Audi’s Sportback interpretation of the coupe-profiled SUV will proliferate its entire high-rider range, with a version arriving over the next few years for each SUV model that appears within the German car maker’s ranks.
Not only will each of the current models get its own ‘coupe’ equivalent (if not already), but future vehicles that surface in the emerging e-tron line-up will also be accompanied by the more style-driven options.
2016 Audi h-tron quattro concept
Speaking at the 2019 IAA Frankfurt motor show, Audi design head Marc Lichte revealed that the Sportback bloodline would flow into every SUV line over the coming years.
“For all the SUVs that will go into the market in the next few years, we will have a derivative that’s something between coupe and SUV,” he said.
“For me, it’s the next step - to combine coupe, station wagon and SUV.”
This opens the door for a Q6 model or perhaps a Q5 Sportback to fill out the mid-part of Audi’s SUV portfolio, a Q4 will appear in the e-tron range as an electric model, while even a Q1 might eventuate rolling on the company’s shared MEB electric platform.
It’s just part of Audi’s design revolution that will see the family evolve away from more traditional car aesthetics, enabled by the advent of electric cars. According to Lichte, designing electric cars is a “dream” with far fewer constraints than traditional combustion-powered cars.
“Step by step, with all the new cars we take a bigger step and, in a minimum of five years, our cars will look a lot different," he said. "The overhangs will get shorter and the wheels bigger. On the interior, there’s lots more space.”
2017 Audi e-tron concept
While other relative newcomer EV brands such as Tesla do not have a longstanding customer base to consider, Lichte said the company had a strategy that would introduce a new look without alienating its customers and fans.
“I can promise you that there is a strategy behind it," he said. "I have a lot of respect for Tesla, but if you look at the Model S it’s not a crazy car. It looks like a conventional car - very aesthetic and nice proportions.
“For the first generation we have to do it like this because we come from a history of more than 100 years so we have a history, Tesla does not, so we have to bring our current customers into EVs.”
While its growing range of electric models evolves, so too will its SUV styling - and Lichte suggested that the tide for conventional SUVs as we know them may turn.
“I’m sure this will change,” he said. “The next step is high seating position but lower roofline, better aerodynamics, better range.”
2015 Audi Prologue Avant concept
When asked if the rise and fall of SUVs was part of a cyclical shift for the segment, Lichte said “It’s my feeling, yes,” but added that Audi was ready for the change if customers gravitate back to more conventional low-profile cars. “If this will happen, we are prepared,” he said.
According to Lichte, Germany’s relatively environmentally considerate culture is prompting many drivers to question the ethical dilemma of large SUVs and their impact on climate change.
“I don’t know about your country but in Germany, you can see the discussion already - is it right to have all these SUVs, is it right that each brand is coming up with more SUVs?”
With its shifting design direction and an evolving line-up of vehicles, Audi is moving with customer demand and the responsibility that large manufacturers are increasingly feeling to reduce environmental impact.