The second model to join the battery-powered e-tron family, the new Sportback changes the e-tron formula only in its A7-style fastback profile, although behind that increasingly familiar grey single-frame grille of the electric Audis are a host of upgrades to eke out its range.
The body may be changed only at the back but it is enough to bring the drag coefficient down to an impressive 0.25 (with the optional virtual mirrors). The more streamlined body alone contributes an extra six miles to the car’s official range, which for the version that goes on sale in the UK next year is quoted as 240 miles.
As well as less drag, the e-tron Sportback gets changes to the way it recuperates power so that overall 30 per cent of its range is now down to scavenging otherwise wasted energy. The three levels of power recuperation available when you lift off the throttle have been beefed up, while more power is saved during normal driving by decoupling the front motor. Improvements in managing thermal efficiency of the high-voltage components also save power and boost range, Audi says by up to 10 per cent.
The sleeker look of the e-tron Sportback from the A-pillars back is not matched to more power: in the 55 quattro form that the UK will be getting the electric Sportback has the same battery capacity (95kWh), twin motors and maximum power of 402bhp as the e-tron 55 quattro already on sale.
The top speed of all e-trons is limited to 124mph while 0-62mph of the newcomer takes 5.7 seconds, the same as the existing model. To achieve that the driver must select Sport mode which allows the full 402bhp to be unleashed – but for only eight seconds at a time. In regular driving the car can call on 355bhp.
Does the Sportback body’s coupé inspired roofline mean it is a less practical e-tron? Not by much. Audi says rear headroom is 20mm less while boot space has come down from 660 to 615 litres – or from 1,725 to 1,655 litres with the back seats folded down. It’s still a large and very spacious car.
For the UK, the newest electric Audi will be available only in trim levels S-Line and up. You can tell the S-Line version by its 21-inch alloy wheels, full body-colour finish for the wheelarches and sills, and more distinctive bumpers and air inlets. There’s also a more pronounced spoiler and full-width diffuser to add to the sportier nature.
An Edition 1 version of the S-Line, finished only in Plasma Blue, will be the first to go on sale as a limited-edition model. It gets lots of goodies – the virtual exterior mirrors, aluminium-look body detailing, orange brake callipers, panoramic glass sunroof, Bang & Olufsen Premium 3D sound system and Valcona leather – but promises to come at quite a price; the Edition 1 of the first e-tron costs almost £90,000.
One option not even the Edition 1 will have as standard is Audi’s latest headlight technology: digital matrix LED, which Audi says is a world first for a production car. Surely there can be no cleverer lights than these: using digital micromirror device (DMD) technology, the lights provide carpets of light so precise they can look round corners, pick out pedestrians and illuminate only the lane you are driving in – all without blinding other drivers.
And if you get bored with all that you can use the headlights for private light shows. They can project dynamic animations on to a wall in a way that Audi says “transforms the area in front of the car into a carefully illuminated stage”.
Sounds just the job for those New Year’s eve parties…