When the Audi E-Tron first made its debut, the traditional SUV shape as well as its utility focused ergonomics helped make the EV a hit with consumers. However, we were always curious about what would happen if Audi designers were allowed to let loose on the E-Tron, and it appears Audi reps shared our view, and have followed through with the official unveiling of the all new Audi E-Tron Sportback.
The styling of the Audi E-Tron Sportback is handsome, but to many observers it might not be readily recognizable as an all electric vehicle. Just like its more conventional looking cousin, the Sportback does not flaunt its EV style like some of its rivals, and instead prefers to let some of its more stylish design alterations do all the talking. The front fascia maintains the same basic look as the regular E-Tron, but the headlights have been swapped out for Audi’s Digital Matrix LED headlights, with Audi claiming that the novel lights will illuminate the road “in high resolution.” The key aspect of the system is a small chip which comes equipped with one million micromirrors. These mirrors use a special electro static that allow them to tilt up to 5,000 times per second, and as a result allows them to either illuminate a certain section of the road, or even off the road if needed. All of this sounds like a gadget from a high budget science fiction film, but it is very real, especially when you see the lights project specific images onto the road, as well as actually block themselves to keep from blinding vehicles in front of the EV while still keeping your portion of the road well lit (our minds are blown.)
When you are not marveling at its headlights, the Sportback’s roofline helps draw your eyes to the rest of the design changes. Like other recent entries, the Sportback adopts a four door coupe layout, but here the roofline is actually functional with Audi claiming that the roofline alone accounts for a 6.2 mile bump in driving range. The smoother airflow it generates does force drivers to pay a small penalty in regards to headroom, but that comes with the territory for many four door coupes anyway, so we are willing to forgive the Sportback for this particular flaw. Cargo space is also down slightly when compared to the standard E-Tron with 21.7 cubic feet on hand with the rear seats up. Fold them down, and that figure increases to 58.4 cubic feet.
Performance for the E-Tron Sportback is roughly what you expect from the standard E-Tron, with the dual electric motors still producing 402 horsepower and even the same battery pack coming along for the ride. With how much performance it already produces in the standard E-Tron, its nice to see that the Sportback retains that delicate balance between green focused efficiency, and segment pounding performance when you mash your right foot into the accelerator. Look for this to also allow the Sportback to be within firing range of rivals like the Jaguar I-Pace, Tesla Model Y, and even select flavors of the recently unveiled Ford Mustang Mach E. Braking performance has also been improved, and in turn helps the Sportback nabs even more range.
Our favorite feature though is not the impressive performance that comes bundled right out of the box, but rather the optional virtual side mirrors. Another technological innovation that has also been absent from the U.S. due to separate regulations regarding side mirrors, the virtual mirrors eschew traditional mirror assemblies for futuristic cameras. They are hooked up to small displays that are located between the door and the instrument panel which allows the driver to see what’s behind and alongside the Sportback at any given moment. The cameras can also adjust for different driving situations including sharp cornering, as well as when backing up out of a driveway or even into a parking space.
While the timetable for the Sportback’s U.S. launch is up in the air, it is known that the model will launch in Europe sometime this spring with a limited production Edition One model that will come equipped with specific S-Line touches such as body color trim as well as sleek 21-inch wheels. U.S. pricing is also not available, but in Europe, it will have a starting price of £71,350 which is just over $79,000 when converted to U.S. dollars. Sadly, the Dynamic Matrix headlights will not be coming to the U.S. due to regulations as well as the camera mirrors, but hopefully further advances in technology will perhaps move the NHTSA to alter its policies to help bring some of these international technologies to U.S. roads soon.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.