Currently reading: The Audi A6 e-tron concept: electrifying Audi's saloon heart
With sleek lines, stunning performance, impressive range and fast charging, Audi’s Shanghai showcase offers a taste of the future design of its iconic saloons
Autocar
Promoted
6 mins read
7 July 2021

Revolution rarely happens overnight. Every radical transformation can be traced back to a series of steps that sowed the seeds of change: from spark to ignition to dramatic illumination. The Audi A6 e-tron concept – the latest statement of Audi’s bold electric intent – is rooted in such a journey. But there’s a twist to the tale.

In 2018, the Audi e-tron SUV introduced Audi’s forward-thinking philosophy for electrification to the world. In March this year, the Audi e-tron GT turned heads. Its sleek sportscar form was underpinned by stunning quattro performance and continent-crossing gran tourer-like all-electric long-distance range.

Even more recently, the Audi Q4 e-tron brought electrification and advanced driving tech to the mainstream – in a package that blended astonishing space and comfort, while belying the Q4 e-tron’s compact city-friendly exterior dimensions. 

The unveil of the Audi A6 e-tron concept at the Shanghai Motor Show revealed the next phase of the story: how Audi’s e-tron philosophy will transform the saloon form that, for many, is most synonymous with Audi as the heartland of its range.

But, there’s something different about the Audi A6 e-tron concept that makes it more revolutionary than just the next evolutionary step in Audi’s all-electric plan. As a result, the Audi A6 e-tron concept might present the most dramatic – and perhaps the most intriguing – shift in electric e-tron design for hardened long-time Audi fans. 

Find out more at audi.co.uk/e-tron

From 100 to e-tron in 53 years

Audi has a rich heritage in the mid-size saloon sector. It started with the introduction of the Audi 100 in 1968, with the iconic executive saloon setting the trend for style, performance and luxury comfort over four generations and 26 years. 

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In 1994, the Audi 100 was renamed the Audi A6 to fit a streamlined alphanumeric nomenclature, but the A6 has continued to evolve and set the pace as the beating core of Audi’s saloon range to this day. 

The Audi A6 e-tron concept gives us the first glimpse of how this iconic Audi body style will evolve for the new electric age. It’s based on Audi’s advanced and highly versatile PPE platform – which will form the basis for a wide range of new all-electric models – from low-slung saloons to high-riding SUVs and crossovers.

True Audi quattro all-wheel-drive – with an electric motor on each wheel – ensures that the impressive performance you expect from an Audi saloon remains highly charged, with 470PS and a stunning 800Nm of instantly available all-electric torque delivering 0-62mph in under four seconds on high-performance models.

The Audi A6 e-tron concept’s large-capacity 100kWh battery is predicted to deliver up to 435 miles of range, while 800V technology means 270kW recharging – getting you from 0% to 80% in as little as 25 minutes, or adding 186 miles of charge in as little as 10 minutes. Perfect for the epic journeys Audi saloons have always done.

Where the Audi A6 e-tron really changes the game, though, is in the sleek silhouette form that encases Audi’s now well-developed electric underpinnings.

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Re-imagining the iconic saloon form

“On electric cars, it’s important for us to retain classic proportions,” says Audi’s Senior Exterior Designer, Sascha Heyde. “We want to build highly emotional and highly efficient automobiles with beautiful lines that don’t necessarily look different.” 

The Audi A6 e-tron concept certainly fulfils that brief, with a sleek four-door Sportback coupé form that takes Audi’s fast-evolving e-tron design language to a new level. In the Audi A6 e-tron concept’s case, this means a long wheelbase and short overhangs, which – combined with the large 22-inch wheels – offer a head-turning profile, as well as more interior space for drivers and passengers.

“With an electric battery, we’re working with length and width, not height,” says Heyde. “That let us design a long wheelbase, with a great deal of space between the axles for the battery. That makes a flat silhouette possible. So, the Audi A6 e-tron concept represents a soft transition where Audi’s traditional lines and proportions have their place.”

Shaped by the wind

At the front of the Audi A6 e-tron concept, the blanked out aero-friendly e-tron evolution of Audi’s iconic Singleframe grille – framed by the slim Digital Matrix LED headlights – helps set the trend for a streamlined shape that creates a super-low drag coefficient of just 0.22Cd and delivers enhanced all-electric range. 

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Along the sides, harsh edges have been replaced by smooth transitions into the bold quattro wheel arches, streamlining the flow of air along the car’s panels and minimising turbulence. Breakaway edges on the upper rear end and a large diffuser ensure that airflow from around, under and over the car exits as cleanly as possible.

“With just one look, you can see that the Audi A6 e-tron concept was conceived in a wind tunnel,” says Heyde. “This means the car exhibits minimal aerodynamic drag, which translates into lower energy consumption and extended range. At the same time, fine-tuning in the wind tunnel has also resulted in an organic design with exceptional elegance and harmony – down to the last detail.

“The Audi A6 e-tron concept appears monolithic, as if from a single mould – particularly when viewed from the side. We’re giving up hard edges and arranging soft transitions in the body of the car. The eye-catching quattro wheel arches accentuate – even more clearly than on cars with combustion engines – the width of the body, but are simultaneously integrated organically into the side surfaces.”

Headlights that truly delight

Innovation isn’t simply limited to the Audi A6 e-tron concept’s sleek form. This is a car that will not only electrify your journeys, but will also light up your life.

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The advanced energy-efficient and highly adaptive Digital Matrix LED headlights are the slimmest on an Audi to date, but advanced technology also makes them perhaps Audi’s most entertaining – they’re able to project a smartphone-controlled video game onto a wall while the car is charging, keeping the driver and passengers entertained for the brief time while you’re preparing for the next leg of your journey.

The ultra-bright rear OLED lights not only enhance visibility of your vehicle for following cars, but can also use their three-dimensional architecture to display dynamic digital light signatures with a deep spatial effect that can be adapted to the owner’s preference. 

Finally, small high-resolution LED projectors positioned right around the Audi A6 e-tron concept can display dynamic lighting effects such as greetings or warnings and floor-projected turn signals – greatly increasing safety for other road users.

Concept becomes reality

Think the Audi A6 e-tron concept is a bold vision of Audi’s saloon future that will never end up as a production car? Think again. According to Heyde, around 95% of the Audi A6 e-tron concept’s design features are expected to make it into the final production saloon models that are expected to start making their debut in 2023. 

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Equally, the Audi A6 e-tron concept’s PPE architecture will be used on a wealth of saloon models – including smaller B-segment saloons and larger luxury cars – as well as SUVs and crossovers. This really is the future of Audi saloon design.

“As far as the design vocabulary for Audi models is concerned, the e-tron concept generally represents the next evolutionary step,” says Heyde. “It shows how form and function are combined into the most perfect possible synthesis at Audi.”

So, if the Audi A6 e-tron concept is where the Audi’s celebrated saloon past connects with its all-electric future, this is where revolution meets evolution.

Find out more at audi.co.uk/e-tron