Audi updated the European-spec E-Tron's powertrain to give motorists more driving range. The electric SUV receives several hardware and software changes under the sheetmetal, and Autoblog learned they'll likely apply to the American-spec model in the coming months.
At its core, the E-Tron's powertrain remains the same; it still consists of a lithium-ion battery pack that zaps two electric motors into motion. One of the big differences is that, in normal driving conditions, the motor mounted over the rear axle primarily powers the car, and the front-mounted motor is almost entirely disengaged unless it's needed. Taking it out of the equation reduces drag losses.
Audi's engineers concluded it's safe to unlock more of the battery pack's capacity. It's still a 95-kilowatt-hour unit, but its usable capacity increases to 86.5, up from 83.6. It's better cooled, too, and the climate control system harnesses the heat it generates to warm up the cabin without drawing an excessive amount of electricity at the expense of driving range.
When we drove the E-Tron, we were surprised that we couldn't feel the energy regeneration system kick in; we couldn't one-pedal drive it. Audi added a more aggressive regeneration mode that channels more electricity back to the battery pack. The driver can dial in the desired amount using the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Of course, those who don't want to feel the car regenerating can keep the powertrain on its lowest setting and brake normally.
Finally, the E-Tron's redesigned brakes create less drag. All told, Audi unlocked 15.5 miles of additional range, which bumps the model's rating to about 271 miles according to the optimistic WLTP testing cycle. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives the SUV a 204-mile range, so the updates could bump that figure close to (or above) the 220-mile threshold.
An Audi spokesperson told Autoblog the company expects the American-spec E-Tron will receive the updated powertrain for the 2020 model year. Details haven't been finalized, though. In the meantime, buyers in Europe can already order the updated model, and the E-Tron Sportback unveiled at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show will receive the updated drivetrain from the get-go.