, previewing a production model scheduled to arrive in overseas markets from 2019.
The new model will become Audi's second dedicated EV offering, arriving in showrooms as a five-door liftback.
For the concept at least, power comes from a 370kW electric motor offering up to 500km of range between charges. When the electric juice does run low, the battery pack can be replenished using wireless recharging.
That's the same electric driveline, sharing the same lithium-ion battery technology and based on the same electric car platform as the earlier e-tron quattro concept that is set to see production in 2018, the e-tron Sportback has been conceived to rival upcoming production versions of the Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQ SUV and well as a long rumoured crossover model from BMW's i brand expected to see showrooms early next decade.
The new four-seat concept, similar in many respects to parent company Volkswagen's new I.D. Crozz concept also unveiled at 2017 Shanghai Auto Show, combines the sweeping lines of a contemporary styled liftback with the wide track stance of a modern day SUV, creating what Audi describes as a new class of car aimed at attracting buyers who may have opted for a luxury car in the mould of the A7, but seek a more commanding view of the road.
The new Audi concept sports distinctive design cues aimed at providing it with a sleek yet muscular appearance. Its electric drivetrain does away with the need for a traditional grille and cooling ducts up front, but Audi design boss Marc Lichte has nevertheless provided the e-tron Sportback with a familiar single frame grille graphic as part of a blackened mask, together with a large duct in the bonnet to extract hot air from the front mounted electric motor.
Ingolstadt's latest concept uses what Audi describes as next-generation digital lighting technology that features matrix LED high beam projectors boasting 1.2 million pixels. It also introduces new day running lights that project their light onto the new concept's bodywork and double up as scrolling indicators. They're accompanied by matrix laser projectors located underneath the front and rear bumpers that project turn signals onto the road.
The e-tron Sportback is powered by three electric motors - one sited up front sending its drive to the front wheels and two at the rear that serve to propel the rear wheels. All up, they deliver a combined power output of 370kW, along with 800Nm of torque. This is sufficient, according to Audi's computer simulations, to provide it with a theoretical 0-100km/h time of 4.5sec and a limited top speed of 210km/h.
In normal driving mode, the front mounted motor is engaged to drive the front wheels, with the rear mounted motors only providing additional drive under high throttle loads or when sensors detect a loss of grip. The drivetrain can be switched into permanent all-wheel drive should the driver want it, and the rear axle offers full torque vectoring with individual drive to each rear wheel dependent on prevailing traction levels.
All three motors are capable of recovering energy during braking and coasting, with the intensity of energy recovery adjustable through four levels. The car uses a 95kwh battery that can be charged wirelessly, using an AC home charger or a DC fast charger. The latter currently peaks at 50kwh but Audi suggests that when it reaches production it will offer 150kwh, allowing the e-tron Sportback to repower to an 80 percent state-of-charge in just 30 minutes. Range is predicted to exceed 311 miles (498km).
The lithium-ion battery used to power the motors is located low in the car's floorpan , with overall weight distribution put at 52/48 front to rear. The new concept weighs just over 2000kg and makes use of carbon fibre and aluminium to save weight, and is built on Audi's C-BEV platform - sister architecture to parent company Volkswagen's MEB structure and Porsche's J1 platform.
The Sportback's length and wheelbase is near identical to the A7, but it's wider and stands 1.53 metres high - which is 110cm taller than the A7 - to offer more cabin space.
Audi has evolved its virtual cockpit dashboard with touch sensitive surfaces and a wider wraparound design. There's a digital instrument cluster, two touchscreens with haptic feedback in the centre console, plus a slim digital display in front of the passenger.
The car uses cameras in place of rear view mirrors so accompanying displays have been integrated into the inner doors with the same lines as the dash, virtually extending it. These displays are also featured in the back to provide rear passengers with information or footage from the rear view cameras.
Driver assist programs are identical to those featured on the A8, offering piloted drive and piloted park, but Audi says the technology on the final production car will be more advanced than that currently used by its flagship sedan.
As with the e-tron quattro, Audi hints at plans for several versions of the e-tron Sportback with varying outputs from the car's three-motor setup.