We recently discussed the possibility of Audi switching to a more rear-driven brand as its range of e-tron models increases in size. What sparked that discussion was the Q4 e-tron’s single-motor variant being rear-wheel drive, rather than front-wheel drive, which Audi’s typically are. Considering that the Q4 is built on the VW Group’s MEB architecture, which will underpin many future Audi products, it seemed as if all Audi e-tron products would follow suit. Turns out, that’s true. At least it’s true for all MEB products.
We recently reached out to a spokesperson from Audi USA for clarification and he told us that MEB platform cars will be rear-wheel drive as-standard and even all-wheel drive (dual-motor) cars will have a rear-bias.
According to the Audi spokesperson, the reason for making the MEB architecture rear-biased, which breaks from the VW Group norm, is that the usual benefits of front-wheel drive are absent in a bespoke electric architecture.
Traditionally, front-wheel drive was used by automakers due to its lower cost and easier packaging. Stuffing the engine into the bay transversely and combining the transmission and front axle (transaxle) together made it cheap and easy to mass-produce cars. So that’s why almost all inexpensive cars are front-wheel drive. However, the downside of front-wheel drive cars is that they lack the desired dynamics of rear-wheel drive cars, which are traditionally more complicated and expensive to make.
However, in an all-electric architecture, it’s easy to put the electric motor on either axle, with no cost or packaging benefit either way. So if there’s no cost or packaging benefit to putting the electric motor at the front axle, Audi will stuff it out back, where it will provide better handling. Obviously, Audi can and will put motors at both axles, to give its EVs “Electric Quattro” all-wheel drive. For entry-level two-wheel drive cars, though, expect Audi e-trons to drive their rear wheels first.
Additionally, there’s also a small packaging benefit to making MEB-based cars rear-wheel drive. With the onboard charging system at the rear of the car, it’s actually more advantageous to put just a single motor at the back.
Lastly, if you look at the above picture, you’ll see that even in an all-wheel drive-equipped MEB car, there’s not much space taken up by the electric motor at the front. That leaves a lot of room for passenger space and front-trunk space. So it actually aids in packaging to not make it front-wheel drive, which flips the script on the traditional VW Group way of doing things.
Considering that these rear-wheel drive benefits are inherent of bespoke electric vehicle architecture in general, and not just MEB, it’s safe to assume that all future Audi e-tron models will start life as rear-wheel drive cars, even larger ones based on new platforms.