The conceptual stage of the Audi Q4 e-tron concept you see here will be a short one, as it will metamorphose into a production vehicle by 2021 or shortly thereafter. Once that happens, it will be the fifth electric model for the four-ringed brand.
The concept made its global debut at the Geneva auto show and builds on Audi’s promise to launch 12 purely electric vehicles by 2025. The e-tron name goes back several years, but the family didn’t get going in earnest until the arrival of the e-tron crossover that goes on sale in the U.S. this summer. It will be followed early next year by the e-tron Sportback, which has a roofline like the Audi A7 and shares a platform with the Porsche Taycan. Audi showed a camouflaged version of the production Sportback at the show and promised a true look at the production car by the end of the year. The E-Tron GT four-passenger sedan will go on sale at the end of 2020, and then the Q4 e-tron will arrive. The fifth e-tron, the Q2 L, is for China only and will be unveiled in a few weeks at the Shanghai auto show.
The Q4 e-tron is being billed as the first affordable A-segment—which is to say subcompact-ish—electric vehicle, and there will be few changes made to the concept for production. The batteries are positioned in the floor of its curvaceous, wide-stanced body, and the wheels are pushed to the corners to maximize interior space and minimize the overhangs. It sallies forth wearing Audi’s latest design language, including the latest shape of the “singleframe” grille, thin LED headlights, and big, jowly intakes in the front bumper—presumably to help cool the batteries—although it sort of looks to our eyes like Audi swiped some cues from Lincoln (who had been swiping cues from Audi). Customers will also be able to design their own graphic for the headlights, whatever that means, but Audi says it’s a first for the company.
As expected, there is a lot of tech at the driver’s fingertips, from the Virtual Cockpit customizable digital instrument cluster to the large dual-screen infotainment system, all brimming with information and functions. A huge head-up display is a first for Audi in terms of size. The Q4 will have a range of about 280 miles as measured on the European WLTP test cycle; figure the number will come in a bit lower when it is rated by the EPA.
After 2022, Audi will trade in the modified MLB platform it is using for its initial electric vehicles and adopt the VW Group’s new PPE (Premium Platform Electric) architecture for performance/luxury electric vehicles. Porsche will also switch to PPE for the economies of scale, as well. Mainstream brands in the Volkswagen Group will use the MEB platform for their electric vehicles, as will some Audis including the eventual roadgoing version of the Q4 e-tron.
Audi is also preparing to launch plug-in-hybrid versions of the A6, A7, A8, and Q5, all of which also made their official debut in Geneva. The existing A3 and Q7 PHEVs have been upgraded to the latest powertrain hardware and software. The plug-ins will go on sale this year in Europe and a decision will be made in the next few months whether to offer the PHEVs in the U.S., said Fermin Soneira Santos, Audi vice president of marketing. If they do come, it won’t be in 2019. This year is the year of e-tron in America in the belief that buyers in this market prefer pure EVs—thanks, Tesla!—over plug-in hybrids. But Santos thinks the U.S. will get the PHEVs “eventually.”
For his part, Herbert Diess, VW Group CEO, said which products and powertrains are offered where is often tied to local regulations. But he says does not see a market for PHEVs in the U.S. “There have been plug-in hybrids in the U.S. and none of them really have been successful so far,” he tells us in an interview. Finally, Audi CEO Bram Schot has said one in three new Audis will have some form of electrified powertrain by 2025.