Audi isn’t the first mainstream automaker to bring an all-electric vehicle to market, though it will be far from the last, given that everyone is breaking their axles lately in an effort to jump on the electrification bandwagon ASAP. But Audi is marking an in-house milestone today with the official reveal of its first true series production EV—the 2019 Audi E-Tron crossover. And it definitely won’t be the last one of those, either, SUV, and otherwise.
Audi wanted to ensure that the 2019 E-Tron was unmistakable as both an Audi and an SUV, and at first glance, it appears to be an oversized Audi Q5 from an alternate future. It also bears a strong resemblance to an E-tron of the past, namely the E-Tron Quattro SUV concept that first appeared at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show—one of several electrified Audi concepts (and one production plug-in hybrid, the A3 Sportback E-Tron) to wear an E-Tron badge.
The E-Tron has a lower and wider stance than the Q5, with a rakish backlight clearly inspired by the new Q8. The underfloor placement of the battery pack is emphasized through a special graphic treatment on its profile, and details such as the head and taillamps are similar to the concept, with signature cues meant to signify battery life meters. Interestingly, European-spec E-Trons will have cameras in place of side-view mirrors, with monitors located between door and dash. Sadly, U.S. models will have to make do with conventional mirrors as the cameras do not have regulatory approval (yet).
Based on the MLB platform component set that also underpins other new Audi models, it retains a traditional “two-box” SUV shape as well as a version of Audi’s signature, octagonal single frame grille—although for the E-Tron it’s closed in order to enhance aerodynamics. Inside, the E-Tron is instantly recognizable as a contemporary Audi. It employs the latest version of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit as well as the dual-screen Multimedia Interface (MMI) as seen in Audi’s latest vehicles.
Size-wise, the E-Tron fits almost perfectly between the Q5 and Q7, and it’s about 5-inches shorter and slightly narrower than a Telsa Model X. Audi has aimed the E-Tron at the heart of the mid-size luxury SUV market, with seating for five and a solid 28.5 cu-ft of cargo space behind the rear seats (57.0 cu-ft with them down).
The E-Tron’s drive system—which Audi will of course call Quattro—uses two electric motors, one powering each axle, with the rear motor doing most of the work when power demands are low. Audi hasn’t published any power numbers as of yet, but it says the E-Tron will move from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds onto a top speed of 124 mph, and that its integrated cooling system will allow for repeated full-power acceleration runs with no degradation of output. An optional towing package will allow the E-Tron to haul up to 4,000 lb.
Power for the motors will be supplied via a 95 kWh battery pack, which is suspended between the axles and under the cabin floor. Audi is being careful not to make any claims about range until the EPA makes its official estimates; however, the European figure has been rated at 400 km, which translates to 249 miles—about the same as the Model X. Audi is emphasizing the collision safety aspects of the battery casing, which include a puncture-resistant bottom tray, a surrounding frame with crumple zones, and a cooling system designed to drain coolant away in the event of a breach. The battery pack, which Audi says is roughly 1,543 lb all in, is covered by an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty, double the bumper-to-bumper protection extended to the rest of the vehicle.
The 2019 Audi E-Tron also supports DC fast charging via the SAE Combo plug, and will be the first EV on the market to support 150 kW charging (standard SAE Combo fast chargers deliver 90 kW, and Tesla’s Supercharger tops out at 120 kW). Audi says this will allow the E-Tron to be charged from 0 to 80 percent in about 30 minutes. Audi is partnering with Electrify America, which has committed to building 500 fast-charge stations in 40 states by the summer of 2019. Audi includes 1,000 kWh of no-cost charging at Electrify America stations with the purchase of an E-Tron.
For home charging, Audi has partnered with Amazon Home Services as a one-stop solution. E-Tron buyers will be able to purchase a 240-volt Level 2 charger and installation through Amazon at a yet-to-be-announced fixed price. (Typical Level 2 chargers cost between $200 and $500 plus installation.)
Audi plans to offer the 2019 E-Tron in two trim levels, Premium Plus and Prestige. Like other Audi models, the E-Tron has a long list of standard equipment, much of which is typically optional in other German luxury vehicles. The Premium Plus will be priced at $75,795 (including destination charge), and comes standard with leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, a Bang & Olufsen stereo, navigation, and a panoramic sunroof, with advanced driver aids available as an option. The Prestige model, priced at $82,795, adds the driver assistance package as well as a head-up display, massaging front seats with upgraded leather, dual-pane acoustic side windows, doors that cinch themselves shut, and other features.
Additionally, Audi will offer a limited-run Edition One, priced at $87,695, which features unique paint and trim and an upgraded interior. Edition One will be the only E-Tron to offer Audi’s Night Vision system, and sales will be limited to 999 examples in the United States.
All E-Trons will be eligible for a $7,500 Federal tax credit, which lowers the effective starting price to $68,295. Given the level of standard equipment, that’d make the E-Tron a good deal even as a conventionally-powered luxury SUV, let alone an electric one.
Audi has taken a cue from Tesla in that it has begun taking $1,000 refundable deposits for those who wish to reserve an E-Tron, with deliveries beginning in the second quarter of 2019. Will buyers line up to reserve an E-Tron the way they did the Model 3? We’ll find out soon enough. But one thing’s for sure, the E-Tron is coming (along with a stampede of all-EV models right behind it) whether the market wants it or not.