320kW electric coupe-SUV will debut new technology for Audi but sits on MLB chassis rather instead of electric MEB platform

Audi has chosen the Shanghai motor show as the platform for its latest concept car. The e-tron Sportback is every inch the motor show concept, with enormous wheels, a minimalist, futuristic interior and big claims about performance – but the company says it previews a very real model, which has been confirmed for production in 2019.

 

The e-tron Sportback will follow on from the equally production-ready e-tron quattro, which is set to hit showrooms in 2018, and will sit alongside that car in Audi’s new range of e-tron electric cars. For these two early adopters, Audi has chosen not to base them on the VW Group’s bespoke MEB platform built exclusively for electric cars. Instead the e-tron Sportback is built on the MLB chassis – the same architecture that underpins the Q7, among other Audi products.

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The e-tron Sportback distances itself from the more practical e-tron quattro thanks to a more style-led approach – the boxy roofline makes way for a sleek coupe silhouette akin to the Mercedes GLE Coupe or BMW X4, while a sunken bonnet and inverted front grille are ready to become e-tron design language. There’s also a subtle ‘double-bubble’ roof. Proportionally the Sportback looks somewhat like an A7 on stilts – it’s about as long as that car, but at 1530mm tall it’s around the same height as a Q2 SUV.

At the front and rear the e-tron Sportback is all-LED, as you might expect, but there’s some trickery at play. For the first time, the Audi logo itself is illuminated in LEDS, while the Matrix LED headlamps include tiny projectors to display pictures and graphics on the road intended to let other road users know what the car is doing.

Inside, the e-tron Sportback uses electro lighting surfaces, made of an illuminated material just 0.02mm thick. It’s used on sections of the seat and centre console to brighten up the interior. Elsewhere, the dash is made up entirely of touchscreens – one for dials and driving information and the other for navigation and infotainment.

Under the skin, the e-tron Sportback uses three electric motors, which develop a combined 320kW. Mated to a 95kWh battery pack, the e-tron Sportback is good for 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, and a range of up to 500km.

The launch of the e-tron Sportback has been timed to coincide with a rollout of ultra-fast charging points Audi is helping to develop. When completed, the firm says these will be able to provide an 80 per cent battery charge in around 30 minutes – the equal to Tesla’s supercharger network, and removing a big stumbling block for prospective owners.