Built on tech created with Porsche, with around 400 miles of range
Audi has debuted a concept version of an all-electric A6 sedan, which is coming to all major global markets and will be built on a new EV platform the company is co-developing with Porsche. A production version won’t be revealed until at least the second half of 2022, but the German automaker is targeting around 700 kilometers (more than 400 miles) of range for the new car, which will be called the A6 E-Tron.
The A6 E-Tron concept Audi showed off on Monday at Auto Shanghai 2021 is pretty straightforward as far as concepts go, which is in keeping with how the automaker has handled these reveals lately. To wit, the Q4 E-Tron electric SUV that Audi debuted just last week is a dead ringer for the “concept” version it first showed off at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. While there are plenty more details and specifics to be learned about the production A6 E-Tron — including price — what we’re seeing now will likely translate closely to what will eventually go on sale.
That includes not only a really healthy range target (thanks to a battery pack capacity of “around 100kWh,” according to Audi), but a fresh take on the A6’s sporty sedan look, as well as a bunch of high-tech upgrades, especially to Audi’s lighting systems.
First, though, a note on that underlying EV platform. Audi and Porsche call it the Premium Platform Electric, or PPE. The two Volkswagen Group companies first started talking about it around a year ago, and it’s slated to power the larger vehicles in Audi’s and Porsche’s forthcoming electric stables. It’s at least the fourthdifferent EV platform Audi is building its electric cars on. Audi adapted one of its internal combustion platforms to include batteries and electric motors for the original E-Tron and E-Tron Sportback. Audi is using the Porsche Taycan’s J1 platform to power the E-Tron GT. And it’s building the Q4 E-Tron and Q4 Sportback E-Tronon Volkswagen’s modular MEB platform.
A lot of this ultimately won’t matter much to consumers, as it’s not like these Audi EVs will say “powered by Porsche” on the steering wheel or the exterior badging. But there are vast resources in the Volkswagen Group — especially as it tries to break Tesla’s early hold on the EV market — and Audi is clearly trying to leverage the best of what’s being developed across the larger conglomerate to make a big mark with its electric vehicles.
That’s not to say Audi isn’t doing its own work. The company has spent years developing electric motor technology for its motorsports division (including fielding a team in the all-electric racing series Formula E). And in the A6 E-Tron concept, Audi says it’s even going to squeeze an extra few miles out of the PPE’s battery pack thanks to a special paint that can reflect “a significant percentage of the thermal radiation in sunlight,” meaning drivers will have to rely less on the air conditioning system, which can draw a significant amount of energy.
And anyway, Audi’s cars and SUV’s are as much about the premium in-car experience as they are about what powers them. With that in mind, Audi is touting some notable upgrades to its already advanced lighting tech with the A6 E-Tron concept.
For one thing, the company says its so-called “Digital Matrix LED” headlights (which are only available outside the US) have gained new capabilities. These lights, which use a complex shutter system to sculpt the LED light into specific shapes and animations, can now project an Audi-developed video game on a nearby wall or garage door.
Four LED projectors in the corners of the vehicle can create turn signal animations on the road. And three of them embedded in each side of the bodywork can do everything from present welcome messages on the ground for the driver and their passengers, to warn cyclists that a door is about to open.
Sedan sales have practically cratered in the US as buyers continue to be swayed by the high seating position and storage space of SUVs and trucks. Car companies — Audi included — are also incentivized to push consumers into these vehicles, which are typically profit centers.
As high-end automakers push further into electric vehicles, though, they’re apparently willing to bet they can still make the case for these low-slung luxury vehicles, as Mercedes-Benz just last week revealed what is essentially an all-electric S-Class sedan. The A6 E-Tron won’t be a pound-for-pound competitor to that offering, just like the gas-powered A6 doesn’t directly compete with the internal combustion S-Class. But the concept version announced Monday is a tease in two senses. One, it gives people a rough idea of what to expect from the ultimate production version of the A6 E-Tron. And two, it’s a first look at what Audi will do with the electric cars it’s building on that PPE platform — the same platform that will almost certainly power electric versions of other high-end A-series sedans.