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Audi's electric R4 at the Detroit motor show 2010

Mon, 11 Jan 2010 00:00:00 -0800

This is Audi’s latest electric E-tron sports car, unveiled at today’s Detroit motor show. Or to give the concept its official name, this is the Audi E-tron Detroit Showcar. Catchy.

More importantly, think of the concept as a glimpse of what the future holds for Audi’s sports car range...

Think of it as Audi’s vision of what a sports car below the R8 might be like. We know Ingolstadt hopes to have its own version of VW’s Bluesport roadster – and insiders confirm this is indeed our first glimpse of the much-mooted R4.

The two-seat E-tron is just 3.93m long (the Bluesport measures 3999mm) so it’s shorter – as well as lower and narrower – than a TT. Unlike the four-motor, four-wheel drive E-tron unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt show, this E-tron has just two motors and rear-wheel drive. Still, the two electric units (mounted on the rear axle) combine to produce 1955lb ft – down from big brother’s 3319lb ft – and 201bhp so the E-tron is propelled to 62mph in just 5.9 seconds. Together with the smaller shape, aluminium spaceframe and carbonfibre-reinforced plastic body, the E-tron weighs just 1350kg, versus 1600kg for the original E-tron.

The lithium-ion batteries that power the E-tron are mid-mounted and tip the scales at 399kg, giving the show car a 40:60 front-to-rear weight distribution. With the car’s top speed limited to 124mph, their 45kWh capacity gives a 155-mile range.

Production versions – which 'will look 90% like this', say well placed insiders – will of course sport a range of petrol and diesel engines as well. But Audi is serious about producing electric versions too.

Yes. This baby E-tron also has the original’s torque vectoring system that sends twist to the required wheel, LED headlights that react to weather and traffic conditions, plus a minimalist interior that takes advantage of the lack of a transmission tunnel to liberate extra space.

The E-tron also has a Smartphone that integrates with the car and allows you to programme the sat-nav from the comfort of your own home, and side intakes that open or close depending on the car’s cooling needs. They're seriously cool, and headed for production.

By Ben Pulman and Tim Pollard