UPDATED - The advent of the electric car hasn’t been accompanied by affordable pricing, and while Audi’s Q4 e-tron won’t necessarily be cheap, it could pave the way for a mindset change from premium carmakers.
Audi has taken the idea one step further, unveiling a Q4 Sportback to accompany the Q4 SUV, and releasing a brace of details in the process.
First shown at the 2019 Geneva show as a concept, the Audi Q4 e-tron will be the first four-ring EV to be built on parent company Volkswagen’s new MEB electric platform.
A pair of electric motors - one at each end of the Q4 e-tron Sportback - will produce 225kW between them and will be fed by an 82 kWh battery which will provide a claimed 450km of range.
A rear-motor version increases that range to 500km, according to Audi.
The electric motor in the rear offers 150kW and 310NM of torque, while the front motor supplies the front wheels with up to 75kW and 150Nm.
At 4600mm long and 160mm high, the Sportback is both 10mm longer and lower than the SUV, while its 2700mm wheelbase provides interior space that replicates that of a large SUV, according to Audi.
Speaking of interiors, the concept shows off a fully functioned digital dash and 12.3-inch multimedia screen, along with a large heads-up display.
Because an electric car doesn't use a standard gearbox, Audi designers made the most of the extra room in the centre console for more storage.
Dynamically, the Q4 e-tron Sportback rides on production-empathetic MacPherson struts up front and multi-link suspension in the rear, all modulated with steel springs and adaptive shocks.
With MEB production resuming after COVID-19-related delays, the small Audi EV crossover could hit the US market by the end of the year.
Pricing in the US is expected to be around US$45,000, which – even given the instability around exchange rates at the moment – should see the Q4 E-Tron lob here under the magic $100,000 mark.
At present, the cheapest electric luxury SUV is the Jaguar I-Pace which starts at $124,100, while the Mercedes-Benz EQC kicks off at $137,900. The e-tron is expected to sell for around $140,000.
Expect the Q4 E-Tron to wing its way down under, given the Australian car buyer’s undying love of all things SUV.
As well, there is positive energy (hah!) around EVs from premium carmakers like Audi. “Without a doubt, there is an appetite for electric cars, and you hear people talk at that premium end especially, about looking forward to one of their next cars being an electric car,” Audi Australia’s product pricing and planning director Shawn Ticehurst told us earlier this year.
“It’s the conversations you hear at barbeques and parties; the minute someone knows you’re a ‘car guy’, they’ll say ‘I’m really keen for my next car to be electric’. It’s in people’s mindsets now, where perhaps it wasn’t even two years ago. They are fascinated by it.”
The shift away from the expensive bespoke underpinnings of the larger E-Tron SUV means that Audi can sell the smaller crossover at a more affordable price.
While the Q4 E-Tron is likely to share electric motors and battery packs with cars like the VW ID4 electric crossover, we’d expect the Audi product to ship initially with all-wheel-drive, whereas the 500km-range ID4 is expected to debut in rear-wheel-drive format.
The MEB platform is VW’s jack-of-all-trades electric platform and can be stretched or shrunk to suit different body styles. The ability to add length to the platform means there is more room for batteries, which results in more range.
As well, energy densities are constantly improving, which could give the Q4 up to 500km by the time it arrives - though Audi's WLTP range figures are usually pretty conservative.
Underneath the delayed E-Tron – which is closer in size to a Q5 – is a modified version of the group’s MQB chassis, which sits under cars like the A4 and Q5. However, Audi’s desire to rush an EV to market meant expensive re-engineering and a higher cost-per-unit price for the beleaguered E-Tron, which was expected to touch down in Australia later this year, about 18 months after it was initially slated to arrive.