Alternatively, the new SUV can be charged at up to 11kW via inductive means using the German car maker’s latest wireless charging technology and a piloted parking function that has been conceived to automatically park it over a charging plate imbedded in the ground. The charging process starts automatically, with a magnetic field providing an alternating AC current that is converted to DC by the e-tron quattro’s electronic package. Once the battery is topped up, the charging automatically ceases. The whole process can be monitored and controlled via a smartphone app.
An expansive array of solar cells mounted on the 1980mm-long roof also provides the battery with electrical energy. Described as the largest solar module to be used in the automotive sector, it is claimed to produce sufficient energy under a typical European climate to provide an added 622 miles of range per year.
Underpinning the new Audi is a modified version of the MLB platform from the upcoming second-generation Q5. It has been reworked with an altered floorpan and structural elements to accommodate the batteries low down for the best possible centre of gravity.
The suspension, which uses a five-link design both front and rear, receives air springs with both adaptive damping and a self-levelling function to automatically lower the body in two stages by up to 30mm for improved aerodynamic efficiency at constant motorway speeds.
Drawing on developments brought to the latest Q7, the e-tron quattro also adopts four wheel steering system with up to five degrees of movement on the rear wheels to reduce the turning circle and aid maneuverability at lower speeds around town while increasing agility at higher speeds.
The 22-inch wheels boast an aerodynamically optimised design and come shod with 265/40 low-rolling-resistance tyres clearly aimed more at on-road efficiency than off-road ability.
Stretching to 4880mm in length, 1930mm in width and 1540mm in height, the e-tron quattro is 250mm longer, 30mm wider and 115mm lower than the existing first-generation Q5. Yet despite the generous dimensions, the drag co-efficient is significantly better than any of Audi's current SUV models at 0.25.
In a preview of the aerodynamic measures being pursued for the production version of the new Audi model, active body elements deploy above 50mph to provide more efficient airflow and added cooling potential at the front; the side sills extend in length by 50mm to smooth the flow of air past the rear wheels; a spoiler atop the tailgate extends by 100mm to elongate the roof line; the diffuser extends to speed the airflow rate at the rear and flat paneling sporting a special finish resembling the surface of shark skin is used underneath.
The interior of the e-tron quattro draws heavily on the design originally unveiled on the Prologue concept at last year’s Los Angeles motor show. It provides seating for up to four, with two individual seats front and rear. Boot space is put at 615 litres – 75 litres more than that offered by the first-generation Q5. Owing to the lack of a traditional exhaust system, the luggage compartment area is set low. With the rear seats folded, capacity increases to 1725 litres – some 350 litres less than that of the new Q7.
Hackenberg explained the driving force behind the creation of the Audi e-tron quattro: “This is the SUV that sales and marketing were asking for. We [the engineering division] wanted a car with low rolling resistance. This concept combines both, together with Audi’s core values: quattro four-wheel drive, air springs, aerodynamics.”