The electric estate was spotted testing on roads around Germany
The long-awaited electric version of the Audi A6 is nearly ready to be revealed, with prototypes shedding almost all their camouflage during the final stages of development.
A prototype of the new A6 Avant E-tron has been spotted testing on roads around Germany, revealing its bold new design language as it gears up to take on the upcoming BMW i5 Touring.
Its profile has been heavily influenced by last year's acclaimed A6 Avant E-tron concept, gaining with slim daytime running lights sitting above the main headlights, a large front grille, cameras to replace its rear-view mirrors and completely redesigned rear lights with a (still obscured) light bar.
It also has door handles also sit regressed into the bodywork – something not shown on the concept – and new, aerodynamically optimised alloys.
Audi hasn't yet given full details of the drivetrain, but it will sit on the Premium Platform Electric (PPE) which Audi has developed in partnership with Porsche and will be deployed first in the new Porsche Macan EV and Audi Q6 E-tron.
The new A6's specifications will likely mirror those of the PPE-based Q6 E-tron, which offers 396bhp and a 100kWh battery in '55' trim, and is equipped with 800V charging architecture, which means faster charging and less weight.
Elsewhere in the range, there will be a choice o performance-oriented dual-motor set-ups and efficiency-minded, rear-driven variants offering 0-62mph times ranging from “well under” 4sec to 7sec.
In this application, the PPE platform accommodates a circa-100kWh floor-mounted battery that gives a claimed range of 435 miles and ability to charge at a rate of 270kW. This allows it to gain 186 miles of range from a 10-minute top-up.
Because the battery is sited flat and arranged across the chassis, the earlier concept version of the A6 Avant E-tron is said to offer broadly comparable interior dimensions and load capacity to the current A6 - a trait that will likely carry over to the production car.
However, product marketing boss Niko Martens said EV platforms will ultimately “give more leeway and flexibility, not just in the trunk [boot] but also up the front for a potential frunk”.
Importantly, the electric concept shows how the longer wheelbase afforded by an EV platform allows for more leg room in the front and rear.
The A6 Avant E-tron measures 4960mm long, 1960mm wide and 1440mm tall, which makes it roughly the same size as its ICE forebear.
In an interview with Autocar, Audi design boss Marc Lichte said: "The A6 E-tron [will launch] exactly three years after we launched the E-tron GT, and on the A6 E-tron – as you could see on the concept car, which is very, very, very, very, very close to the production car – you can see that we will go sleeker and simpler."
Following on from the A6, the new A8, also launching this year, will be "very close" to 2021's Grandsphere concept, according to Audi design boss Marc Lichte.
The unveiling of the A6 E-tron came just a few months after Mercedes-Benz product boss Markus Schäfer told reporters that traditional estates faced an “uncertain” future in light of waning demand for low-riding family cars.
Audi designer Phillipp Römers said: “We’ve got a long tradition with very sporty, very emotional Avants. It’s a tradition that really is in our roots and we want to continue it, so for us as designers, it’s always fantastic to work on that bodystyle, because it’s the perfect combination of usability and expressive, sporty design.”
Martens concurred: “We still can see a buoyant demand for the car. It’s not a concept that works globally, true, but it's hugely successful and hotly in demand.”
Grand plans for PPE platform
Audi has confirmed that the PPE will also be deployed in the segments immediately below and above the A6, which means the best-selling Audi A4 and range-topping Audi A8 will also be succeeded by PPE-based EVs.
The company has already previewed the electric Audi A8 successor with the outlandish Grandsphere concept, but details of an electric A4 equivalent have yet to be given.
It will no doubt tout performance specifications to match those of the larger A6 and also be offered in saloon and estate bodystyles, but it has yet to be given a release date.
Audi says the PPE can be used by both SUVs and the lower-slung traditional models, which means “electric vehicles will now also be attractive to customers who prefer automobile concepts beyond the SUV segment”.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Bryce