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If you’re in the market for an all-electric SUV, then 2019 is going to be your year. Now, Audi has charged up its first ever fully-electric vehicle.
Okay, its first fully electric vehicle that has actually made it onto showroom floors, and it looks like the start of a very serious EV play.
Australia is part of the mix, too. Audi plans to launch the e-tron locally halfway through 2019, and though it’s playing coy on pricing, expect it to cost around $140,000.
It’ll be well specced for the dough, with LED lights front and rear, a properly broad set of driver aids, leather everything and those big 21-inch rims. The full spec list won’t be revealed until closer to the launch, but we’ll bet the slightly tarted up Edition One – announced at today's HUGE launch soiree in San Francisco – might be part of the mix.
As well, Audi Australia chief Paul Sansom told CarsGuide the company will bring in every e-tron that Audi plans to make. That includes an e-tron Sportback SUV, a ‘compact’ (think Audi A5), as well as the e-tron GT sports car.
“There was a defining moment in the 1980s with the introduction of quattro as a brand, and we see e-tron launching as that [kind of] sub-brand,” he said.
“For us, this is a really important step. We’re really looking forward to sharing this car in 2019.”
Called simply the e-tron, the five-seat, five-door SUV is a fraction longer and a fair bit lower than a Q5, boasts two electric motors and a claimed 400km of range from the double bed-sized lithium ion battery array under its floor.
Those two motors – 125kW up front and 140kW down back – combine for 265kW and a healthy 561Nm… but don’t forget that thanks to that 715kg battery, the e-tron will weigh well over two tonnes.
Still, that mountain of electric torques will propel the AWD e-tron from 0-100km/h in 6.1sec, and even more quickly if you hit the 'Boost' button, which pumps up outputs to 300kW/664Nm for an eight-second burst and lowers the sprint to triple figures to 5.5sec.
Audi claims the e-tron will cover 400km on a single charge, thanks in part to an all-new braking system that will contribute 30 per cent of range savings via a three-stage regenerative braking set-up (which sounds a lot like the system in the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, if we’re honest).
It can be recharged to 80 per cent in 8.5 hours from home, thanks to an 11kW portable power pack. Unfortunately, we may not get the European-spec fast 22kW charger that can lower that time to just 4.5 hours.
Likewise, the insanely funky camera-equipped side mirrors that beam images to onboard OLED screens are yet to be approved for use on Aussie roads – though Audi Australia says it’s working on it.
On the outside, Audi’s exterior design team joined forces with its aerodynamicists to build arguably the world’s slipperiest SUV, with a drag coefficient of just 0.27. Thank the completely covered and dimpled underside, ducts that wick air through the bumper and down the e-tron’s flanks and numerous other aero tricks for that feat.
The interior is ready for five people, and the front is festooned with four digital screens – a huge OLED multimedia screen sits over the top of a secondary screen, an 'Active Dash Display' takes pride of place in front of the driver, and those two OLED rear view screens are beautifully worked into the wraparound dash.
The drivetrain is pretty impressive, both in its execution and the approach Audi has taken to make sure the e-tron isn’t just a flash in the pan. It’s built on a modified version of the platform underneath cars like the A4 and Q5, and Audi has taken on the task of building its own electric engines in-house. That’s no mean feat for a company which builds 9000 combustion engines a day.
The e-tron is all-wheel drive, of course, but there’s no propshaft running the length of the car – which also creates a flat floor inside. Audi says the battery pack is warranted for eight years/160,000km, and it’s designed to be easily serviced and even replaced if required.
The e-tron will be built in a completely redone Audi plant in Brussels, Belgium, at the rate of 200 a day. Audi says it can easily wind the wick up should the e-tron take off.
Look, let’s be frank… Audi owes us all a lot of mea culpas, thanks to its neck-deep involvement in the Dieselgate mess. Its last CEO is still in jail for his part in the scandal, and it would be easy to dismiss the e-tron as a concerted greenwashing campaign.
What we’ve seen here, though, looks to be a serious play by a car company at making electric vehicle technology at scale, and doing it properly first time. A fleet of EVs is inbound, and if the e-tron is any indication, Audi – and the VW Group – is serious about EVs.