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Audi’s e-tron and more from the 2019 brand experience

  • Audi’s e-tron will deliver uppercut to I-Pace

Just like the original quattro, Audi is leaving numbers and letters behind to make a branding statement in the all-electric SUV market with the e-tron. Most notably, taking the fight to Tesla’s Model X, Jaguar’s I-Pace and Merc’s impending EQ C.

Keen to stamp its image as the innovator amongst the VW Group, thereby cementing Vorsprung durch Technik, the e-tron launches internationally this year. If it were to manage the same in South Africa, it would beat Jaguar’s I-Pace (March 2019) to market but a planned August introduction will see the e-tron, at this stage, become the second premium full EV SUV in the country.

Utilising a 95kWh lithium-ion battery and dual motors good for 300kW of output, the e-tron can reach 100kph in less than six seconds and goes on to a limited top speed of 200kph. However, it’s also capable of 150kW DC fast charging – meaning you can juice it up to 80 per cent in 30 minutes. That’s the real race when owning an EV.

But where Jaguar pushed the boat out with the I-Pace’s radical proportions, and Tesla got all the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ with the Model X’s huge screens, flappy doors and hidden Easter eggs, Audi has played it safe in the design department, focusing on achieving the best drag coefficient figure possible – key for that 400-kilometre range on the WLTP test cycle.

But just what experience Audi’s customers can expect when it comes to charging their vehicles hasn’t been determined. You could drive it up to Jaguar’s expanding Powerway network but Audi is obviously keen to package a tailored solution which doesn’t dilute itself across brands. Possibility of the e-tron being sold with its own charging unit is on the proverbial table or will they follow the likes of Porsche and Volkswagen as members of the Group’s global strategy? The latter could prove to be clumsy and slow in the initial phases since Porsche’s EV Taycan is only due locally in 2020.

Back to the styling. See those gills in the front grille? They’re regulated cooling air inlets with ducts to cool the front brakes. Then there’s the standard adaptive, speed-dependent air suspension and 19in wheels designed to work with the tyres for ultra-low-rolling resistance, and best of all, cameras instead of door mirrors.

You may remember a similar set-up on VW’s extreme and radical XL1 eco-car. The mirror displays are OLED screens in the front upper corners of the door trims with digital zoom, so you can choose different angles of view for manoeuvring, city driving or highways.

Audi claims the e-tron’s cockpit is as roomy as any full-size SUV’s and it has 660 litres of bootspace. It also claims the e-tron betters its competitors in key dimensions such as interior length, second-row legroom and headroom.

There are seven (seven!) driving modes in total, and having a motor at each end means the front axle can predictively send grip up front in slippery conditions or when cornering fast. However, because it’s an EV and keen to save its energy reserves when it can, it’ll do some party tricks to extend its range. Tricks like decoupling the front motor, adjusting its ride height to become slipperier and soaking up as much regen as it can from braking.

With a low centre of gravity and punchy torque figures, like all the other electric SUVs, the e-tron is no doubt going to surprise with its potential performance and low running costs.

  • The Q8 cuts a very thin niche

A Q7 without the third row of seats? A Lamborghini Urus without the hexagonal styling? However you look at it, and we wouldn’t suggest staring at the orange colour for too long, the SUV coupe oxymoron will likely be Audi’s most exciting car of 2019. Local stock will arrive in the middle of 2019 and while details are scarce, we can confirm (long pause) the 183kW diesel badged as Q8 45 as well as the 250kW Q8 55 TFSI – both from the same sized 3.0 V6 .

  • The fast Avant isn’t dead in SA

Earlier this year we got wind that Audi SA was planning on bringing a few RS4 models as the idiosyncratic rival to the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63. Well, nothing in the corporate melee of supply and demand is ever that straightforward which is why that decision has been pushed out to 2019. We don’t know the exact number headed our way but if you want an Audi rarer than the R8 (as well as crumbling resale value for the sake of Avant awesomeness) we’d suggest putting your name down for one immediately.

 

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