Shanghai 2017: Audi e-tron Sportback

20 April 2017 | by Nick Gibbs

Audi is another car maker tapping into China’s wellspring of enthusiasm for electric vehicles, with a well-proportioned concept foreshadowing a battery-powered coupe crossover due in 2019.

This sporty, youthful 'gran turismo' e-tron Sportback is a striking preview of the more conventional e-tron SUV due in 2018, too, and it's also a serious study into solving some of the problems a tall-riding all-electric vehicle will throw up.

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For example, at the top of the filled-in version of Audi’s signature ‘single frame’ grille is a blade of metal, below which air can flow over the bonnet. Audi says that this breaks up the blockiness of a typical SUV front end, but it was also clear it tries to solve the need to make the car as aerodynamically slippery as possible to achieve the claimed 310-mile range, without losing the chunky presence of an SUV. Some of this presence comes from 23-inch wheels, a trend that makers of all these electric SUV concepts are surely going to have to tone down for production models, to the detriment of visual impact.

Also helping the aero goals are cameras in place of side mirrors, with images projected onto screens in the doors. This is no longer just a way for designers to remove an unwanted excrescence on a concept – Audi says the production version won’t have side mirrors, either.

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Enhanced 'Audi Virtual Cockpit' includes haptic feedback

Audi’s obsession with modern light technology is taken to another level on the e-tron Sportback. Digital matrix LED projectors in front of the car can throw a combination of light patterns on the road ahead – Audi gives the example of an instant zebra crossing to help a pedestrian across the road, or marking out the boundaries of the car to help steer it through a dark, narrow gap. Above these projects an array of 250 LEDs can be programmed to show graphics or signs on the car itself.