You can hardly accuse Audi of under-endowing the e-tron when it comes to power and torque. Peaking at 408bhp and 489lb-ft respectively, it might be a big and heavy beast, but it's still no slouch. This hasn't stopped Audi from developing a new generation of powertrain with even more oomph to push the e-tron and e-tron Sportback along.
Destined to sit in the 'S' variants of Audi's EVs, the tri-motor setup steps things up a gear in terms of all-out power, but the brand's main goal has been in improving the car's dynamic abilities. Two of the motors are located on the rear axle with the other at the front retaining the all-important quattro four-wheel drive, but also enabling the e-tron S to travel on rear-drive only to save energy.
What Audi has done is effectively a lift-and-shift existing hardware. It has moved the single rear motor from the e-tron 55 to the front of the S, which means 164bhp of continuous power across the front axle or 198bhp in boost. The smaller motor, which sits on the front axle of the 55, has now been doubled up (so there are two) and shifted to the rear of the S. Together they are good for 259bhp of continuous power and 349bhp in boost mode.
As is the case with electric power systems, the numbers added together doesn't equal total available power, which stands at 423bhp in normal driving and 489bhp in boost mode. This is accompanied by a tyre-shredding 596lb-ft of regular torque, or 717lb-ft on boost. Performance-wise, it translates to a 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds when everything is turned up to 11 – 1.2 seconds faster than the regular e-tron 55. Top speed is 130mph for both the S and S Sportback.
Underneath, the battery is still the 95kWh (gross – with 86kWh usable) unit which comes with the regular car. Thanks to the additional motor and power the WLTP range has suffered a bit, dropping from 241 miles to 223 miles for the e-tron S and 226 miles for the slightly more slippery Sportback. In our test of the regular car, we found the 241 mile range to be realistic, so we'd expect the same from the new S models. Charging speeds are the same as with the standard e-tron at up to 150kW, giving a full charge in 50 minutes.
A big part of Audi's rationale behind the new drivetrain is improving the dynamics of the car. In normal driving (and like the 55) only the rear motors are engaged, with the front coming into play when more power is required. Whether the car is running in two- or four-wheel drive, torque vectoring across the rear axle effectively mimics a traditional limited-slip diff. This combined with the forward motor being there to pull the front end into line, offers greater agility and an element of active self-steering.
To distinguish it from its regular counterparts, the e-tron S sits on new, standard 20 inch alloys with up to 22 inches available. Black, six pot brake calipers grip huge discs (400mm at the front) and at each of the corners the wheel arches are flared for a slightly more aggressive look, which is also emphasised by some new aero details.
In terms of price, you're looking at £87,000 on the road for the e-tron S, and £88,700 for the e-tron S Sportback with order books opening imminently.
One thing that can't exactly be said for the Audi e-tron is that it's affordable. The 55 starts at just under £70k and the lower-powered 50 is around £10k less – which is still very expensive. However, Audi is keen to help people understand the everyday running costs of its EVs vs. their petrol or diesel car, which is where the EV&me app comes in.
The free-to-download (and use) app allows drivers to enter the particulars of their car, including its fuel economy, fuel type and typical mileage through which it can provide a comparison in terms of running costs to the e-tron 50. To add even more accuracy, users can track their journeys such as commutes and regular trips to the shops, enabling them to gain a unique insight into the equivalent cost of EV ownership. As more Audi EVs become available, the app will be able to compare them, too.
Whilst the app isn't exactly the kind of thing that will keep people using it over months and years, for drivers who are genuinely considering one of Audi's EVs it could well be the difference between them taking the plunge or sticking with a gas-guzzler.