Audi E-tron Quattro concept
The E-tron Quattro concept can go 310 miles on its 95 kilowatt-hour battery pack, according to Audi.
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

FRANKFURT — Clothed in the sharper lines of Audi’s new corporate styling language, the E-tron Quattro concept’s low roofline makes it look more like a wagon than an SUV. However, those proportions are intentional, improving aerodynamics to maximize range from its electric drive system.

That’s right, the E-tron Quattro is a fully electric car, with a robust 95 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack giving it 310 miles of range.

The battery pack sits under the passenger compartment, lowering the center of gravity. It powers three motors, one for the front wheels and one for each rear wheel. This arrangement contributes to handling by letting the drive computer put more torque to the outside rear wheel, counteracting understeer by pushing the back end around. An air suspension should lead to a comfortable ride, and four-wheel-steering not only helps low-speed maneuvering but can also help in high-speed turns.

Because of the size of the battery, Audi notes that it takes 50 minutes to go from empty to full at a Level 3 DC charging station. Audi is also exploring the idea of wireless charging, with the idea that the E-tron Quattro concept could drive itself onto a wireless charging pad.

The styling echoes the sharper lines that Audi previewed with its Prologue concept last year at the Los Angeles auto show, along with the new Q7. That design is reflected in a very geometric grille cross with many vertical lines, LED headlights and a cabin with narrow roof rails, emphasizing good visibility from its large greenhouse.

Aerodynamics were clearly a factor in this design, as the door handles retract to form a flush surface with the body. Instead of side mirrors, the E-tron Quattro concept uses camera pods on the front fenders, relaying an image to displays in the cabin. Those features and a low roofline, giving the concept a more wagon-like profile, serve to bring the coefficient of drag down to .25, which Audi notes is better than any SUV on the market.

Using a concept version of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit driver interface, first seen on the recent Audi TT, the driver gets a large LCD for the instrument cluster. Another LCD on the dashboard lets the passenger see entertainment options, and a smaller touchscreen at the base of the console lets driver and passenger set climate controls and other functions.

Although the E-tron Quattro concept does not exhibit any particular breakthroughs in electric drive technology, Audi’s promise of a production electric model for 2018 will give buyers more choices in longer range electric cars.

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Audi previews 2018 electric car with E-tron Quattro concept