Audi Aims to Bring SexyBack
Today, German Automaker Audi unveiled its latest vehicle to cash in and check all the hype boxes, the Q4 Sportback e-tron concept.
☑ 4-Door "Coupe"
Four door coupes rose to popularity with the first generation Mercedes-Benz CLS in 2004. This was a sleek, 4-door "coupe" with a sweeping roof line that disguised the fact that there were 4 full doors behind the A-pillar. It was a statement of style over function and imitators soon followed.
With the shift from sedans to SUVs, it was inevitable that the trend of "coupes" would find its way into the SUV market. Enter the Mercedes Benz GLE Coupe, The BMW X6, the Acura ZDX, to name a few, and it seems that these three trends will not be going anywhere anytime soon. Volkswagen AG, the parent of Audi, has perhaps been one of the leaders in the arena of sport coupe SUVs as of late, with their Porsche Cayenne Coupe, the Audi Q8, and the most outrageous of them all the Lamborghini Urus, to name a few. Add to that the popularity of of Tesla and the shift to fully electric vehicles, and you get the Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron.
SUVs are sold as the higher-riding, more spacious vehicles with room for all your stuff for your active lifestyle. The coupe-ification of SUVs takes one of those attributes and cuts it in half in the name of style over function. Enter sweeping, sloping roof lines and the implication that there is some "sport" in this sport utility. Disregarding the fact that the higher stance of an SUV undercuts any sporty intentions of a vehicle, raising its center of gravity and causing a war with physics.
Don't get me wrong...I LIKE most of these SUV coupes. In fact, I am in favor of automakers taking bold chances on style in order to create something unique. Give me big grilles, bright, loud colors, and convertible SUVs. Give me crazy one-off designs, and out-of-the-box designs. Give me the Pontiac Aztek. (Ok, maybe that one deserves to stay in the past.)
About the Q4 Sportback e-tron. This concept reflects the design language and themes of the production 2021 vehicle that will soon be on roads across the country, and gives potential Q4 customers a tough decision to make: style or function?
The proportions of the Q4 and the Q4 Sportback are nearly identical in most regards, with the Sportback being 0.4 inches longer and shorter, with an identical wheelbase and width. Both feature the same technology in their electric drive trains, 2 electric motors with 225 kW of power put to the road through Audi's famed quattro all-wheel drive. Manufacturer estimated 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) times are 6.3 seconds for each the Q4 and the Q4 Sportback. Both feature a manufacturer estimated 310 miles of electric range on a single charge from the large 82 kilowatt hour battery located underneath the vehicle. In fact, the modular platform of the Q4 and the Q4 Sportback will underpin many more vehicles in the Volkswagen AG portfolio in the near future, everything from compact cars to midsize cars. (We have seen some of the concepts they have rolled out over the years, and there is one in particular that we cannot wait to see hit production. More on that as information becomes available.)
So, with all things being so similar between the Q4 and the Q4 Sportback, what makes this new one so special? My mind goes back to a JT song from "long ago". Audi says with the Sportback, they are bringing Sexy Back. This car definitely personifies the #AmpleBackside movement we are so fond of in car design.
The differences between the two models becomes apparent as you move aft of the B-pillar, with the dramatically sloping roof line that fools the eye into thinking this version is much longer than its non-coupe counterpart. The rest of Audi's press release speaking about the exterior design gushes over every little detail of the exterior, we will let their design speak for itself with these pictures:
Moving to the interior, is one that again uses design trickery to fool the eye. An airy and spacious atmosphere is created by their use of color and materials. Light colors high and in the line of sight give way to darker tones as the eye moves downward. Sticking with the earth-conscious theme of the electric vehicle movement, recycled materials abound in the Q4 Sportback; from recycled floor coverings to tasteful painted finishes in place of chrome plated metals. The seating is set for four in the Sportback, but those 4 passengers will be cradled in exquisite Alcantara covered seats with double seam stitching all around. They also use frosted Plexiglas to give a unique depth to surfaces in the cabin.
Technology becomes front and center with any new car launched, and that is even more important if you are planning to go up against the tech-giant of Tesla, who was just named the world's most valuable car company. Giant touch screens and heads up displays ensure anyone in search of information can get it at a glance. In fact, the heads up display features Audi's new augmented reality navigation which will display information and driving instructions directly on the course of the road. The center stack features a 12.3 inch touchscreen display that will be the home to all infotainment and vehicle functions, and is tilted, ever-so-slightly, to the driver for ease of use and visibility while driving. All this rest above a clean strip of climate control buttons. Moving downward we have a center console free to hold any and all of your things, most notably your technology with a wireless phone charging cradle. Rounding out the interiors unique features is a canted bottle holder at the front of each door's armrest. Angled directly to the seat's occupant for easy grab-and-go on the go. All-in-all, this looks to be a nice place to spend some time eating Combos or whatever snack you bring on road trips as the car eats up some miles down the road.
With a name like Sportback, and the looks of a sports coupe, you would imagine driving dynamics would be important to the car's DNA, and you would be right. The Q4 Sportback is primarily a fun and easy to maneuver RWD vehicle, but when rear wheel slippage is detected, the front electric motor will kick in for added traction. The system still prefers a rear wheel bias, preserving some fun and exciting driving dynamics.
"The electric motor in the rear end has an output of 150 kW and mobilizes a torque of 310 newton meters (228.6 lb-ft); the front motor supplies the front wheels with up to 75 kW and 150 newton meters (110.6 lb-ft). The system output is 225 kW. The battery in the vehicle floor stores 82 kilowatt hours, which allows for a range of more than 450 kilometers (279.6 mi) according to the WLTP standard. The battery is charged with a maximum of 125 kilowatts. It therefore takes little more than 30 minutes to reach 80 percent of the total capacity."
As we have seen with other all-electric vehicles that were designed as electric vehicles to begin with (not simply a retrofit design), the location of the battery pack low and in the center of the car creates exceptional driving dynamics, among other benefits. In fact, the Tesla Model X and its large and low battery pack will not roll over in any crash test simulation. How is that for safety? We will see how well these benefits translate to other vehicles as crash test information becomes available for more and more all-electric vehicles with low centers of gravity. Audi claims the weight distribution and center of gravity of the Q4 Sportback is similar to a sedan with a conventional internal-combustion engine setup, and with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution front to rear, the dynamics of this SUV are for more sporty than most its size with conventional drive trains.
So, there you have it, if you are in the market for an athletic family hauler that can take all your stuff with you and leave a smile on your face as you drive, get a Mercedes E Class Wagon, or a Q4. If you would rather have style over the functionality of a larger rear storage area, opt for the Q4 Sportback.
Me personally, I would love to see more stylish variations of all SUVs, and I do believe I will get my wish as manufacturers show no sign of stopping their SUV sport "coupe" trends. In a world obsessed with SUVs, this may just be the closest we get to beautiful sports cars and grand-tourers in the future....
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