Audi e-tron – Click above for a high-res image gallery

Riding in the Audi e-tron all-electric sports car is akin to dreaming about it. Everything is elegant, light and, well, dreamy. The clean interior just asks you to fantasize about driving the beast, Audi's first all-electric car, with 3,319.03 252 lb-ft of torque down the highway. Get up and go seems to be ideal, allowing you to feel the acceleration, just not hear it. This is how we like our sports cars. At the Challenge Bibendum in Rio de Janiero this week, we got a few minutes of seat time in the e-tron. Sadly, they were passenger seat minutes, but that's better than nothing and allowed us to dream about piloting one of these things into our garage at night. It's the loud thunk from the rear of the car (batteries shifting? transmission? who knows) that woke us up and reminded us that this is just a show car, and that we're all a long way from owning one ourselves. Read on after the jump to see what the e-tron is all about.


Photos copyright ©2010 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

The obvious comparison vehicle for this all-electric, two-seat sportscar is the Tesla Roadster and, when we put them side by side (in our minds) the e-tron feels more refined. The Roadster is no slouch, but Audi has been making deluxe interiors a lot longer than Tesla has. Plus, since it is not constrained by a Lotus Elise body but by the Audi R8 instead, the e-tron is easier to get in and out of and it just feels more comfortable all around. Since we're allowing our imagination to compare the two here, we've got to admit that we hope there will be some sort of cross-brand evolution of electric luxury cars from the Roadster to the e-Tron to the Model S. That sedan's prototype interior looks wonderful (sometimes), and if it can improve on what Audi has done with the e-tron, we'll be more than happy with it.

Driven by four electric motors, one on each wheel, the e-tron has a total power of 230 kW and has a 0-100 kilometers per hour acceleration time of 4.8 seconds. The car's top speed is limited to 200 km/h because, we were told, going any faster would require too much energy. The plan for the e-tron, which will be produced in limited numbers in a few years, is to give it a range of 248 km on a charge. While Audi builds its show cars to actually work, the version we got to experience in Rio can't. The pre-prototype status of the show car was evident in that noise that we, and others, heard when the car was slowing down. The Audi driver told us it happens sometimes and that, "It's nothing worrying."

So, not worrying about that noise, we decided to focus on things that don't go bump in the braking. The interior, for one, just works. The intent of interior design was to keep things as clean and as simple as possible. There is a start/stop button (which requires you to depress the brakes to engage) that not only turns on the car but also brings up an info screen and the gear shift lever. Quick taps on the gearshift get the car ready to go forward or backward, silently.

There are no outside mirrors, just two side cameras and screens and a "rearview mirror" that displays a blend of two small cameras at the back of the car, giving the driver a wide angle view of what's behind him. This is important, because there is no rear window because the battery takes up too much room back there. To the left of the central info display is the energy screen, which shows off the power being used or regenerated. Recuperating energy turns some green lights on, and the more energy you're getting back from the brakes, the more lights go on. Typical. To the right is the spedometer.

On road performance is, sadly, not something we can really comment on. The interior track of maybe 500 meters that we got to ride around once just teased us about what the powerful e-tron can do. Still, we got in once short acceleration, and it's as beautiful as you might imagine. The powerful silence of the electric drive is both surprising and expected for those familiar with electric cars. With the powertrain packaged similar to how it is in the R8 – with the heavy batteries between the occupants and the rear axle, replacing the engine (for weight balance and safety) and the motors in the wheels – the ride and handling sure seem refined in our short jaunt (no surprise, given its roots). Once Audi gives us a chance to stretch the e-tron legs a little bit, we'll let you know what the reality is like. For now, we'll just keep reading drive reports and continue to dream.


Photos copyright ©2010 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

Our travel and lodging for this media event were provided by Michelin.

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