Audi e-Tron Sportback: hot S model has almost 500bhp

Published: 02 July 2020

► New Audi E-tron Sportback unveiled
Official specs of coupe SUV
Plus, hot S performance model

Audi has officially unveiled the e-Tron S model, shown here in Sportback format. It goes on sale summer 2020, priced at £88,700 for the swoopier model here.

Little is different between this and the regular e-Tron electric SUV. That is to say, everything in terms of interior tech, design and drivetrain is carried over. However, like with other Audi cars in this mould, the e-tron Sportback features something of a firmer suspension set-up than the standard car. Keep reading for more intel on the e-Tron Sportback.

Audi e-Tron Sportback S details

As expected, Audi has introduced an S performance model for the e-Tron and its Sportback model. Power is rated at 496bhp and a whopping 718lb ft of torque - quite a difference over the highest-powered non-S variant, the 55 quattro. The 95kWh battery (in which Audi says 86kWh of it is usable to the driver) allows up to 226 miles of range.

etron sportback s front

The e-Tron S has a three-motor setup instead of the quattro's regular two; one motor drives the front axle and two drive each rear wheel individually. In normal driving situations, only the rear motors are active, with the front stepping in when grip is lost. There is a sport setting for the ESC and, when coupled with dynamic mode on the drive select, Audi says this EV can drift. We proved that when we drove a prototype model.

Elsewhere, the adaptive air suspension has been lowered and tweaked for the S model and UK cars feature 21-inch wheels as standard, while wheelarch inserts make the S models 23mm wider than a standard e-Tron.

Give me the regular e-Tron Sportback specs

So, just like the regular e-Tron SUV, there are two power variants for now: a 50 and a 55, as part of Audi’s usual power variant nomenclature. That translates to 308bhp/398lb ft and 355bhp/413lb ft respectively. with Audi claiming up to 277 miles of range from the lesser-powered variant.

The 50 has a 71kWh battery, while the 55 has a larger capacity 95kWh – both have a motor on each axle for e-quattro all-wheel drive.

e-tron sportback red

Elsewhere, we know that an e-Tron S variant is coming with three e-motors and more power – we’ve driven a prototype here.

The Sportback variant is largely the same as the regular e-Tron SUV in terms of its interior, technology (including those odd Virtual mirrors). What is new, though, are Audi’s Digital Matrix lights...

Debut of Audi’s Digital Matrix Lights

Also new on the Sportback is the latest version of Ingolstadt’s adaptive headlights, called Digital Matrix Lights (DML). In terms of function they offer a more precise beam pattern to the existing Matrix LED system, with a few additional features.

Rather than banks of diodes lighting up the road the DML headlights use a reflective chip about the size of fingernail that contains 1.3 million microscopic mirrors, which can tilt up to 5000 times a second. It’s ostensibly the same tech as a cinema projector.

Audi Digital Matrix Lights

That allows light to be beamed exactly where it’s needed, enveloping other cars much more accurately than the previous system. It needs to be convincing better than that system though – Audi says this will likely be a €4000 option, or around £3500.

Its party trick is that it can illuminate a carpet of light onto the motorway lane in front of you, constrained by the white lines, and curving with the topography of the road. Onto this carpet two lines of chevrons show the exact width of the car including door mirrors – useful for sizing up gaps in traffic or goalposting between narrow roadworks.

We tried it in Los Angeles in nighttime conditions and it's uncanny how it works; it's real augmented reality in action (see below).

We test the tech of Audi's new digital matrix lights

Then when it comes to parking up, one of five animations can be beamed onto your driveway or garage door for additional attention seeking flair.

Technologically it would be possible to actually project a film onto the side of your house using your car’s headlights, but don’t expect to see this feature homologated in the production Audi E-tron Sportback.

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By Adam Binnie

Bauer Automotive's new cars editor; likes bikes and burgers, often over-tyred