The reserves of the diesel engine were originally planned to be channeled to the rear wheels via a seven speed double clutch gearbox located behind the engine. However, packaging concerns has seen it been replaced by Audi’s stepless Multitronic CVT. The pair of electric motors, meanwhile, drive through a single speed transmission to the front wheels, a layout which provides the new Audi part time four-wheel drive.
Electrical energy for the motors is supplied by a 9.1kWh battery sited above the electric motors in the nose. It is claimed to provide the e-tron Spyder an all-electric zero emission range of around 31 miles at speeds up to 37mph.
Recharging of the battery occurs both on the run, as kinetic energy is collected under braking and on periods of trailing throttle, and by plug in means. In combined diesel-electric mode, the e-tron Spyder is theoretically capable of hitting 62mph in just 4.4sec and reaching a top speed limited to 155mph.
It is, in theory at least, also incredibly frugal, with combined cycle diesel consumption is put at 128.4mpg – a figure that equates to just 59g/km of CO2 emissions. With a 50-litre fuel tank, it could achieve more than 600 miles on a combination of both diesel and electric power.
What’s it like?
With next-to-no overhangs and considerable width relative to its length, it possesses a wonderfully confident appearance that is enhanced by the 245/35 (front) and 265/35 (rear) profile rubber lurking underneath its huge wheel houses.
You enter the cabin through conventional front hinged doors, stepping over a wide sill and dropping down into narrow, low set seats. The dashboard is horizontal plane of leather-bound aluminium and carbonfibre. It is terrifically simple in design.
There’s not a lot to signal the e-tron Spyder’s potential when you push the starter button – there’s a momentary whir of electrics from somewhere ahead, then silence again. Release the manually operated handbrake, introduce a touch of throttle and you’re away – quietly, smoothly and on electric energy alone. A short stab of the right foot then prompts the diesel engine to fire with a startling rush of induction noise followed by a gruff blare of exhaust.
It feels like a concept, which is a nice way of suggesting there’s still a way to go before the e-tron Spyder could be considered production ready. The steering, an electro-mechanical arrangement, is devoid of much feel and the hydraulically operated brakes, carrying huge 380mm front and 356mm rear carbon ceramic discs, are curiously overservoed. The carbonfibre body creaks in concert with the camber of the road, the front tyres foul against the inside of the wheel arches when you apply more than a turn and half of lock and even innocuous looking driveways need to be approached with utmost caution for fear of wiping the ultra-low front splitter clean off.
The top lip of the cut down speedster style windscreen, which tapers well around the sides of the car, also obstructs the view down the road. The suspension, while controlled, lacks the pliancy to cope with even the smallest of bumps. Still, there’s something about the e-tron Spyder, even at 30mph. The elements around which the car has been conceived are sound. Its relatively compact size and lack of overhangs allows you to confidently place in corners. The ‘feet-out-in-front’ driving position also endows it with a satisfyingly sporting feel.
Urged to press a bit faster, I give the throttle a more thorough nudge, at which the e-tron Spyder feels more the sportscar Audi clearly wants it to be. It picks up pace effortlessly once you’ve wound some meaningful revs into the diesel engine – anything beyond 2000rpm is enough to clear the early lag from the pair of turbochargers. But with a CVT corralling the drive to the rear wheels, there’s no rise and fall in the revs, merely a constant drone. As you come off the power, there’s a loud vacuum like noise from the wastegate. Nonetheless, it feels fast.