Audi on Tuesday revealed an extensive refresh for its large E-Tron electric SUV, with a renewed push toward better range and efficiency.
It also gets a name change: The E-Tron and E-Tron Sportback will from 2023 on be called the Q8 E-Tron and Q8 E-Tron Sportback.
The renaming strategy is part of what Audi is calling a new corporate identity, focused around high quality and modern design—and a move upscale and upmarket for this model, as the smaller, more affordable Q4 E-Tron SUV and Sportback sidle up to it.
The more formal SUV body style and the Sportback, with its somewhat tapered, coupe-like roofline, both carry over to the Q8 E-Tron lineup. Refreshed trims, colors, and materials, as well as a broadened tech feature set, should all go a long way to asserting that more upmarket position.
Cosmetics aside, Audi is aiming much higher for range this time: “around 300” miles, it said, noting how important it is to have “a range number that starts with a three” by U.S. EPA standards.
More range, faster charging
“Far and away, the number-one wish from our Audi E-Tron customers was simply more range and efficiency,” Carter Balkcom, a product marketing expert for E-Tron, in a background session outlining some of the basics for the Q8, referring to follow-ups that the brand did with early E-Tron SUV buyers.
The Q8’s predecessor, the outgoing E-Tron family, includes a 71-kwh battery and a 95-kwh battery. With the refresh, the Q8 E-tron, globally, will offer 95-kwh and 114-kwh battery packs, with the 114-kwh pack the only size offered for North America. Although actual EPA numbers are yet to come, Audi says it will allow a range of up to 600 km by WLTP standards.
Despite the greater battery-pack energy capacity, it’s also set up to charge quicker. Audi boosted the charge curve where people are most likely to notice it. The Q8 E-Tron’s charging peak has been increased from 150 kw (officially, although we observed 155 kw multiple times) to 170 kw, right in the middle of the battery’s state of charge. Audi says that this assured a 10% to 80% charge in as little as 31 minutes—even more meaningful given the additional battery and range.
It’s using the exact same battery box and location as before, as well as the same-size cells, but in order to fit more energy into it, the company is using a new stacking technology for the prismatic cells—the same size cells as in the current pack.
Cells were nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) in the outgoing model, while in the new one the cells switch to a nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) chemistry.
No weight gain (well, almost)
Even considering the additional energy, Audi has kept the weight gain to a minimum. The 114-kwh pack, at 1,602 pounds, is only about 44 pounds heavier than the previous 95-kwh pack. It’s offset most of that weight gain in other parts of the car, like a new lightweight underbody shielding configuration that saves about 15 pounds.
The larger battery pack packs 20% more energy, yet Audi sees a range boost of 30% or more. That’s because it’s picked up efficiency a range of other ways, some more granular than you might expect for a mid-cycle refresh.
For instance, the number of windings for the E-Tron’s rear induction motor unit have been increased from 12 to 14, allowing the motor to produce torque with less current than before, aiding efficiency. Likewise, there are some “new tricks,” the company says, that allow the motors to spin more freely when there is no load. And it’s changed the way that the E-Tron uses its front versus rear motor.
Audi is renaming the three-motor E-Tron S the SQ8 E-Tron, although performance numbers carry over—a 0-60 mph dash of 4.5 seconds for the SQ8, while the 55 variant expected for the U.S. will manage it in 5.6 seconds.
Tuned to be sportier
It’s worked to improve the Q8 E-Tron’s dynamics, too. A quicker steering ratio and new steering calibration, plus new suspension arms together aim for a sportier feel on the road—and the air suspension has been retuned to support that. Further, now 100% of all Q8 E-Trons worldwide will have the air suspension setup.
Digital matrix headlight technology is carried over to the Q8 E-Tron, with new functionality for turn indicators and lane lights, including specific black arrows for motorway use. The lamps now help inform and react due to upcoming accidents or breakdowns.
Audi emphasized that it’s still trying to get some of these advanced functions approved for the U.S.—including virtual side mirrors—so don’t expect them at launch.
The interior of the Q8 E-Tron is perhaps what carries over the most, although Audi notes that it’s shifted its emphasis on color and trim, with a new type of walnut wood for inlays, as well as a plastic fabric made of PET bottles and a new red stitching package. All the seats now have contrast stitching, and there’s also a suede substitute made of recycled materials.
Positioned as more of a flagship
Audi hasn’t yet detailed the E-Tron lineup for the U.S., or indicated how prices might change. But it’s fair to assume they’ll go up significantly. The lineup now starts with the mid-level Advanced line now, Audi said, with no more base-model E-Trons in the Q8 translation.
The new Q8 E-Tron lineup will go into production for Europe in mid-November, with first deliveries in late February there and U.S. deliveries arriving just two months later.
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