Electric Cars

Audi E-Tron prototype tackles 85-percent grade on ski slope

The electric crossover conquers one of the world's toughest downhill courses.

Audi

At Roadshow, we've explored how electric cars perform in extreme cold and snow, putting a Tesla Model 3 to the test on a frozen lake and driving our long-term Nissan Leaf through this year's Polar Vortex

Audi, however, one-upped us in late January by taking a modified version of its upcoming E-Tron electric crossover to one of the world's most challenging ski slopes.

Audi E-Tron prototype ski slope

Not your normal E-Tron. Not your normal winter driving scenario.

Audi

The Audi E-Tron prototype's task was to summit the Mausefalle, or mousetrap, section of the challenging Streif downhill ski course in Austria. That's an 85-percent grade, a tough task in dry conditions, nevermind the layer of snow that coated the course. Audi tapped Mattias Ekström, World Rallycross and two-time German DTM champion, to drive the E-Tron. And as the video below shows, the battery-powered crossover powered up the slippery slope in an impressive demonstration of its abilities.

Of course, the Audi E-Tron used had been modified pretty heavily compared to the stock version. It had two rear electric motors, as opposed to the single rear motor in the standard car, in addition to a single motor at the front axle. The car's on-board software was modified to optimize its torque distribution for tackling the steep, snowy slope. New 19-inch wheels with big spikes on the tires helped claw into the ice. And for safety, the E-Tron was equipped with a roll cage, a racing seat with a six-point harness and a special belay cable to help catch it if something were to go wrong.

The Streif test was just the latest in a series of demonstrations intended to help show off the E-Tron's durability and toughness. Audi previously shocked it with bolts of lightning and let us drive it in the Kalahari desert in Namibia, for instance.

The standard Audi E-Tron launches in Europe in March, and the automaker already has more than 20,000 reservations for the new electric car worldwide. When not climbing up ski slopes, the car will be configured with two electric motors giving a combined output of 402 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque.

While we don't have an EPA driving-range number yet, we do know the car's lithium-ion battery pack is rated for 95 kilowatt-hours of energy storage. Pricing starts at $74,800 before options and, interestingly, the E-Tron won't be stocked at US dealers. Instead, prospective buyers will need to special-order the car.