Audi Q6 E-tron range tops out with hot £93k SQ6

2 weeks, 3 days ago - 1 May 2024, autocar
Audi Q6 E-tron range tops out with hot £93k SQ6
New electric SUV ushers in new era of Audi EVs based on advanced 800V architecture

The new Audi Q6 E-tron has been priced from £59,975 in the UK, with the sportier Audi SQ6 variant starting at £93,950. 

Available to order now, the electric SUV has been described by Audi boss Gernot Döllner as a “technological leap”, ushering in a new, high-tech platform. 

Including the SQ6, there are no fewer than 10 variants to choose from, starting with the Q6 E-tron Sport, followed by the Q6 E-tron Performance and topped by the four-wheel-drive Q6 E-tron Quattro. 

Standard equipment includes LED lights, a heat pump for improved efficiency, comfort suspension, heated front and rear seats, 19in wheels, ambient lighting, a 14.5in touschreen, an 11.9in driver's display, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and a head-up display. 

S Line trim adds larger 20in wheels, unique exterior trim, privacy glass and a heated steering wheel. Edition 1 cars get 21in wheels, a 10.9in passenger-side touchscreen, red brake calipers and electrically adjustable sports seats.

The range-topping SQ6 adds adaptive air suspension, sportier exterior styling, a panoramic sunroof, Nappa leather upholstery, electric steering-wheel adjustment and digital tail-lights featuring Audi's new communication light feature. 

The Q6 sits between the Q4 E-tron and Q8 E-tron in Audi’s electric SUV line-up, rivalling the BMW iX3 and Jaguar I-Pace.

Audi Q6 E-tron: Powertrains and performance

While the Q6's exterior styling is a relatively conservative development from that of those EVs, its technology represents a significant step forward, as it's based on the advanced new Premium Performance Electric (PPE) platform that Audi has co-developed with Porsche.

Also used by the new Porsche Macan Electric, this will underpin a host of performance-focused Audis in the coming years, such as the A6 E-tron saloon due later this year. It will also be used for EVs from other Volkswagen Group premium brands, including Bentley.

The PPE architecture is twinned with a new electronic architecture called E3, which will combine to underpin a new generation of vehicles from Audi, Porsche and Bentley.

"The Audi Q6 e-tron is the next technological leap in premium electric mobility for our customers," said Audi boss Gernot Döllner. "The PPE shows how we are pooling expertise within the Volkswagen Group and thus making electric mobility scalable. Thanks to the PPE, we are able to launch high-volume models with high technical standards in different segments and thus further electrify our portfolio,"

The new architecture designed to be highly scalable for medium-sized to large vehicles and can be offered with both rear-drive single-motor and four-wheel-drive dual-motor powertrains.

The main power unit is a permanent magnet synchronous motor on the rear axle with up to 375bhp. To optimise efficiency, an asynchronous motor that produces up to 188bhp is used on the front axle of the dual-motor models.

Audi claims the new motors offer 62% more power density and 33% greater performance than the first-generation units on the Q8 E-tron, while also reducing overall vehicle energy consumption by 30%. The motors also feature a new direct cooling system, and feature a motorsport-style dry sump design, which reduces the amount of fluids needed for lubrication. Both those moves are designed to increase efficiency further.

Power for the motors comes from a 94.9kWh usable capacity (100kWh total) lithium ion battery that features a new design comprising 12 modules – a third as many as in the Q8 E-tron's pack – and 180 prismatic cells, which are now larger and feature less cobalt.

The new design means the battery is claimed to offer 5% higher energy content with 30% greater energy density, while also being 15% lighter than the previous generation.

The battery also features a new thermal management system to better control the temperature and therefore improve efficiency. A cooling plate has been integrated into the pack to better control temperatures, while a new composite-fibre underbody is lighter and allows for improved heat control. A software-based thermal management system uses predictive data to calculate the need for heating or cooling in advance. There is also a built-in heat pump as standard.

The Q6 E-tron Quattro offered at launch will produce 382bhp and 436lb ft of torque from its dual-motor set-up, giving a 0-62mph time of 5.9sec. It will be capable of travelling at up to 3.6mpkWh, says Audi, giving an official range of 388 miles.

The initial range-topper will be the hot SQ6 E-tron, which has its motors tuned to offer 483bhp, rising to 510bhp when the launch control system is deployed.

It takes just 4.3sec to complete the 0-62mph sprint and has a top speed of 142mph, although its official range is trimmed to 372 miles.

Both models will feature adjustable brake regen systems, which can either be manually controlled using paddles or set to a one-pedal model. In its most aggressive form, the regen can slow the car at up to 2.5 metres per second.

The PPE platform uses an 800V architecture, like the Porsche Taycan and the Hyundai Motor Group’s E-GMP platform, and this allows for ultra-rapid charging. Q6 E-tron owners will be able to charge their cars at speeds of up to 270kW, allowing for 158 miles of range to be added in 10 minutes.

On slower, 400V chargers at speeds of up to 135kW, the battery splits itself into two banks that can be charged in parallel, which, says Audi, optimises the charging speed and efficiency.

Home charging can be conducted at speeds of up to 11kWh and, as with the Q8 E-tron, the new model will feature an AC charging port on each side – although this time on the rear flanks, rather than the front wings.

The Q6 E-tron launch range will be expanded by the arrival of two single-motor models. One will use the 100kWh battery to offer the longest possible range. The other will be an entry-level model with an 83kWh (total) battery. That smaller battery essentially uses the same pack but has fewer modules in it, making it cheaper and more efficient to produce at the same facility in Ingolstadt.

The dual-motor powertrain features a rear-biased torque distribution system and the different front and rear motor sizes means that varying amounts of power can be sent to each axle even under full load. 

The car also gains wider rear wheels to better deploy the extra power on the road.

The Q6 E-tron has a redesigned front drive axle, with the control arms positioned in front of the suspension arms, which, claims Audi, allows for better packaging of the battery and improved dynamic performance.

The firm also says the new front axle improves the steering, especially with the steering rack now fixed to a subframe.

Audi Q6 E-tron: Design and lighting

At 4771mm in length, the Q6 E-tron is nearly 200mm shorter than the Q8 E-tron – although it is marginally taller – and broadly the same length as the BMW iX3 and Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV. With the motors pushed to each axle and an underfloor battery, as is standard for EVs, the wheelbase has been stretched to 2899mm to maximise interior space.

The new model gains a fresh, more upright interpretation of Audi’s ‘Singleframe’ grille. The front lights are separated into daytime-running lights positioned high up and the main beam lights further down in the bodywork. The bumper also features chunky air intakes, while the side profile is dominated by large ‘Quattro blisters’ that run along the rear three-quarters of the car.

The rear has a full-width light strip, as well as new OLED rear lights comprising six panels and 360 segments that feature an ‘active digital light signature’. A range of set patterns is available, including a design that subtly changes the pattern every 10 milliseconds and the ability to give information signals to other road users. For example, a warning triangle symbol will activate when the hazard lights are pressed and also when the driver is opening the door at the same time as the sensors detect a cyclist approaching.

Audi Q6 E-tron: Interior, infotainment and software

The Q6 E-tron will be offered with five seats and has a boot of 526 litres complemented by a 64-litre ‘frunk’. A so-called ‘softwrap’ design concept extends from the doors around the main dashboard, along with the use of a large number of soft-feeling recycled and recyclable materials.

The cockpit has been much more radically redesigned than the exterior. The dashboard is now based around a large curved ‘digital stage’ that is shaped like Audi’s trademark grille design and has an 11.9in digital instrument display and a 14.5in curved infotainment touchscreen built into it. There is also a separate 10.9in display for the front passenger, which features technology to prevent the driver from seeing it while the car is moving.

A dynamic interaction light across the bottom of the windscreen lip can be used to convey information.

The latest version of Audi’s infotainment system is designed to be highly customisable and provides the ability to download and use third-party apps such as YouTube and various gaming and shopping platforms. Because the system is built on an Android Auto platform it should be easy for developers to programme apps for, with more than 70 available at launch.

The system will work with Audi’s updated voice assistant system, which, claims the firm, can now understand more than 800 voice commands.

The infotainment benefits from Audi’s advanced new E3 – which stands for 'end-to-end electronic architecture' – 1.2 electronic architecture, which was co-developed with the Volkswagen Group’s Cariad software arm and will be used on all PPE-platform models.

The new software and hardware chipset underpins the entire car’s architecture and is designed to be scalable and upgradable. It uses five high-performance computers, which power the drive system, suspension and lateral dynamics; driver assistance systems; infotainment; comfort functions; and internal networking and external communication. It can support both over-the-air updates and downloadable services – which also means that Audi can offer certain functions as paid-for optional extras.

Audi Q6 E-tron: Production and pricing

The Q6 E-tron will be the first electric model built at Audi’s main Ingolstadt factory, where it will be integrated into existing production lines alongside combustion-engined models.

The batteries will be built in a new battery assembly plant at Ingolstadt, which can produce around 1000 units per day and features a high level of automation. The bodywork is also manufactured on site, while the electric motors will be built at Audi’s plant in Gyor, Hungary.

The Q6 e-tron will be priced from £59,975 in the UK, with the SQ6 starting from £92,950.

Audi is also simplifying the range for the model, with fewer single options and a handful of option packs for buyers to choose from.

Q&A: Frank Lamberty, exterior design chief, Audi
How do you approach designing a car on a new platform?

I’m not a technician: they give me a platform… I realised from the beginning it’s a good platform for design, which is the reason I wanted to work on this car. It gives lots of potential to work from.”

Do you have to balance the new technology with a design that will be familiar to customers?

We have a clear strategy for our E-tron models, which we respect – but you also have to do the next step. Looking inside, I see it really as ‘step, step, step’. You can’t jump too far into the future because you have to respect what you have already. Right now, we have two columns for our ICE and EV cars, and we’re building up each one. So you have to do the right step at the right time.”

So are you using electric models to build new design traditions?

There will be a time when Audi just has E-trons. We’re in a time of transformation and you have to find a balance. In 15 years, when we just have E-trons, there could be a different design language, but until then we have to respect where we are.”

How much of the Q6 E-tron will be seen on future PPE-platform cars such as the A6 E-tron?

“We’re building up the E-tron line. We have the Q4, Q8 and GT, and the Q6 E-tron is the next half-step. We’re waiting for the next half-step, which will come with the A6 E-tron later this year with another improvement. Then we’ll keep on going and going.

Opinion: Welcome to EV 2.0
Yes, the Audi Q6 E-tron is yet another premium electric SUV. The third one from Audi, in fact. So you might not think it’s all that significant – but don’t be fooled. Because this, along with the Porsche Macan Electric with which it shares a platform, really marks the start of a new generation of EVs from the VW Group’s upmarket brands.

The Q8 E-tron used a modified version of an ICE platform and the Q4 sits on VW’s mass-market MEB architecture. But PPE has been developed by Audi and Porsche specifically for a new wave of EVs, with an overt design focus on electric technology and software. In many ways, the Q6 is our first sight of an Audi electric car developed entirely from a truly clean sheet of paper.

The key to this platform is flexibility: the focus on software and computing allows for both over-the-air updates (and, in a less welcome move, potentially more pay-to-access features) and faster general development. It’s also a time to pivot. Firms like Audi now have plenty of knowledge of electric technology – and it’s time to really show what they can do.

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