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2020 Audi E-Tron Sportback debuts slick new roofline, a bit more range

The E-Tron Sportback model debuts at the 2019 LA Auto Show, trading a bit of interior volume for a modest gain in electric range per charge.

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2020 Audi E-Tron Sportback

The Audi E-Tron Sportback tweaks more than just the sheetmetal. It's also slightly more efficient.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

We all knew the 2020 Audi E-Tron Sportback was coming. The coupe-ified crossover is a bit of an established formula now, taking the design of the Audi E-Tron SUV, which hit the road earlier this year, and giving the roof a sporty chop. However, with the production model that debuted tonight, Audi has also taken this opportunity to further refine the E-Tron's electric powertrain with tweaks beneath the new sheet metal that improve battery management and range.

Starting with the familiar, the E-Tron Sportback largely uses identical hardware to the E-Tron SUV with a 184-horsepower, 228-pound-foot electric motor at the front axle and a 224-horsepower, 262-lb.-ft. unit at the rear. Together, they form a sort of fully electric version of Audi's trademark Quattro all-wheel drive system, combining for a peak 355 horsepower (or 402 ponies for short 8 second bursts of speed).

Here is where the Sportback's refinements begin. The new model gains the ability to completely decouple the front motor when not in use -- for example, during light load cruising -- resulting in less drag. Tweaks to the hydraulic brakes also help it roll more freely. And, of course, the sleek roofline lowers the crossover's aerodynamic drag contributing, according to Audi's reckoning, to a 10 km increase in range on the WLTP testing cycle.

Meanwhile, Audi is more aggressively using the E-Tron's 95 kWh battery pack -- unlocking 91-percent net (usable) capacity, up from around eighty-ish before. That gives the Sportback about 86.4 kWh of juice to use between charging. Previously, the automaker cited longevity and reliability as reasons for the conservative net capacity of the E-Tron's pack. Audi now says that thermal management improvements for the Sportback allow more of the pack to be charged and discharged without compromising long-term reliability.

Audi estimates the battery and efficiency improvements should net the E-Tron Sportback more range than the standard profile, about 446 km of range on the WLTP standard. EPA estimates haven't been announced yet. Expect modest gains; my back-of-the-envelope guess based on the current E-Tron's 204 miles of range lands at about 220 to 225 miles when the Sportback gets here. We'll keep you updated with actual numbers when they're announced.

2020 Audi E-Tron Sportback

The Sportback's coupe-ish roof costs the E-Tron a few millimeters of rear headroom and a few cubic feet of cargo, but it also contributes less to aerodynamic drag.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

In Europe, the E-Tron Sportback also debuts a new generation of Audi lighting technology. The Digital Matrix Light features a 1.3 million pixel LED projector (in addition to standard high and low beam) to cast fine and complex illumination onto the road ahead. The automaker demonstrated using the DML to project vehicle width guides onto a lane, highlighting pedestrians in the road without dazzling them and contouring the light's throw around a bend in the road. The lighting technology can also be used to project sweet, customizable welcome and goodbye animations onto a garage wall or parking lot when entering or leaving the vehicle. Of course, the last two generations of Audi's matrix illumination are still illegal here in the U.S., so this technology almost certainly won't be arriving in America with the new E-Tron. It will, however, hit the road on global market models.

Speaking of hitting the road, Audi will begin taking preorders for the sexier, more efficient E-Tron Sportback starting at the end of this month, November 2019. The first deliveries are expected in Europe beginning in March 2020, with the Sportback reaching North American shores near the end of summer 2020. The European E-Tron Sportback will start at 71,350 euros and top out around 83,150 euros. North American pricing hasn't been announced, but expect about a $2,500 premium over the standard E-Tron's $74,800 starting sticker.