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Quattro Quattros: How Audi will use 4 different EV platforms

Each platform has its own dedicated purpose for the VW Group.

Small car? There's a platform for that. Supercars? There's a platform for that. Small urban EVs? You get the idea.

Do-it-all platforms are hardly new. Volkswagen Group's MQB, for example, underpins a variety of vehicles in different segments, from the Audi A3 to the Volkswagen Tiguan. But when it comes to electric vehicles, Audi is prepared to used four different platforms.

After testing the automaker's new plug-in hybrid family in Munich, Audi invited me to check out all four of its battery-electric platforms, each of which will serve a distinct purpose in the OEM's effort to electrify its lineup. Let's take a look at all four and see how each will be used.

MLB Evo: Bridging the gap

VW Group's Modularer Langsbaukasten ("Modular Longitudinal Matrix") platform was first introduced all the way back in 2007. Its latest iteration, MLB Evo, underpins a number of modern vehicles, from the Audi A4 all the way up to the Audi Q8 and Lamborghini Urus.

But we're not here to talk about gas engines. The MLB Evo platform also serves as the basis for Audi's first battery-electric vehicle, the E-Tron SUV. While not built specifically for EVs, it was flexible enough to eventually accommodate the E-Tron's 95-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, giving the vehicle enough juice for an EPA-estimated 204 miles of range on a single charge.

Despite being a bit of a compromise, the E-Tron's specs are pretty solid. Its pair of electric motors provide 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque, with a mild overboost to 402 hp and 490 lb-ft for small stretches of time. The forthcoming E-Tron Sportback, with its sharper silhouette, will live on this platform, too.

While Audi might have BEVs still slated for this platform, it's the three below where most of the automaker's future magic will happen.

MEB: The small-car skateboard

If you've been following VW Group's EV developments, odds are that you've heard of the MEB platform. This is the "skateboard" that will live underneath a whole bunch of electric vehicles, including every VW EV with ID in the name. It's flexible enough to accommodate small urban hatchbacks and larger cargo vans, so it's no surprise that Audi will adapt MEB, too.

The first vehicle Audi intends to release on the MEB platform is the Q4 E-Tron, previewed by a sharply styled concept from the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. It's slated to go into production in 2020, and the automaker has stressed that the vehicle will feature few changes between the auto show and the dealership.

This dedicated EV platform is engineered specifically to accommodate a big ol' battery nice and low in the body. This means Audi is able to make much better use of interior space -- the automaker promises that, despite having the physical footprint of the smaller Q3, the Q4 E-Tron's interior space will be voluminous, closer to the larger Q5's passenger capacity.

The mass-market Q4 E-Tron will be available with all-wheel drive, but its default arrangement will have just one electric motor powering the rear wheels, likely to keep costs down. Its 400-volt architecture (same as MLB Evo) will be able to work with 150-kilowatt chargers, and its max output should be somewhere around 306 horsepower -- plenty for a small city car.

The flexibility of the MEB platform also means that the Q4 E-Tron is just the start. While it didn't make any promises, Audi did mention that MEB can be flexed and tweaked to support other body styles, too, like a sedan.

J1: The reserve wine list

The J1 platform first made its debut underneath the Porsche Taycan, but it was originally announced back when that car was the Mission E concept. A quick peek at the car's specs make it pretty obvious that J1's purpose will be to underpin the sportiest, highest-performance EVs from both Porsche and Audi.

Audi's first effort on this platform will be the E-Tron GT, which was previewed in concept form at last year's LA Auto Show. We've already taken it for a spin, albeit no faster than 20 miles per hour, but the basics of a performance car are there -- it's wide and curvaceous, with a low seating position. To keep everyone as low as possible, the battery features two "foot garages" -- essentially depressions in the battery housing that lets rear-seat occupants sit closer to the ground.

While the Taycan promises an overboost in excess of 700 horsepower, the E-Tron GT will be a bit more sedate, putting out just 590 hp from the electric motors mounted on each axle. It also picks up a few unique tricks, like all-wheel steering, as well as an 800-volt architecture that can result in some seriously fast charging times (think 200 miles in 20 minutes).

The E-Tron GT probably won't be the only Audi on the J1 platform. The automaker mentioned that J1 can offer several tiers of performance, which means we could very well see an electric successor to the R8 supercar on this platform, although the automaker hasn't confirmed anything to that end just yet.

PPE: The future of luxury

That brings us to PPE (Premium Platform Electric), which is a joint development from both Audi and Porsche. This is the newest platform in this article -- so new, in fact, that Audi hasn't even confirmed anything that will utilize it yet.

The automaker did, however, give us an idea of what to expect. The shadowy-looking vehicle in the multi-car picture at the top of this article is a very rough early stage concept of a "Sportback" type EV, sized somewhere around the A5 and A7 Sportbacks. The PPE platform will go on to underpin Audi's future C- and D-segment luxury vehicles, but the concept we saw isn't necessarily destined for production itself -- it's just an idea of what the platform could produce.

Like the J1 platform, this clean-sheet development carries the latest, greatest EV tech from VW Group. PPE, too, utilizes an 800-volt architecture, which means fast charging times when hooked up to the right charger. But, like MEB, it will primarily offer rear-wheel-drive EVs with the option for a second motor, granting all-wheel drive.

PPE is perhaps the most flexible of all the platforms mentioned. It can be stretched and modified to cover both low-floor (sedan) and high-floor (SUV) vehicles with varying wheelbases and track widths. Production for PPE-based cars will take place in Germany, but it's unclear when we can expect to start seeing production vehicles with this platform. Rest assured, once it's out, there's no doubt that we'll be seeing a whole lot of it. 

Having seen the frontmost "concept" in person, I can assure you it looks far more fully baked in photos. The headlights are made of tape on the real thing.


Editors' note: Travel costs related to this feature were covered by the manufacturer. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. While Roadshow accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews, all scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms.

The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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