2020 Audi E-Tron Sportback First Look: Less Roof, More Range (Probably)
Does this contender have the power to knock out Tesla?
Audi expands its e-tron electric vehicle family with the 2020 e-tron Sportback, a sexy fastback electric crossover for five people that will hit our shores next year. Audi refers to the Sportback as an SUV coupe because of its shape, but the EV does indeed have more than two doors. It becomes the second model in the e-tron family after the original e-tron SUV.
The original e-tron SUV's shortcoming was range; at 204 miles it comes up far short of the aging Tesla Model X. Audi does not yet have EPA ratings for the Sportback's range in the U.S., but the new model, which has a powertrain that provides up to 402 horsepower in boost mode, has a range of 277 miles on the WLTP cycle, the latest standardized test used in Europe. For reference, the original e-tron got a range of 249-259 miles on the WLTP cycle, depending on tires. This suggests the Sportback will have more range than the original e-tron but only marginally, so it is still likely to fall short of the Model X.
Where Audi excels is looks, inside and out. The fastback look is achieved with raked D-pillars and a window line that rises toward the rear. Rear headroom is just 0.8 inch less than in the Audi e-tron.
The Sportback has standard digital matrix LED headlights that break down the light into tiny pixels to illuminate the road in high resolution, providing the precision needed for better lighting and improved lane centering systems, especially on a narrow road. The advanced lighting is a feature not normally associated with mass-production vehicles. Below the headlights are the signature E-Tron daytime running lights. For now, this carpet of light will only be available in Europe but the hope is that U.S. regulations will allow it in the U.S. in the next year.
Side sills with black inlays underscore the location of the battery and the diffuser in back underscores the absence of tailpipes.
Front seats come in standard, sport, S sport, and customized contour seats, with optional ventilation and massage functions. Their stitching pattern is designed to look like electric circuits and buyers can spice it up with optional orange contrast stitching and piping as well as an ambient lighting package. The interior has a tasteful mix of leather, plastic, Alcantara and chrome.
The S line model has standard 20-inch wheels and sport air suspension, as well as a standard spoiler and a diffuser that extends across the entire vehicle width. A black styling package is optional. It is a slippery vehicle, with a drag coefficient of just 0.25.
Optional virtual exterior mirrors with small cameras provide images that the driver can reposition, and the mirrors adjust automatically to three driving situations: highway, turning, and parking. This, again, is for Europe and is not approved for use in the U.S.
The top-trim Audi e-tron Sportback 55 Quattro gets a 95-kWh battery pack and boasts an output of 355 horsepower and 414 lb-ft of torque from its two electric motors, which Audi estimates is enough to send it from zero to 62 mph in about 6.5 seconds. In Sport drive mode, the driver can activate boost mode, generating 402 horsepower and 490 lb-ft for eight seconds to sprint even faster. Two-stage planetary gearboxes with one gear range transfer the torque from the electric motors to the axles. The electric all-wheel-drive setup continuously regulates the ideal drive torque distribution between both axles, but most of the time it will default to a rear-wheel-drive vehicle.
The car has a low center of gravity, seven drive modes, adaptive air suspension with controlled dampers, and standard 255/55 R19 tires with ultra-low rolling resistance, but tires up to 22 inches will be available from the middle of 2020. Regenerative braking can recuperate a maximum of 221.3 lb-ft and 220 kW, which amounts to more than 70 percent of its output. Overall, the Sportback attains up to 30 percent of its range through recuperation.
At market launch in Europe, Audi will offer a less powerful version of the all-electric fastback SUV. The e-tron Sportback 50 Quattro generates 308 horses and 398 lb-ft and has a smaller, lighter 71-kWh battery pack. It gets 215.6 miles of range on a single charge as measured on the WLTP cycle. The U.S. will only receive the high-output version.
For infotainment there is an upper 12.1-inch touchscreen and the lower 8.6-inch display is used to input text and to operate the convenience functions and climate control. Audi's impressive 12.3-inch virtual cockpit is standard. The vehicle is a Wi-Fi hotspot for mobile devices and integrates the services of Amazon's Alexa to give commands. The MyAudi app can turn an Android phone into a digital key to unlock the car and start the engine.
Many driver assist systems are standard to travel safely with traffic and avoid collisions.
The Sportback will be built in Brussels, Belgium, alongside the standard e-tron SUV, and order books open at the end of the month for European customers. In Europe, it will launch next spring with two output variants and a limited edition called "edition one" in plasma blue with virtual exterior mirrors, exclusive 21-inch wheels, orange brake calipers, and a panoramic glass sunroof. The illuminated front door sill trim projects the model name "edition one" as a logo onto the ground.
The Sportback, including edition one, goes on sale in mid-2020 for North America and order books will open next year. We expect a price premium of less than $10,000 over the regular e-tron. The Sportback was designed for A6 or A7 buyers who want more style or a less-conventional SUV.