At first glance, the Audi e-tron Spyder unveiled in Paris might appear to be just a topless version of the e-tron Coupe shown in Detroit. The most significant difference concerns the drivetrain. Whereas the e-tron Coupe was a pure EV, with an electric motor driving the rear wheels, this latest e-tron concept is a plug-in hybrid that sends power to all four corners in a system that Audi calls e-quattro.
In the Spyder, two electric motors rated at 44 hp each propel the front wheels, and a longitudinally mounted, 300-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 TDI primarily drives the rear wheels, although the overall torque split is roughly 25:75. The transmission is a seven-speed S-Tronic. The two propulsion systems can combine to produce a maximum torque output of 738 pound-feet (same as the 6.0-liter diesel in the Q7 TDI), for brief periods when the accelerator is floored and the driver hits the star button on the steering wheel.
The system relies on torque vectoring rather than electronic traction control to control wheelspin. The engineers calculate the 0-to-62 mph run at 4.4 seconds, and a top speed that would need to be electronically limited to 156 mph. Alternately, one can hit the ZEV button, and the 9.1-kWh battery will whir you along noiselessly for up thirty miles, at a maximum velocity of 37 mph. This e-quattro system is planned for the next generation of hybrid Audis, although in front-engine applications the electric motors will power the rear wheels.
For the conventional engine, why did Audi opt for the diesel and not for a small gasoline direct-injected turbo? “Because for us, diesel equals sportiness and high-performance as well as economy and environment-friendliness,” explains Michael Dick, board member in charge of research and development. “We won Le Mans with a diesel, we are selling an increasing number of TDI-powered TTs [in Europe], and we proved with the R8 V12 TDI concept that even a diesel-engine supercar does have its charm.”