CNET Roadshow drives the all-new Audi e-tron S Sportback Prototype

Earlier today, we not only learned that the Audi e-tron S Sportback exists but that it can drift. Thanks to its new electric motor setup, which features two rear-mounted motors, it can do big, smokey drifts. That’s fun and exciting for enthusiasts to hear but, more importantly, what’s it actually like to drive? Thankfully, Audi has some journalists available to drive pre-production cars to find out and CNET Roadshow has the scoop.


First, let’s start out with the standard Audi e-tron and what that’s all about. The standard car gets two electric motors; a smaller motor with 184 hp and 228 lb-ft at the front axle and a larger 224 hp and 262 lb-ft motor at the rear axle. Together, they combine for 355 hp and 402 lb-ft of torque.


As for the Audi e-tron S Sportback, it gets a bit of a power and performance bump, as all Audi ‘S’ models do. To give it more power, Audi actually swapped the motor placement. So rather than having the small one up front, the big motor powers the front axle, just with a bit less power, at 201 hp. While the smaller motor moves rearward but is joined by another. So it gets two 177 hp motors at the rear axle, one powering each wheel.


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They all combine to make 429 hp and 596 lb-ft of torque under normal conditions. However, there’s also an eight-second overboost function, which allows the motors to make 496 hp and a whopping 718 lb-ft of torque.


Eight seconds might not sound like a lot but, from a standstill, the e-tron S only needs 6.6 seconds of flat-out acceleration to hit its electronically-limited 130 mph top speed. It hits 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. So eight tics is more than enough,


So we know the new Audi e-tron S Sportback is fast, significantly faster than the standard e-tron Sportback it’s based on. A more important question remains: is it any better to actually drive?

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The standard Audi e-tron is not a bad car to drive by any means. It’s just a boring one. It’s far more of a luxury car and has no real sporty intentions to speak of. In fact, try and push it hard and its tires squeal and body roll tell you quite quickly that it would really rather you stop. So can the new ‘S’ variant actually be any better to drive?


From what we’re hearing, it seems so, actually. Of course, it’s not going to be dramatically more exciting but Audi has given it some chassis improvements to go along with its power. For starters, its re-tuned the steering to have more feedback and precision. It’s also widened the wheel track slightly and given it wider tires for improved handling.

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Plus, those two rear motors provide real-time torque vectoring that’s four-times faster than any mechanical setup in a traditional car. So it feels far more neutral when pushing it and it actually rotates nicely through corners.


So while it’s not a proper sports car, the Audi e-tron S Sportback seems to be improved over the standard car and we’re very excited to test it out.


As for range, Audi has yet to release any figures for its range, as we figure it’s going to take a considerable range hit by adding a third motor, more power and wider tires. Still, the trade-off might be worth it for improved driving dynamics and fun.


[Source: CNET Roadshow]
Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.