Audi has shown off the new e-tron Sportback quattro, a coupe-like version of its all-electric SUV.
Sleek design means longer range
Based on the same MLB-Evo platform as the existing Audi e-tron quattro, the Sportback gets the rear roofline of the A7 Sportback (no, really, Audi says it basically transposed one design to the other) for a sleeker look with improved aerodynamics.
The styling isn't just different at the back - Audi has also changed the car's bumpers and front styling a little, which isn't just an aesthetic effect, as it has actually improved the aerodynamics. In fact, the Sportback's coefficient of drag is lower than that of the standard e-tron, falling to 0.25. That improves the one-charge range, by a whole 10km, just based on the aerodynamic changes.
Clever brake energy recuperation
That range is now up to 446km on the WLTP cycle, although you also have to have the optional digital camera wing mirrors to maximise the aerodynamic benefits. The 55 quattro version gets the same 95kWh battery pack as the regular e-tron, but Audi says that more of the battery's power is now accessible. As before, it can be charged at up to 150kW from the latest rapid charging points, while the brake-energy recuperation (where the electric motors can, by themselves, slow the car at up to 0.9g) can harvest as much as 220kW of energy by slowing from 100km/h to rest. Audi claims that up to a third of the car's range can be scavenged from the brakes.
For extra efficiency, the front electric motor is now decoupled when the car is cruising or accelerating gently, while the regular brakes have been modified so that they exert less mechanical drag when not in use.
There is also a lower-power version of the e-tron Sportback, the Sportback 50 quattro version, which uses a 312hp motor setup (the 55 quattro gets 360hp in normal mode, and 408hp when you switch it to Dynamic mode), as well as a smaller, 71kWh battery for a 347km range, but that version is not yet confirmed for Irish sale.
High-def LED headlights
While the wheelbase and overall legroom of the Sportback remain the same as that of the standard e-tron, overall headroom has dropped by 20mm thanks to the sleeker roofline. Boot space has also fallen, a little, to 615 litres.
Other than that, the cabin remains basically the same, built around the three digital screens (two for infotainment and heating/ventilation and one for the instrument panel). There's the usual Google Maps integration into the satnav, while you can now also have Amazon's 'Alexa' digital voice assistant included.
The headlights are new, too. Although the same shape as those of the standard model, the latest (optional) Matrix LED headlights are now pushing the boundaries of lighting tech. At the heart of the new lights is a small chip containing one million micromirrors, each of whose edge length measures just a few hundredths of a millimetre. With the help of electrostatic fields, each individual micromirror can be tilted up to 5,000 times per second. Depending on the setting, the LED light is either directed via the lenses onto the road or is absorbed in order to mask out areas of the light beam. The light is almost at the same sort of resolution that you'd get from a high-end video projector.
So, the e-tron can now project high-def images and lighting effects onto the pavement or wall in front of the car when you plip the key fob. More importantly, it allows always-on high beam lights, with much greater precision of blanking when it comes to not dazzling other traffic. The lights can also adjust to provide greater precision when driving on the motorway, keeping the lane ahead of you lit, and allowing for lane changes. It also adjusts to help pedestrians make sure they see the car coming. Eventually, this technology will also be used for forms of car-to-car, and car-to-pedestrian communication for autonomous cars.