Last week, (by virtue of video conferencing) we attended the hush/hush unveiling of the Audi A6 e-tron Avant concept car. It’s based on a brand new Audi PPE (Premium Platform Electric) platform and has been revamped and redesigned – BUT still retains many A6 Avant cues that have become so very important to one of Audi’s pillars of success, emphasising their original mantra – “Beautiful station wagons are called Avant”
Like the Audi A6 e-tron concept that was exhibited in 2021, the A6 Avant also has an exclusively electric drive system based on the forward-looking PPE platform. At the same time, it represents a new design concept with the same dimensions as the A6 Sportback e-tron. At 4,960mm long, 1,960mm wide, and 1,440mm tall, its proportions put it in the luxury class and its lines are a consistent development in Audi’s contemporary formal language. However, significant elements like the closed Singleframe and the continuous strip of lights in the rear emphasise its kinship with the other electrically powered Audis in the e-tron fleet.
“With the Audi A6 Avant e-tron concept, we are offering a completely tangible look at future production models on our new PPE technology platform,” says Audi Board Member for Technical Development Oliver Hoffmann. “We’re not just electrifying the Avant’s successful 45-year history. What we want most of all is to use technical skills to add an exclamation point. In particular, this includes powerful 800-volt technology, 270 kW of charging capacity, and a WLTP range of up to 700 kilometres (435 miles).”
Sporting the A6 emblem, the concept car underscores its place in the brand’s business class. This family has represented the brand in one of the world’s highest-volume segments since 1968 (until 1994, as the Audi 100). There have been Avant models in the series since 1977 – a revolutionary, very emotionally designed reinterpretation of the station wagon class.
With the Avant, whose dynamic lines combine with a high degree of variability, the company created a new kind of car that has often been copied by the competition. Avant, a term derived from avant-garde and a 1995 Audi ad slogan, is a word that has taken off: beautiful station wagons are called Avant.
For its part, the PPE technology will ensure that what the car’s lines imply is translated into a standard of dynamic driving performance and everyday suitability befitting use for long drives. That means that, in the future, an Audi A6 e-tron will deliver up to 700 kilometres (435 miles) of range (under the WLTP standard), depending on the drive system and model variant. And the strongest representatives of the series will sprint from 0-62mph in less than four seconds. The values of the Sportback and the Avant only deviate slightly from one another.
The Audi A6 Avant’s back end, which is as beautiful as it is spacious, is by no means the only thing that qualifies it as the storage champ – the drive system and battery technology also justify that title. With its 800-volt system and a charging capacity of up to 270 kW, it can take in enough energy in just 10 minutes at a fast-charging station to drive about 300 kilometres (186 miles).
Aerodynamics has always played a key role in Audi’s long history of success in the luxury class, the 0.30 cd value of the Audi 100 / C3 0.30, far outperformed its competitors as early as 1982 and continued to do so for many years thereafter.
The Sportback’s cd value of just 0.22 is unprecedented in the electrified C-segment, but with its expansive roofline, the Avant’s cd value is just 0.02 units above that. In layman’s terms, this means the car exhibits minimal aerodynamic drag – which initially translates into lower energy consumption and therefore extended range. At the same time, the fine-tuning in the wind tunnel has once again resulted in an organic design with exceptional elegance and harmony down to the last detail.
Large 22-inch wheels and short overhangs, the flat cabin, and a dynamic roof arch give the Avant proportions that are distinctly reminiscent of a sports car. The absence of hard edges results in smooth transitions between convex and concave surfaces throughout the body, as well as in soft shadows. The Audi A6 e-tron concept appears monolithic, as if from a single mould – particularly when viewed from the side.
The gently backward sloping roof arch with the slanted D-pillar is a typical feature of Audi Avant window design; the D-pillar rises from the stable base of the vehicle’s back end in an especially streamlined manner. The eye-catching quattro wheel arches effectively accentuate the width of the body and are simultaneously integrated organically into the side surfaces.
The wheel arches are connected by the specially sculpted battery area above the rocker panel, which is highlighted with a black inlay – a design element that is now a hallmark of the Audi brand’s fleet of electric vehicles. Also typical of Audi e-tron models are the sleek, camera-based virtual exterior mirrors at the base of the A-pillar.
Looking at the front, it is immediately apparent that the Audi A6 e-tron concept is an electric-powered representative of the brand with the four rings. A characteristic feature is the large enclosed Singleframe grille, which is bordered at the bottom by deep air intakes for cooling the drivetrain, battery, and brakes. The flat headlight bezels extend far into the sides of the laterally sweeping front end, underscoring the horizontally aligned architecture of the vehicle body.
The influence of the wind tunnel on the rear end is unmistakable. The upper rear end is shaped to create an aerodynamically functional and circumferential breakaway edge. The rear spoiler with coloured trim visually emphasises the elongated, horizontally oriented silhouette of the A6 Avant e-tron concept. It also does important work with airflow to improve aerodynamics.
And in the lower section, the rear diffuser’s two generously sized air outlets are integrated into the bumper area. These components, which also have coloured trim, channel the air that flows under the vehicle in a manner that reduces turbulence – a perfect combination of reduced aerodynamic drag and minimised lift.
The showcar’s sporty silhouette is emphasized by its warm shade of grey called Neptune Valley. While the paint has a modern, understated look when it is in the shadows, its full effect opens up in the sun, draping the showcar in shades of softly iridescent gold with its effect pigments.
The flat headlights and taillights are slim and flush with the overall composition of the lines. Digital Matrix LED and digital OLED technology make it possible to achieve maximum brightness and a wide range of features even with a minimal surface area, while at the same time offering customizable light signatures. The team of Audi lighting designers and developers has once again done an amazing job – this concept car packs a host of new features and personalization options into its lighting units.
Three small, high-resolution LED projectors are built into each side of the body, transforming the ground beneath them into a stage when the doors are opened – small, extended, dynamic lighting effects greet the occupants with messages in their own language.
The combination of safety features and aesthetic design is particularly important to Audi. That’s why the small, high-resolution projectors also display warning symbols on the ground – to warn a bike rider that the car door is about to open, for example.
Another four high-resolution LED projectors – inconspicuously integrated into the corners of the vehicle – generate turn signal projections. The design of these projections can be modified to address different markets and approval regions as required.
The Digital Matrix LED front headlights deliver almost cinematic quality. If, for example, the Audi A6 Avant e-tron concept is parked in front of a wall during a break to recharge the battery, the driver and passengers can pass the time playing a video game projected onto it. Instead of on a small screen in the cockpit, they’ll see their current game’s virtual landscapes projected onto the wall in XXL format – and all this via the Digital Matrix LED headlights.
The rear end of the concept car features a new generation of digital OLED elements that, as a continuous strip of lights, act as a display. They can also be used to create almost unlimited customizable variations of digital light signatures and dynamic lighting displays that can be adapted to the customer’s taste.
One new feature in the taillights is the three-dimensional architecture of the digital OLED elements, that – adapted to the shape of the body – makes it possible to perfectly integrate the night design into the overall look. This makes it possible to experience the dynamic light show not only in two dimensions – as was previously the case – but with an impressive, 3D spatial effect.
The combination taillights, like the headlights, meet their developers’ requirements when it comes to the traditional functions of vehicle lighting, namely seeing and being seen – in the front, a clearly and brightly illuminated road with headlights that intelligently adapt to the traffic situation, weather, and surroundings, as well as communicate with other road users. In the rear, the ultrabright, homogeneous, and high-contrast digital OLED combination taillights can particularly and significantly increase the level of safety on the roads of the future.
In addition, the projections around the vehicle allow its communication range to be extended beyond the vehicle for the first time. With the help of intelligent connectivity in the vehicle, the A6 e-tron concept provides information to other road users with visual signals.
The PPE is designed exclusively for battery-electric drive systems and can therefore take full advantage of all the benefits of this technology. The key element of the future PPE fleet is a battery module between the axles that holds around 100kWh of energy in the Avant version of the A6 e-tron concept. Using the entire vehicle base makes it possible to achieve a relatively flat layout for the battery. This means that it will be possible to use this single platform both for vehicles with high ground clearance and vehicles with a decidedly dynamic, flat architecture – such as the Audi A6 Avant – without any changes to the basic architecture.
The battery size and wheelbase of PPE vehicles are scalable, making them suitable for use in different market segments. However, the proportions of a fairly long wheelbase and very short overhangs are something they will all have in common and this, together with the large wheels, results in basic proportions that are simply perfect – and not just in terms of design. This is because the occupants of the future PPE models will also benefit from the long wheelbase, which translates into a longer interior and more legroom in both rows of seats – a key benefit across all segments. In addition, electric vehicles are also generally more spacious thanks to the absence of a transmission tunnel, which is simply not needed due to the technology.
But even without the transmission tunnel, Audi customers will not have to give up the brand’s trademark quattro drive system. The future range of PPE models will include versions with one electric motor each mounted to the front and rear axles that use electronic coordination to deliver all-wheel drive on demand and achieve a perfect balance between driving dynamics and energy efficiency. In addition, the e-tron family will also include basic versions optimized for minimum consumption and maximum range – in this case, propulsion will come from a single electric motor mounted to the rear axle.
The Audi A6 Avant e-tron concept’s two electric motors are capable of delivering 350kW of total output and 800Nm of torque. The heart of the Audi A6 Avant e-tron concept’s drive technology – and that of all future PPE models – will be the 800-volt charging technology. Like the Audi e-tron GT quattro* before it, this ensures that the battery can be charged with up to 270kW in a very short time at fast-charging stations. This revolutionary technology will enter the high-volume mid-range and luxury segments with the PPE for the very first time.
The PPE technology enables charging times that come close to a conventional stop to refuel a car powered by a combustion engine. Just 10 minutes is enough time to charge the battery to a level sufficient to power the car for more than 300 kilometres. And in less than 25 minutes, you can charge the Audi A6 Avant e-tron concept’s 100kWh battery from 5 to 80 percent.
Together with a range of up to 700 kilometres – depending on the selected drive system and power output – the models in the Audi A6 e-tron family are uncompromisingly suitable for long trips. Furthermore, their range and charging speed keep pace with those of combustion engines, making them perfect universal cars for everyday needs, from short trips to the store to longer road trips when going on vacation.
In terms of dynamic qualities, the Audi A6 e-tron concept – as is typical for an electric car – truly outshines its rivals with combustion engines. Thanks to its high torque right from the first revolution, even entry-level models designed for efficiency will accelerate from 0-62mph in less than seven seconds. And in the top-of-the-line, high-performance models, this sprint can even be reduced to well under four seconds.
We’re really looking forward to seeing this new e-tron in the flesh but will have to wait as anticipated production is 2024. In the meantime, however, the new Q6 is on the horizon and we hear that Audi has plenty more models up their sleeves – phew!