The way Audi opens the news on the reveal of the cabin of its forthcoming e-tron all-electric model is rather telling: “New interior pictures show how the fully electric series production Audi will push digital boundaries without feeling alien to drivers”.
That’s the aim, really, for anyone hoping to bring EVs to market and make them go mainstream. Make the future, now and tomorrow, today, in a way that isn’t going to scare off consumers. That means blending current motoring conventions with the powertrains of tomorrow. Jaguar did it, can Audi?
So, how is this Audi of the future also the Audi of today?
Hiding in plain sight
One of the most critical things Audi has to get right when feeding us the future is the looks. It has to be contemporary and agreeable by today’s standards, not tomorrow’s. Fortunately, Audi knows a thing or two about how to make a good looking car. We’re relatively familiar with the outsides of the e-tron prototype, but it’s nice to revisit given the context of the cabin.
It’s sure to be a fine-looking thing when the disguises drop, with sharp lighting, a muscular stance and a Velar-rivalling sporty SUV rake. It’s Audi, so the Instagram appeal is almost implied at this point.
New tech that won’t scare you off
Perhaps the most groundbreaking piece of technology the e-tron looks to take to the showroom is the virtual mirror system. That’s right, cameras instead of wing mirrors – previously the preserve of the pie-in-the-sky concept car starter pack.
Cameras feed their image to high-contrast 7-inch OLED displays recessed into the front of the door above the handle. The screens aren’t dissimilar in shape to that of a conventional mirror – it’s just that they reside in the cabin.
Naturally, with new tech comes an array of features. The screens are touch sensitive with pinch-to-zoom. Different display options can be selected from within the MMI (Multi Media Interface) per the driving you’re doing – motorway vs urban or parking manoeuvres, and everything in between.
However, for all the advancement and added features in place of something as simple and conventional as mirrors, Audi is adamant the implementation is geared for quick learning and integration into a driver’s life on the road. This isn’t tech for tech’s sake – it has to actually improve and ultimately blend into our every day driving experience.
Typical Audi quality
The e-tron cabin isn’t short on token reminders that you’re driving the future. Audi is keen to point out “the stitching on the seats creates a motif reminiscent of [an] electric circuit board… as an option, contrasting stitching and piping in orange stand out brightly – taking their cue from the high-voltage electrical system”. You didn’t think there were gimmicks in the future?
Looks wise inside it’s an advancement of familiar Audi – swathes of interactive, high-quality control surfaces and materials with a forward-looking take on its angular cubist design philosophy. It’s sure to be a lovely place to while away the hours on a long, range anxiety-free journey.
Space and refinement
One significant benefit of an EV is cabin space, and the e-tron shouldn’t buck the trend, claiming “interior length, headroom in front and rear as well as knee room in the second seat row are top-class in the full-size SUV segment”. The lack of a drivetrain tunnel adds to the open-plan feeling of the rear, with what Audi calls a “flat plateau” instead.
Without the dulcet tones of an internal combustion engine thrumming away, the final hurdle any viable electric car worth its salt (the range and charge times are a given, right?) has to face, is refinement. With no engine, that’s a lot of silence for road and wind noise to disrupt.
Audi is adamant this won’t be a problem. “Acoustic comfort is one of the strengths of all Audi models. The Audi e-tron prototype raises this level even further: its body has special soundproofing and sealing in all zones that could transmit noise interference. The wind noise, which dominates the acoustic perception at speeds from around 52mph, barely gets through to the occupants”.
So has Audi done it? We’re in no doubt it’ll be a superb effort. Whether it can impress in the company of the new Jaguar I-Pace is another question. We eagerly await the production car’s reveal…