Unveiled in an online press conference (as is the way at the moment) the Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback follows in the footsteps of the regular Q4 e-tron concept which we picked out as one of our stars for 2020. It also continues the trend set by Audi's flagship EV – the e-tron – which is available in both Sportback and normal form, as well as the recently launched 'S' variants.
The Q4 e-tron will be the brand's first electric SUV and with the Sportback, Audi is looking to provide the choice its customers have become accustomed to. It is also aiming to cater for the ever-growing market for premium, compact SUVs through which drivers are looking for something loaded with all the kit you'd expect from something a couple of segments up, but in a much smaller package.
Measuring 4.6 metres long (2.77 metre wheelbase), 1.9 metres wide and 1.6 metres high, the Q4 e-tron Sportback is built on VW's MEB platform rather than the flagship e-tron's MLB base. This should be good for price, given that MEB is destined to be the real volume workhorse in the VW Group stable.
At the launch event, Head of Audi Design, Marc Lichte said: “It’s a completely different approach. In the past the combustion engine has been the heart of the car. On an e-tron the battery pack is the heart of the car, which is located in the floor and this means you need a long wheelbase. It changes the proportion of the car; the interior space is getting bigger. There’s also no radiator anymore because you don’t need much cooling; that’s why we decided to invert the singleframe (grille) by colour so it’s a bright patent surface with an integrated duct surrounding. This means that even from far away you can recognise the car is an e-tron.”
The slightly lower roofline and slight increase in overall length (1cm in each dimension) work with heavily inclined D-pillars which make the Sportback appear much longer than the regular Q4 e-tron. At the rear, a light band connects the two lamp units, whilst a diffuser within the bumper adds a bit of sporty poise to proceedings.
Up front, that inverted singleframe grille really does dominate the way the car looks. At each corner, 22 inch wheels fill the arches, with Philip Roemers, Audi designer, adding: “It’s a Q model, so [that means] big wheels, short overhangs and strong muscular arches. It is also distinguished by a slim cabin sitting on wide shoulders, Sportback roofline and the position of spoiler. It looks sporty, but also reduces drag coefficient.”
So, both form and function then.
Audi is planning on exploiting the MEB platform to offer a range of variants and power levels in due course, but for the Q4 e-tron Sportback concept it has ticked all the relevant Audi boxes. This means a Quattro drivetrain with an electric motor on each axle, completely unconnected by any mechanical linkages and therefore enabling the car's brain to do the torque vectoring within fractions of a second. There's also plenty of power, too.
The car is set up to be predominantly rear-wheel drive, but when required the power is distributed to the front wheels, for example in hard cornering, acceleration or on slippery surfaces.
At the back there is a 201bhp, 228.6lb-ft motor and up front a 100bhp, 110.6lb-ft unit bringing total system power to almost 302bhp and 339.2lb-ft. This allows the Q4 Sportback to hit 62 in 6.3 seconds and go on to a top speed of 111mph.
Battery capacity is 82kWh and the maximum charging capacity is an ultra-rapid 125kW. This allows for an 80 per cent charge in just 30 minutes. Thanks to a mixture of decent capacity, a very slippery drag coefficient of 0.26 and Audi's thermal management technology first seen on the flagship e-tron, the Q4 e-tron Sportback is good for up to 279 miles on the WLTP cycle. Future versions with rear-drive only can do even better, achieving 310 miles on the WLTP test.
Audi has always done interiors very well, and its latest generation of infotainment is also up there among the best. Expect more of the same with the Q4 e-tron Sportback. Also expect decent space thanks to the generous 2.77 metre wheelbase as well as the lack of bulky engine and mechanical Quattro drivetrain.
Audi is using warm, lighter colours for the upper part of the cabin with contrasting darker colours for the lower half to increase the sense of space. White and beige microfibre textiles on the headlining, window pillars, upper section of the door rail and dash panel add an extra touch of premium feel to the cabin. Alcantara upholstery features, as does a range of recycled materials on other cabin areas, adding to the car's eco credentials.
Tech-wise, we're not going to be sold short. The Audi virtual cockpit in place of a regular instrument binnacle shows speed, charge level and sat nav information, while a large-format head-up display with augmented reality is new on Audi's EV range. Likely to be similar to that which will debut on the ID.3, the augmented reality feature will superimpose things like directional arrows for navigation onto the road ahead via the head-up display.
Competing in the ongoing touchscreen size wars is a 12.3 inch screen tilted towards the driver through which infotainment and vehicle functions are controlled. Buttons still exist on the Q4, however, with an air conditioning panel positioned below the touchscreen, as well as a multifunctional steering wheel.
Audi is launching the road-going versions of the Q4 e-tron and Q4 e-tron Sportback to hit the roads in the summer of next year. Don't expect too much to change in either the looks or the technical departments; what's been presented is essentially production-ready.
Summing up the Q4 e-tron Sportback, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann said: “It’s the cornerstone. Sustainability remains non-negotiable for us and we are sticking to our C02 targets. We want to inspire more people to choose electric cars, and the Q4 e-tron and Q4 Sportback e-tron are all important steps in this direction.
“They are the first premium electric volume SUV and a gateway into the progressive premium segments. In addition it is based on VW Group’s MEB platform so we’re using their entire full power and technical experience for the new electrical world.”