Virtual Cockpit and optional virtual side mirrors highlight the cabin's tech roster.
Audi already showed us the outside of its forthcoming all-electric SUV, but now we're getting a chance to look inside for the first time. These photos reveal that the cabin of the 2020 Audi E-Tron will be a high-tech, screen-heavy place. And like all modern Audis, it's designed with plenty of style, too.
One of the biggest technical advancements within the the cabin is the introduction of virtual side mirrors. The optional system ditches traditional glass exterior mirrors and instead fits small cameras to the outside of the doors, coupled to 7-inch OLED displays on each door. The virtual side mirrors are said to cut drag by 2 to 7 percent, which is of course important in an electric vehicle. The cameras will have several viewing modes: Highway driving, urban turning and parking. While Audi plans for the E-Tron to be the first series production car with digital mirrors when it launches in Germany, for now the system is illegal in the US.
The rest of the cabin is filled with screens, too. Front and center is Virtual Cockpit, the full-color and reconfigurable digital instrument cluster we've grown to love in other Audi models. The dashboard features the newest twin-screen MMI infotainment system, with primary controls taken care of on the upper display and climate controls relegated to a secondary, lower screen. It's one of our favorite infotainment systems on the market today.
Audi describes the flat dashboard top as a "stage," accented by ambient lighting all around and an illuminated E-Tron badge on the passenger side. The center console has a wide, flat armrest -- all the better for using those touchscreens. Optional orange stitching and piping for the leather seats is meant to recall the orange coloring used for high-voltage wiring looms throughout the car.
Audi emphasizes that the E-Tron's interior will be roomy enough to seat five passengers comfortably. Though we don't have specific leg- or headroom specs, both are said to be "top-class" in the luxury-SUV segment. The E-Tron's 115.3-inch wheelbase puts it nearly on par size-wise with the automaker's existing three-row Q7 (117.9 inches) -- and the E-Tron will have just two rows of seats. Because there's no need to accomodate a driveshaft or exhaust, the E-Tron's floor also doesn't have a traditional hump and thus provides a flat "plateau" for rear-seat passengers' legs.
Conversations between all those passengers are promised to be easy, too, because the E-Tron will be very quiet inside. Because they don't have the usual background sound of an internal combustion engine, electric cars seem to admit more wind and road noise. So Audi says it has sound-proofed and sealed the E-Tron's body wherever possible so that, "the only sounds are from its tires and the gentle hum of the electric motors.
To fill up that quiet cabin with more sound, the E-Tron will be available with a Bang & Olufsen sound system. Equipped with 16 speakers and rated for 705 watts of power, Audi promises the system can offer 3D sound with a high degree of realism. Audi already offers the Bang & Olufsen 3D system as an option in most of its other models.
Engineers made plenty of other efforts to reduce aero drag on the E-Tron. For instance, the underside of the E-Tron has flat panels with dimpling that, like on a golf ball, smooths out airflow. Electric louvers behind the grille can close when no cooling air is needed to further cut wind resistance, and even the 19-inch wheels have been specifically shaped to slip through the air. All told, Audi says the E-Tron has a drag coefficient of 0.28, a very slippery figure for an SUV.
The Audi E-Tron was first revealed -- albeit in camouflage -- at the Geneva Motor Show as the all-electric model set out for millions of miles of public-road testing. With a 95 kWh battery pack located in the floor of the car, the E-Tron should return a driving range of 250 miles in European testing, though an official US EPA driving range has yet to be confirmed. The battery pack uses liquid cooling to keep it between 75 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Audi plans to offer home chargers with 11 kW or 22 kW ratings, which will juice up the E-Tron fully in 4.5 or 8.5 hours, respectively. As to fast-charging out on the road, in Europe Audi has partnered with several other automakers on a charge network called Ionify. Here in the US, Volkswagen Group's Electrify America network plans to have 290 stations online by the end of 2019. Fast-charging will be effected by the CCS standard at 150 kW, which is enough to deliver an 80-percent/200-mile charge in half an hour.
And to make sure the Audi E-Tron is as eco-friendly as possible, it will even be built at a carbon-neutral assembly plant. The plant in Brussels will use solar power and biogas for 95 percent of its power needs.
Audi was scheduled to publicly reveal the E-Tron in Europe on August 30, but the debut has been relocated to the US and delayed to an as-yet-undetermined date. Officially, the move lets Audi present its first electric SUV in the US.
The 2020 Audi E-Tron is expected to go on sale in the US early next year, likely in the spring. Pricing details and a specific US-market range rating should be announced in due time before then.