Base price is £71,490, while kitted-out Launch Edition starts from £82,240 and brings cameras in place of door mirrors

Audi has released the Launch Edition version of its first production electric car, the E-tron SUV.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC rival is on sale now from £71,490, while the Launch Edition raises that price to £82,240 and will be available to order from early next year.

The most innovative feature on the Launch Edition is the world-first use of two high-definition cameras in place of the traditional door mirrors offered in lesser versions. These project the view behind onto two OLED screens mounted in the doors and reduce the width of the car by 15cm. They also feature heating elements and can detect dirt. 

Further kit enhancements include Matrix LED headlights, platinum-look 21in Audi Sport alloy wheels and black exterior detailing. Inside, there's the addition of a panoramic roof, brushed aluminium trim and a leather upholstery upgrade, while Virtual Cockpit, adaptive cruise assist and a 360deg camera also feature. 

The E-tron gets 249 miles of range on the WLTP official test cycle – identical to the EQC but behind the I-Pace, which manages 292 miles.

Like all electric cars, it's eligible for a £3500 grant from the Government. Audi is now taking orders, with customers who pay a £1000 deposit securing 'priority access'. The EQC is tipped to cost from £67,500.

Audi powertrain director Siegfried Pint has said that a cheaper version of the E-tron with a smaller battery and therefore less range will follow in the next 12 months.

 

Sitting between the Q5 and Q7 in size, the E-tron features a handful of design elements that are intended to make it stand out from other Audi models.

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It keeps the single-frame grille but uses a lighter colour for the louvres. “We didn’t want to lose the single frame; it contributed to making us the premium brand that we are today,” said exterior designer Stephan Fahr-Becker. “We selected a lighter colour. If a car is approaching from 50 or 100 metres, the single frame is recognisable as an Audi but different from, say, a Q8."

The E-tron also gets a name badge on its front, like Audi's RS performance models. “We were bold enough to put the name on the front of the car; we want to say the E-tron is the first of its kind,” said Fahr-Becker.

There are also specific wheel designs for the E-tron (“The task was to create aerodynamic wheels which still look sporty,” said Fahr-Becker) and orange hints – for example, in the name badge and optional orange brake calipers. “We took the colour from high-voltage cables. We wanted to create a special colour to accentuate that it's electric,” Fahr-Becker added. 

Aerodynamics also played an important part in the design to help with the E-tron’s range, said Audi, with the car achieving a drag coefficient of 0.28. There is an air inlet with ducts for cooling the front brakes, as well as adaptable, speed-dependent air suspension and a fully clad underbody. The E-tron also sits slightly lower than a traditional SUV – at 1616mm high, it’s 43mm lower than the Q5.

The four-wheel-drive E-tron uses two asynchronous motors, one at the front axle and one at the rear axle, producing up to 402bhp and 487lb ft. In Normal mode, it produces 355bhp and 414lb ft and is capable of 0-60mph in 6.4secs. At full power, in Boost mode, it achieves 0-60mph in 5.5sec. Top speed is 124mph. Energy to power the motors comes from a 95kWh battery – only beaten by that of Tesla’s top-of-the-range Model S 100D.

A single-stage transmission transfers drive to the E-tron's wheels, and the lion’s share goes to the rear axle at moderate speeds. At full load, it will be a 50/50 split.

The car uses an energy recuperation system that, on average, contributes 30% to the range, says Audi. There are two ways: coasting recuperation when the driver releases the accelerator or braking recuperation when the driver depresses the brake pedal. 

E-tron charging

Using 150kW public fast chargers, which are currently uncommon, the E-tron will be capable of charging up to 80% in 30 minutes. Audi is one of a number of car makers (including BMW, Daimler and Ford) that have invested in charging network Ionity. Audi says the network should have nearly 1200 150kW charging points running by the end of this year and 2400 by 2020. 

Audi electrification product boss Anno Mertens said that while only 5-10% of charging happens on public chargers, it is very important because the “customer would not buy an electric car if it were not possible”. He said the target range (which has been achieved on the E-tron) is 20 to 30 minutes. “That’s today’s benchmark – at 50kW, it would be 80mins which is unacceptable. But customers would like to see 10 minutes which is why we’re constantly working on future generations with higher charging power.”

Audi will offer an E-tron charging service card that will allow access to the majority of charging points through one card, rather than having to have accounts with different providers.

For home charging, there's a standard 11kW charger that charges the E-tron in 8.5 hours. An optional 22kW charger halves this time.

Interior of Audi E-tron

The interior is in line with other Audi models, with its Virtual Cockpit instrument display and two touchscreens – an upper 10.1in screen and a lower 8.8in screen – replacing most conventional controls. 

The most notable difference is the optional addition of 7.0in displays in the front door panels near the dashboard for the camera-based side mirrors. The images from the cameras are shown on the screens and change views on the motorway, when indicating or parking. The driver can also control what is displayed. The aerodynamic benefits of the virtual mirrors can create an extra 1.4 miles of range. 

Audi claims the E-tron beats rivals for rear leg room and front and rear head room. It has 660 litres of boot space, 160 more than the EQC. There is another 60 litres of storage space in the car's nose. The front space is intended to give easy access to charging cables, because the charging port is near the A-pillar on the driver’s side of the car. Towing capability is 1800kg.

The E-tron introduces a number of new connectivity services to the Audi brand. For example, customers will be able to remotely add equipment to their E-tron after buying the car through the MyAudi app. You’ll be able to unlock certain equipment, for example, adding matrix beam, lane assist system or digital radio. You can buy it for a month, year or a lifetime, although it will cost slightly more for the customer than if you’d ordered it from the beginning. The service will eventually be rolled out to other models.

It also works with a household’s Amazon Alexa voice service. Through Alexa, you can instruct the E-tron to preheat or ask how much charge is left in the car. It also works in the other direction: the E-tron can use smart home functions, for example, switching the lights on or specific music before you arrive home. In time, the system will have the flexibility to work with a number of voice assistants including Google and Apple, said Audi.

The E-tron will be built at Audi’s CO2-neutral plant in Brussels, Belgium.

 

Q&A with Stephan Fahr-Becker, Audi exterior designer

Why did you decide on this design for your first standalone model?

"It was important to have an SUV. If you are sitting on a battery, the roof height creates problems. The Tesla Model S deals with this by making the car really wide. We were going to [design] something really mind-blowing and then customers said ‘can’t you just do a nice looking EV?’. People aren’t ready for major change. Instead, we decided on nice proportions."

What was the biggest challenge?

"To find the right roof line. We needed it to be sporty and aerodynamic but also to be a full SUV. We had to find the exact height where people still perceive it to be an SUV while ensuring it contributes to range."

What details will we see on future E-Tron models?

"Apart from the single frame grille, the front and rear lights will be a common theme. All the wheels will be more aerodynamic but look sporty. We also want to point out [in the design] where the battery is laying. That’s why there’s a wedge in the E-tron where the battery lays."

Read more

Jaguar I-Pace review

More details on Mercedes EQC

VIDEO: we try the Jaguar I-Pace

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Comments
53

18 September 2018

Audi really missed a trick to make their new ev look revolutionary.

 

Shame

Steam cars are due a revival.

18 September 2018

Why does an EV  have to look revolutionary? 

18 September 2018

Body styling is not constrained by internal combustion engine and transmission. 

Why the pointless grille for example?

Steam cars are due a revival.

18 September 2018

The styling is very boring and I’m disappointed by the unimpressive aerodynamics. A Cd of .28 isn’t so hot, given that electric cars have inherent advantages in managing airflow. Blame the bluff SUV style and fat tyres I guess.

18 September 2018
Thekrankis wrote:

Body styling is not constrained by internal combustion engine and transmission. 

Why the pointless grille for example?

I d expect to see very futuristic, unconventional styling on some EVs and very conventional styling on others. So far, most are very conventional looking.

XXXX just went POP.

19 October 2018

Ian Callum stated that the grill is required on the I-Pace so no reason to think it isn’t also required on this car. 

Ian Callum said:

There is a real radiator behind the grill !

4 December 2018
peetee wrote:

Ian Callum stated that the grill is required on the I-Pace so no reason to think it isn’t also required on this car. 

Ian Callum said:

There is a real radiator behind the grill !

The giant upper black grille is fake on the I-Pace. Some of the air travels around (up and over) it and through the bonnet, but the grille itself does nothing. The lower grille (that we also see on current Teslas) is probably what he is referring to... It helps to cool the battery.

In short, the enormous upper grilles on EV's are completely unnecessary in terms of function.

18 September 2018
brian245 wrote:

Why does an EV  have to look revolutionary? 

When you're charging twice as much for your electric car, then customers quite rightly expect a degree of differentiation and sparkle versus the cooking models.

18 September 2018

Surprised to see shabby, worn and dirty tyres on a reveal czar. As for the styling, it’s fine, particularly if one likes Audi’s current look. The disappointment comes from the rather salacious build up to the grand reveal. 

18 September 2018

I wonder if tbe dirty tyres are a deliberate subliminal signal that the car is a running prototype, not just a static exhibit?

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