Audi’s first fully electric production model debuts, latest shot fired in an EV SUV war that’s brewing

Story by Joseph Gonzalez

With the unveiling of the Audi e-tron, Audi’s first fully electric series production model, just days after BMWs unveiling of the BMW Vision iNEXT, one thing is clear: a war is coming! The electric SUV/Crossover market is looking to be the setting for perhaps the most contentious battle in the automotive industry right now besides Audi CEO job retention.  How does one CEO from jail anyway?

 

 

Whether we like it or not government mandates all over the world are pushing for electric cars.  In meeting this goal it was inevitable that the major manufacturers would be stepping up to the plate for one of their biggest markets: SUVs.  While BMW presented us a dreamlike highly stylized Vision of the future, Audi has given us something more tangible.  This isn’t just a prototype; the Audi e-tron is production car rolling off the assembly line late 2018!

The Audi e-tron will reportedly be able to be charged from both the driver and passenger sides.

One might be asking.  “Who cares?”  Why would anyone give up the ability to gas up my family hauling SUV just to deal with the inconvenience of finding a charging station and waiting more than an hour to be on their way?  According to Audi,  the e-tron has a reported range of 248.5 miles and is the first series-production model capable of 150 kW charging.  That means an 80% charge is possible in 30 minutes.  A 200 miles charge in the time it takes to eat a meal will get you from Los Angeles to Vegas with one charging pit stop!

 

The front grill is not a grill. 

…at least not completely. Although it certainly looks like the typical Audi grill found throughout the Audi lineup, only 4 slats appear to provide actual airflow to an engine compartment that doesn’t contain an engine. As of yet, it’s not clear what function those slats will have if any.  It is, however, consistent with an underlying theme:  The 4 lines under the headlights and 4 lines across each spoke on the wheels reference Audi’s legendary quattro awd system.  Nice touch, Audi!

 

The distinctive Audi grill on the e-tron looks like it would feed air to an engine that doesn’t exist.

The front grill is like the human tailbone: a remnant of our genetic past, made obsolete by evolution. The weaning off such traditional automotive design traits will take some time, especially from established manufacturers like Audi, BMW and Mercedes.  Tesla doesn’t have years of tradition to hold them back; their cars never had grills and probably never will, so we will never miss something that was never there.  Not so with Audi, they’re playing it somewhat safe for now.  BMW, on the other hand, has been more brazen with a respectable level of success with the i8, which consists of merely an outline of its iconic kidney grill.  What’s a BMW without a kidney grill after all?  BMW might have to eat some humble pie however.  The grill on the iNEXT hasn’t been met with the same enthusiasm.

 

The highly divisive kidney grills of the BMW iNEXT

 

 

The side mirrors aren’t mirrors!

 

According to Audi, for the first time in a series production model, the traditional side mirrors are replaced with “Virtual Exterior Mirrors”.  Audi claims it reduces drag, and I’m sure it does, but one can’t help think that the “cool factor’ probably had more to do with the decision to include this feature than aerodynamic efficiency.  It does look sharp, but are objects still closer than they appear in “Virtual” mirrors?

The e-tron’s slick and sleek side mirrors are almost invisible.

 

The e-tron’s slick and sleek side mirrors are almost invisible.

But Is it still an Audi? 

For all the components on the e-tron that aren’t what they seem, one thing that Audi is promising is that this car not only looks like an Audi, under all the geeky electric vehicle tech, it’s still what we come to expect from an Audi: an excellent interior, high quality materials, sporty driving characteristics, expensive mainten– I mean meticulous German engineering and bodywork that, in my opinion, is an excellent expression of forward thinking high tech design merged with tasteful and traditional automotive aesthetic.  Long has the car enthusiast derided the goofiness of electric cars that scream about how much of an electric car they are.  Thankfully that’s not the case with the Audi e-tron.  It looks like the next generation Audi Q5 or Q7, and that’s a good thing.

With a $74,00 starting MSRP, the e-tron will have a lot of competition in the segment in the Jaguar I-PACE, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Volvo XC40, the BMW iX3 just to name a few.  Sold already?  You can reserve your e-tron right now with a $1,000 deposit

This is a step in the right direction and hopefully the 2018 LA Auto Show debut of the Audi e-tron GT Concept, a high performance coupe developed in collaboration with Porsche, will likewise not disappoint.