In most driving conditions, the concept uses only the front motors, with the two rear units adding torque in high-load or low-grip conditions. The powertrain can be switched to permanent four-wheel drive should the driver need it, and the rear axle shuffles power between the wheels via torque vectoring. All three motors can recover energy during braking and coasting, and the intensity of energy recovery is adjustable through four levels.
The concept car has a 95kWh battery pack that can be charged wirelessly using an AC home charger or a DC rapid charger. The rapid charging method currently peaks at 50kW, but by the time the E-tron Sportback reaches production, 150kW will be possible. That will allow the car to charge its batteries to 80% of capacity in just 30 minutes. The driving range from fully charged batteries is expected to exceed 311 miles.
The battery pack is located low in the car’s structure and the overall weight distribution is 52/48% front/rear. The concept weighs just over 2000kg and makes use of carbonfibre and aluminium in its structure (which is based around the MLB platform) to keep the weight as low as possible. The E-tron Sportback’s length and wheelbase are almost identical to the A7’s, but it’s wider and stands 1.53m tall – which is 110mm taller than the A7 – to offer more cabin space.
Inside, Audi has evolved its Virtual Cockpit dashboard with touch-sensitive surfaces and a wider wraparound design. There’s a digital instrument cluster, two touchscreens with haptic feedback in the centre console, and a slim digital display in front of the passenger.
The car uses cameras in place of rear-view mirrors, with the accompanying displays integrated into the inner surface of the front doors.
Driver assist programmes are identical to those featured on the flagship A8, including piloted drive and piloted park, but Audi says the technology on the production car will be even more advanced.
Several variants will be produced with differing power outputs from the motors. Given the E-tron Sportback’s complex technical features, and the E-tron's £71,000 launch price, the SUV-coupé could start at around £75,000.
Additional words: Sam Sheehan
Q&A - JAN WISCHERATH, TECHNICAL SYSTEMS PROJECT LEADER
What are the advantages of using the three-motor arrangement?
“This powertrain is very dynamic. During full acceleration, the car sends more power to the rear wheels. In Sport mode, there’s more power at the rear axle all the time. You also have five modes of throttle response – from efficiency to performance – that you can adjust, much like the Drive Select system in our regular cars. Even when the car is in [front-wheel-drive] efficiency mode, all three motors still recuperate energy.”