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New Audi e-Tron SUV revealed: the electric fight is on

Published: Yesterday 05:00

► Audi e-Tron to cost £70,800 in UK
► All electric rival to EQC, i-Pace 
► Audi claims a 249-mile EV range

Audi has finally unveiled the production e-Tron electric car in San Francisco. The event, which saw more than 1500 people airlifted in from across the world, marks the introduction of the very first production EV from the Ingolstadt-based brand.

And it’s only the beginning of the brand's electric ambitions; Audi revealed we should see 12 SUVs in its line-up by 2025, including a Sportback e-Tron version by the end of 2019, and a further five electric Q models.

Audi e-Tron specs and prices

Audi e-Tron: the design story

Audi hasn’t exactly kept us in the shadows when it comes to its new electric car, so we’ve seen various prototypes and camouflaged models at motor shows and on track over the past year.

There are few shocks here: the Audi e-Tron maintains the familiar design handbook of the wider Audi family, while also incorporating a few elements that denote its all-electric powertrain. Put it this way, it won't alienate people like Merc's heavily stylised EQC might.

Read our guide to the best EVs and electric cars on sale today

Front and rear lights feature additional sections of striped light that Audi’s designers say echoes the same sort of structures you’d see in a computer heatsink – and CAR understands they’ll be animated on the production model, a little like the new A8’s rear lights. Either way, it’s one method of separating the e-Tron from the rest of Audi’s increasingly similar-looking range. And with the e-Tron line up set to grow exponentially by 2025, Ingolstadt’s design teams are planning for the future with this SUV.

Audi e-Tron electric car

As with most electric cars, efficiency is key, and air curtains towards the front of the car aim to reduce draggy turbulence around the front wheels. And those wheels are going to be big: in a seminar ahead of the car’s release, the e-Tron’s exterior designer claimed ‘we know in design you do nothing wrong having big wheels.’ Has he heard of mounting Kwik-Fit bills for replacement rubber?

As with most shooting brakes, fast wagons and SUVs, the back windscreen is quite heavily raked, so Audi has prioritised a dynamic look at the expense of extra storage.

Interior: inside the Audi e-Tron electric car

Inside, the e-Tron looks a lot like a contemporary Audi, but features a few key differences which come from its EV underpinnings. Just like the A8, the e-Tron features what Audi calls a black-panel layout, although that essentially means ‘lots of touchscreens’ in non-Ingolstadt speak. Like the A8 and A7, these feature haptic feedback, and they’re also arranged in two layers – with another panel at the bottom of the centre console.

Audi e-Tron interior

A lack of transmission tunnel means the e-Tron feels airier than its ICE-powered equivalent, and in its place you’ll find a large cubby hole with a rather nifty gear-selector further up. Virtual Cockpit is here too, but the highlight of the interior has to be Audi’s new door-mirror-based cameras.

Fitted to the outside of the car instead of conventional mirrors, the new cameras feed images to two digital screens on the inside of the door, and they’re the first we’ve seen on any production car. Audi says the cameras reduce the width of the car by 15cm, and that’ll have a significant reduction in drag, too.

Just remember these are slated to be an option in the UK; you'll have to pay extra for them.

Tech specs

As for the specs? The electric Audi will use two electric motors, with the front producing 135kW and the rear adding 140kW of thrust. In a temporary boost mode for overtakes, that’ll increase to 135kW and 165kW, though only for around six seconds.

Both motors are near-identical, though the rear motor is slightly larger, and both are powered by a battery measuring a large 2280mm x 1630mm x 340mm – which is around the size of a double bed. With a stated capacity of 95kWh, the battery sits between the wheels in the traditional EV skateboard layout. There are 432 cells in total, but they’re arranged in to 36 shoebox-sized units, and each gets its own impact protection.

In normal operation the e-Tron will give you 265kW of power, 561Nm (414lb ft) of torque and a 0-60mph time of 6.4 seconds. In Boost mode, there’s 300kW of power, 664Nm (490lb ft) of torque and a 0-60mph time of 5.5sec, but remember that’s only available for a limited time.

Charging

Audi says the e-Tron will be able to charge from 0-80% in 30 minutes when using 120Kw charging, and Audi has also introduced two home chargers for trickle-charging. The overnight Compact 11kW charging system will top up your e-Tron in 8.5 hours, while a smarter Charging System Connect will do it in 4.5 hours with 22kW charging, according to Ingolstadt.

The latter also features smart home integration, though it’s not clear if it’s also compatible with Audi’s recently announced Smart Home energy system.

If you’re further afield, you’ll be able to use Audi’s e-Tron Charging Service, which will consist of around 72,000 charge points across more than 220 operators, but ties them in with one contract. You’ll be able to pay on contactless card or QR app to begin with, and you’ll get a bill at the end of every month – nope, it won’t be free like Tesla Supercharging... 

The Audi e-Tron concept car: soon it'll be real

Audi will let you be part of its scheme for one year before you have to pay for the privilege – plus the charging costs of electricity used, of course. And the purchase price of the Audi e-Tron? It'll cost £70,800 in the UK. Audi hasn’t mentioned wireless charging yet, so it looks as though both Mercedes and BMW have the jump on the e-Tron in that area.

Production has already begun, and the first e-Tron models should reach customers by 2019. Despite that punchy price, Audi expects this to be a relatively high-volume car, and it’s going to be churning out 400 engines and therefore 200 cars a day from its Belgian-based factory.

What’s more, the factory, which also produces the new A1, has had an injection of €600 million (£533m), and it’s also where Audi will be making the batteries for the new e-Tron. That’s right, Audi isn’t buying in expertise like the LG-powered Porsche Taycan, instead Audi claims ‘Audi is committed to mastering all states of electric powertrain production.’

With so much platform sharing between Porsche with the PPE system, and the MLB system with Bentley, VW, Porsche and more, it’s very possible we’ll soon see other VW Group cars with Audi-developed parts. It’d make sense from a production and cost saving view, at least.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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