As with the e-tron GT revealed at the Los Angeles Motor Show at the end of 2018, the next all-electric Audi show car will be another close-to-production concept, intended to send a strong signal as to where the brand sees the electric car arms race turning to next: small SUVs.
While the full-size e-tron SUV joins the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace, and will soon take on competition from Mercedes and BMW, the small, premium electric SUV space is an as-yet-untapped market. Audi wants to place a serious marker here, to get the jump on the Tesla Model Y, the all-electric version of the Volvo XC40 and a rumoured small electric SUV from Mercedes, all of which are tipped to surface in 2019.
The vehicle will in effect be an all-electric sibling for the new Q3, with exterior dimensions extremely close to those of the brand’s third most popular model. Even in its final full year in dealers, the previous-generation Q3 brought in more than 200,000 sales worldwide for the company. As such, introducing an electric option in the crossover segment and pouncing to get there early could be a lucrative move.
Audi has already teased the new e-tron family member, but our exclusive images preview the final design. As with the larger e-tron SUV, it’ll fall in line with the rest of the Audi line-up by largely using the brand’s conventional design language, but dressed up with e-tron elements such as the slat-based, opening-and-closing front grille.
While the larger e-tron SUV uses a bespoke platform, the smaller newcomer will be a product born of Volkswagen Group modularity. It’ll be the first Audi to use the group’s multi-billion-pound new one-size-fits-all MEB platform for electric vehicles, while it should be the first SUV in the VW Group to sit on the architecture, too.
The MEB platform has been described as a ‘skateboard’-like system, allowing the batteries, electric motors and most of the major cooling hardware to be packaged low and even recessed into the base of the chassis. This means Audi will be able to create an electric car the same size as the Q3, but with interior space rivalling that of the brand’s best-selling SUV, the larger Q5.
What’s a little less clear is how the dashboard and infotainment of Audi’s baby electric SUV will be laid out. Usually, it’s easy to predict the interior design of a Volkswagen Group car, based on sister models elsewhere in the group and the electrical systems of each platform leading to very common interior layouts.
We’ve yet to see a finished MEB interior, but it has been suggested that the platform supports a minimalist, but highly-digitalised, cockpit, with touchscreen displays replacing much of the traditional switchgear. The Audi EV crossover is likely to be a premium take on this new operating concept.
It’s anticipated that the electric crossover will be offered with all three of the MEB system’s different battery sizes. The Volkswagen Group has still not clarified the exact sizes of the platform’s battery packs, nor the final ranges, but a 48kWh model capable of 205 miles on a single charge is expected to form the cheapest option, with longer-distance 60kWh and 80kWh versions also offered, enabling up to 310 miles of electric range. With the Geneva car anticipated to be a concept extremely close in execution to the final product, the showroom version looks likely to hit the roads in 2020.
Beyond the new electric crossover, Audi has already confirmed it plans to introduce 12 all-electric e-tron models by 2025. A coupé version of the e-tron SUV could be next on the bill.
Click here for our list of the top 10 electric cars currently on sale…