What is it?
The creators of the Volkswagen Iltis unexpectedly set a ball rolling that Audi caught when it launched the original Quattro in 1980.
Fast forward to 2018 and the boxy, rally-wise coupé has become the peg on which the rest of the firm’s line-up hangs. Its influence is visible in the styling of Audi’s recent models, from the A1 to the Q8, and engineers stress the electric E-tron ushers in the next evolution of the now-famous quattro system.
It takes a substantial stretch of the imagination to mistake the E-tron for anything other than an Audi, even when looking at a multi-coloured pre-production prototype like the one I drove in Namibia. It’s not a Xerox copy of another SUV in the company’s portfolio – styling cues such as a lighter-coloured grille help it forge its own identity – but it falls perfectly in line with Audi’s current design language. Sharp headlights? Check. An octagonal grille with a chromed frame? Check. Elongated rear lights connected by a light bar? Check and check.
The E-tron landed at the opposite end of the design spectrum to its Jaguar I-Pace rival, which intentionally looks like nothing else on the company’s résumé. The interior sings a familiar tune, too, because it shares its digital instrument cluster (Virtual Cockpit in marketing speak) and its twin-screen infotainment system with other Audi models such as the Q8. The result is an uncluttered, high-tech-looking cockpit almost devoid of physical buttons.