2020 Audi e-tron S unveiled in prototype guise

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Audi’s e-tron electric SUV range is about to get the performance upgrade it has been calling out for, with the debut of a hot S variant – albeit in pre-production, camouflaged form.

When it goes on-sale mid-year, the wagon and Sportback duo will become the first production EVs with a tri-motor powertrain – the Tesla Cybertruck and Model S Plaid are still years away – two of which are located on the rear axle.

In Normal mode, outputs are pegged at 320kW of power and 808Nm of torque, increasing to 370kW and a mammoth 973Nm during brief bursts in ‘boost’ mode.

That’s a considerable increase over the current range-topper, the 55 quattro, which develops 265kW/561Nm or 300kW/664Nm depending on mode.

Audi claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.5 seconds, towards an electronically-limited top speed of 210km/h.

Under the floor is the same 95kWh lithium-ion battery pack as the 55, though no range figure has been claimed – considering the existing flagship e-tron Sportback claims 446km of WLTP-rated range, we’d wager the hotter crossover would see that drop below the 400km mark.

The additional motor on the rear axle enables more advanced torque vectoring, with the crossover capable of sending up to 220Nm more torque to the outside rear wheel than the inside one during spirited driving. The e-tron S drives the rear wheels only in normal driving, with the front motor only engaged if the rear treads lose traction.

Hiding behind the unique wheels – 20-inch alloys are standard, with units up to 22-inches in size available as an option – are 400mm front brakes with six-piston, S-branded calipers. However, it’s unlikely you’ll be using them much in day-to-day use, as the e-tron S can recuperate up to 270kW of power upon deceleration – 20kW more than Audi’s Formula E racer.

Adaptive air suspension is fitted as standard, with up to 76mm of adjustment.

Visually, the S looks relatively similar to the S-line-equipped Sportback unveiled at the 2019 LA motor show, aside from a number of tweaks including a 23mm wider stance thanks to flared wheel arches, as well as a sportier rear diffuser.

Inside, changes are set to consist of Alcantara-accented leather sports seats with S embossing, aluminium sill plates and aluminium or carbon-fibre inlays. The technology suite will remain the same, with a digital instrument cluster and dual infotainment screens.

The 2020 Audi e-tron S wagon and Sportback are expected to drop their camo at next week’s Geneva motor show, ahead of a European launch in the northern spring.

Editor’s note: no images of the regular, non-Sportback e-tron S were available at the time of writing.

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