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S Muralidhar | Updated on July 04, 2019 Published on July 04, 2019

Concept to reality The e-tron is a heady mix of futuristic technology and luxurious appointments

Get your wiring in order; Audi’s e-tron is electric, has no transmission losses and does 0-100 kmph in 5.7 secs. Coming to our shores later this year

Tesla’s rein at the top of the luxury electric car market has been threatened by a sudden surge in the electrification of models from the German big three. BMW took the lead with its ‘i’ cars, joined later by Mercedes Benz with the EQC and Audi with its e-tron. Electrics have gone mainstream in most markets around the world and are poised to do so in India too. But even as Tesla is yet to formalise its entry into our market, Audi has decided to take the lead and bring the e-tron to Indian showrooms later this year. Given the current complete absence of an enabling ecosystem for electrics, this is a bold move. But then again, Audi India needs to make a few bold moves so that it can set the pace and recoup the erosion in its market share over the last three years.

The e-tron made its debut in San Francisco in September last year and the series production model on display looked more like a futuristic concept. That very model with its sci-fi virtual door mirrors is being produced in Audi’s Brussels plant and has gone on sale in a few markets in Europe and the US. Last week, Audi India brought in one of the left-hand drive models to Mumbai and gave a bunch of motoring journalists a sneak-peek. In a few months, about 200 units of the e-tron will be imported for sale at Audi India’s showrooms located in the major metros.

In the flesh

The e-tron has all the signature Audi design elements, but just with special touches that identify it as unique. It is squatter and has a lower roof line compared to the other ‘Q’ vehicles in Audi’s portfolio. Even for the uninformed, the e-tron’s focus on aerodynamic efficiency will be very apparent. But a lot more has gone into ensuring that it gets that 0.27 cd value (coefficient of drag) than just its shapely panels. For one, the octagonal-shaped single frame bonnet grille with its signature vertical struts also features active vents to control air flow, the e-tron’s underbody is fully covered and the metal panel features dimples to reduce turbulence much like in a golf ball. Even the slim virtual door mirrors, which, in place of the regular mirrors, feature cameras and a real-time video feed on to screens in the door panels, helps reduce drag.

At the lower edge of the Matrix LED headlights, four horizontal struts create the e-tron-specific signature in the daytime running lights. The grille is finished in platinum grey to identify the special status of the e-tron. At the rear, the OLED tail-lamps feature a connected look. The tail-lamps themselves wrap around the edges of strong haunches that visually emphasise the width and strength of the vehicle. The slats in the diffuser also point to the absence of exhaust pipes sticking out of the fender. Also at the rear, the tailgate is a relatively smaller unit, which means that the loading lip for the boot is a tad bit tall. But, despite the presence of a space-saver spare wheel, the boot offers a massive 660 litres of luggage space. The special 20-inch wheels sport brake callipers in a high-voltage signal orange colour.

Cabin from the future

The e-tron’s cabin, much like the exterior design, instantly feels like an Audi and yet is also very different. In fact, the first organ to perceive it is an Audi is the nose with the unique Audi cabin aroma hitting you. With Valcona leather upholstery, ambient lighting and a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, the plush cabin has many features that are typical in Audi’s SUVs. But, the virtual cockpit is different, displaying information that is unique to an electric, and of course, the most novel feature is the virtual mirror with its OLED screen on the door panel displaying the blind spot and the rear view.

The cabin feels updated and fresh, with a big dose of modernity in its choice of materials and finish quality. The upper instrument panel is also wrapped in leather and there is the Audi MMI touch response with two displays on the centre stack for controlling various functions. A smartphone interface with a wireless charging tray is the other feature in the centre console. Another interesting feature is the tunnel of the centre console, which rests on open sidewalls making the hand-rest seem like it is floating above. The front seats are nicely bolstered and sporty; the rear seat squabs are just a bit softer than the front; also there is no transmission tunnel at the rear. With its performance as sporty as any of Audi’s other vehicles, the e-tron’s cabin layout is driver focussed too. The optional Audi Virtual Cockpit plus offers a third screen with additional functions. Some of the add-on features like MMI Navigation plus, which intelligently offers information regarding charging points enroute, may not be available in the India-spec car due to lack of infrastructure.

Under the bonnet

The e-tron is powered by electric motors on both the front and rear axles. Power is stored in a battery array that is tucked away under the floor of the vehicle. The 95 kWh, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack, which has 36 modules and weighs nearly 700 kg, feeds power to a front electric motor that produces 184 hp of power and 309 Nm of torque; and the rear axle electric motor generates 224 hp of power and 355 Nm of torque. The max combined system total is an output of 408 hp and 664 Nm of torque. The top speed is limited to 200 kmph and the rated range for the e-tron is 400 km. Even if it delivers half that much in the slow, stop and go traffic conditions in India, that should be more than a week’s commute to office, on average. According to Audi, the innovative recuperation system is responsible for nearly 30 per cent of the battery range. The system recuperates energy both while coasting and braking/deceleration. The same electric motor acts as a generator to recover energy while braking and is assisted by an electrohydraulic actuator integrated in the braking controls. Most of the system power is fed to the rear axle during normal conditions and either based on demand or if wheel slippage is detected, the electronic version of the Quattro system sends power to both axles to control and bring the e-tron back on track. The battery can be charged on DC fast chargers at upto 150 kW, with a full charge possible in a half-hour. It can also be charged on alternating current (AC) at upto 11 kW. The standard mobile charging system can be used with either a 230 V regular household outlet or a 400 V three-phase outlet, with a full charge needing about 8.5 hours.

Worth the wait?

Audi is thinking up some innovative charging network solutions for quickening and making the task of charging the e-tron easy while users are on the move over long distances. Many of those may not work in India till a larger public charging infrastructure is put in place. But in the run-up to the launch of the e-tron later this year, Audi is planning to set up charging stations at most of its dealerships around the country.

With the e-tron being an import and with no FAME benefits being available, this electric Audi will likely be priced upwards of ₹1 crore depending on the final spec of the Indian version. Despite the likelihood of the volumes being small, even by luxury car standards, it is good to see Audi India taking this bold step and choosing to go electric.

 

Published on July 04, 2019
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