“They screw, polish and sell for the bet – in quickly cut images and under roaring techno music.” I’m looking forward to getting back to work,” says an employee of the Ingolstadt-based automotive group Audi, grinning into the camera. Probably the most important insight is added by another: “The currywurst is also available again.”
The motto: The Bavarian premium manufacturer has awakened from the Corona quarantine. With such scenes, Audi is launching the first edition of the digital press show “Vorsprung Live” – including a world premiere: the new Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron. The series, which will start as a series version in 2021, is to become one of the central electromobile hopefuls for the Ingolstadters.
And the German premium manufacturers really need this urgently. The efforts made so far by Audi and its major competitors Mercedes and BMW have been less successful – weak sales figures and broken ranges have disappointed customers. Now Audi is making a noticeable effort to occupy one of the leading positions in the premium segment of the electric boom. The main thing will be to reach – and to race against a powerful competitor.
From zero to 100 in 6.3 seconds
The naming of the series already shows how Audi intends to position itself in this process. If the origin-e-tron was still a free radical without being assigned to a series, the group does not choose a completely new designation, as Volkswagen does with ID.3, but uses the Q4 to establish a designation that allows potential buyers to be assigned. The Q-Series combines the manufacturer’s SUVs. The higher the number after the letter increases, the more powerful the vehicles are. The Q4 positions itself accordingly as a mid-range SUV; a sales price has not yet been determined.
At the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, the Q4 already gave a foretaste of the compact SUV, while the Sportback variant now presents itself as an SUV coupe. The first cars are to be delivered to the customer in the summer of next year. “The Q4 e-tron is our entry into the premium segment – with the most popular body shape, state-of-the-art technology and functionality,” says Audi CEO Markus Duesmann. The vehicle will be an essential cornerstone for the electrification strategy.
Here’s what it looks like: The Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron is 4.60 meters long and 1.60 meters high. Two electric motors mobilize a total of 225 kilowatts of system power, which enters the road by means of four-wheel drive quattro. The electric motor in the rear produces 150 kW. The front engine supplies the front wheels with up to 75 kW. Both Q4 versions are expected to accelerate from a standpoint of 100 kilometers per hour in just 6.3 seconds. The maximum speed is limited to 180 km/h.
Allegedly more than 500 kilometers of range
However, the range will be decisive for the success of the vehicles: a large-format battery occupies almost the entire area in the underbody area between the axles; its capacity is 82 kilowatt hours. Audi is making a tricky promise to its customers. According to the WLTP standard, the range should be more than 450 kilometres. Rear-wheel drive versions are expected to offer a range of more than 500 kilometres. The battery is charged at a maximum of 125 kilowatts. It should take little more than 30 minutes to reach 80 percent of the total capacity again. That makes you stupid: Audi has broken its range promises so far. The origin-e-tron is struggling with an unforgivable blemish, a WORLD test revealed last year.
For the vehicle, Audi stated a range of 417 kilometres with a fully charged battery. In the test, the vehicle reached only 250 kilometers. This is because the vehicle only achieves the complete range under optimal conditions: in the so-called efficiency mode, when it rolls through the city, the outside temperature is 30 degrees and then the air conditioning remains switched off. The conclusion of the test: If you want to get far, you have to sneak and sweat.
The new test vehicles must solve this problem so that the Q4 series has a real chance for the customer. After all, the air resistance of the body gives hope with a low cW value of 0.26. In addition, the manufacturer promises a well-thought-out recuperation strategy to optimize the range. Under what conditions, however, the maximum distance is covered k Ann, Audi has been silent about this so far.
“Caravan of new all-electric cars”
At least the Ingolstadters have technically opted for a sensible approach. The previous e-tron was assembled on the basis of the modular longitudinal construction kit. A platform for a drivetrain with engine and transmission built up longitudinally to the direction of travel – and thus completely untypical for a pure electric vehicle. The technology of the new Q4 series now contributes to the Modular Electrification Kit (MEB). This is a landmark step for Audi, as this modular variant became really well known through ID.3, Volkswagen’s first small electric car, which is to be sold in series production from this year. Within the Group, the MEB will in future be found in numerous e-mobiles from the compact class to the middle class.
For industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, this decision is a clear signal from the VW Group, which also includes Audi: The fact that “the caravan of the new all-electric cars from the Group” is moving is important not only for the achievement of the CO2 targets – “but also for the global position of the VW Group, which has the chance with its vehicles on the two electric platforms MEB and PPE to become the global market leader in all-electric vehicles in the next few years,” explains the Director of the Center Automotive Research (CAR) in Duisburg.
With the Q4 e-tron, which is to be manufactured in Zwickau, the slightly later VW ID.4 from Emden, the Skoda Enyaq and the Seat Tavascan, which is expected to go on sale in 2023, the VW Group is skilfully exploiting the possibilities offered by the MEB platform. Not only small cars will be built on it, but also a lot of all-electric compact SUVs. This creates synergy effects, is likely to reduce production costs and prevent start-up difficulties across the Group.
Which body is placed on the modular system is the responsibility of the respective manufacturers. For the Audi SUV, the Ingolstadt-based designers have opted for a striking silhouette that drops backwards. The roof line ends in a horizontal spoiler, making the sportback look much more stretched than the first Q4 e-tron. At the rear, the wide light band stands out. At the front, both models unite the massive bumper unit with horizontal slats. Also characteristic of the brand are the fenders of all four wheels – a classic design feature since the “Ur-quattro” in 1980.
Head-up display with augmented reality function
Inside, Audi relies on a spacious cab; especially thanks to the wheelbase of 2.77 meters. Bright and warm tones dominate the interior. Behind the steering wheel is a virtual cockpit with the most important display elements. New is a head-up display with augmented reality function. It can display graphical information such as directional arrows for turning directly into the road. Above the center console is a 12.3 inch touchscreen for display and operation.
Undoubtedly: Audi has achieved a sporty mid-size SUV in terms of design that futuristically underlines the electric demands of the Ingolstadters. The success of the vehicle is therefore decided primarily by the range. But then the sales opportunities for Audi are good, as the previous electric sales figures in 2020 suggest. Audi is therefore the only German premium manufacturer to successfully place itself on the market.
According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, 2713 e-tronwere were sold between January and May this year. In this way, the company is declassifying Mercedes in particular. Only 344 electric GLK or GLC models were sold in the first five months of this year. For high-priced cars, only Tesla is more successful with the Model 3, which is more of a mid-size sedan.
Main competitor: the Tesla Model Y
In the future, however, Tesla in particular could become a true Audi competitor. The German competition has little to offer: while Mercedes has presented a low-range and little innovative vehicle with the EQC despite a long wait, BMW is completely below expectations in the premium segment.
Only Tesla has concrete plans for a premium competitor with the Model Y. This vehicle, too, is to become a mid-size SUV – with a range of 505 kilometres. Central Sub So far, the company of electric pioneer Elon Musk has significantly adhered to its range promises. This is also to be expected for the Model Y. In addition, Tesla is expected to position its vehicle significantly more favorably on the market, thus fueling the mass market duel between the two manufacturers. Elon Musk also wants to sell his vehicle from 2021. For both manufacturers, it will be a decisive factor which car goes on sale first.
What is certain, however, is that if Mercedes and BMW do not step up their Stromer efforts, they will only be allowed to watch this duel from the stands. Audi, meanwhile, is pushing its electric offensive with the Q4 series: By 2025, the Ingolstadt-based company wants to offer more than 20 pure electric-powered cars in the most important markets worldwide and achieve around 40 percent of their sales with electrified models. “The Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron,” says CAR CEO Dudenhöffer, “is therefore an important step not only for Audi, but for the entire VW Group.”