2020 Audi E-Tron Sportback is all about style, but still has substance

For a first effort at a mass-market electric car, the Audi E-Tron is pretty darn good. But one area where it could be better is styling. Audi wrapped its latest technology in a very nondescript package. The 2020 Audi E-Tron Sportback fixes that by adding more extroverted styling to the basic E-Tron mechanical package. The Sportback debuts at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto show, but don’t expect to see it in showrooms until late 2020 at least.

The E-Tron Sportback is an “SUV coupe,” a concept popularized by other German luxury brands. Coupes traditionally have two doors, but to make an SUV coupe, all you have to do is lower the roofline to give the car a less boxy profile. That usually means sacrificing rear headroom and cargo space for a sleeker look, taking some of the “utility” out of “sport utility vehicles.” But Audi claims rear headroom in the Sportback is just 0.8 inch less than in the standard E-Tron.

Audi also claims the Sportback’s 0.25 drag coefficient is better than the standard E-Tron, so the styling may actually have a practical benefit. Both models use the same 95-kilowatt-hour battery pack, which gives the Sportback 277 miles of range on the European WLTP testing cycle, according to Audi. The automaker didn’t give a range estimate for the United States testing cycle, but the standard E-Tron is rated at 204 miles.

As with the standard E-Tron, the Sportback gets one electric motor for each axle, creating all-wheel drive. In Europe, Audi will offer two power outputs, but the U.S. is expected to only get the more powerful of the two. That means 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque, enabling zero to 62 mph in 6.6 seconds, according to Audi. But the Sportback also has a “boost” mode that temporarily increases output to 402 hp and 489 lb-ft, shortening the zero to 62 mph sprint to 5.7 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 124 mph.

The Sportback also gets tech from the standard E-Tron that isn’t available in the U.S. due to regulations, including camera mirrors, and Audi’s matrix LED lighting system. In the Sportback, the lights can even be used to project images on the ground or walls, or create a “carpet of light” to illuminate the driver’s own lane, according to Audi. However, current federal regulations don’t allow these complex lighting systems.

What we do get is the same dual-screen MMI infotainment system and Audi Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster used in the standard E-Tron and other recent Audi models. The Sportback also has the same 150-kilowatt DC fast-charging capability as the standard E-Tron, enabling an 80% recharge in less than 30 minutes, according to Audi. That’s assuming you can find a station that will charge at 150 kW.

The 2020 Audi E-Tron Sportback goes on sale in Europe in the spring of 2020, with a U.S. launch sometime after that. Pricing will be announced closer to launch, but the Sportback will likely command a premium over the standard E-Tron, which currently starts at $75,795. Audi has at least two more electric cars in the pipeline: the E-Tron GT (essentially a rebodied Porsche Taycan), and a smaller SUV based on the Q4 E-Tron concept.

Updated on November 20, 2019: Added photos.

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