As we await the belated arrival of the e-tron in Mzansi, Audi has taken the wraps off S derivatives of the electric SUV and its Sportback sibling; the pair, which can produce 370 kW and 973 Nm, is said to be first volume-produced cars powered by a trio of electric motors.
Audi previewed the launch of the e-tron S and Sportback S in March 2020 when a camouflaged pre-production unit demonstrated its drifting prowess in a teaser video. The newcomers are technically all-wheel-driven derivatives courtesy of being endowed with 2 motors that drive the rear axle, while the third propels the front wheels.
The e-tron S has a decidedly sporty stance, replete with beefed-up bumpers, flared wheel arches, large alloys and "S" badging.
What’s more, the twin-motor rear-axle configuration enables the S derivatives to apportion torque directly between their aft wheels and in Dynamic mode, the pair has more rear-biased power delivery characteristics than their standard siblings, so much so, in fact, that they can perform “controlled drifts”.
In normal driving mode, when they rely solely on the rear motors and torque is sent to each aft wheel via a single-speed transmission, the S derivatives’ peak outputs are 320 kW and 808 Nm.
However, in more dynamic driving modes – or when full performance is required – the front motor is spurred into action to work in conjunction with the rear ones. Then, the newcomers produce peak outputs of 370 kW and 973 Nm (in other words, 70 kW and 309 Nm more than standard e-tron derivatives).
The electronic management system can also predictively activate the front motor and decelerate the inside front wheel under hard cornering when a loss of grip is detected, while the adaptive air suspension has been tuned “to improve handling and steering responses, while reducing body roll”; S versions ride up to 76 mm lower than their siblings.
The Sportback S has a lower drag coefficient than its sibling; note the sporty rear diffuser and brushed silver detailing.
By virtue of their lofty outputs and traction, the e-tron S and Sportback are said to dispatch the 0 to 100-kph sprint in less than 4.5 seconds and achieve a top speed of 209-kph.
In line with the newcomers’ performance bent, they’re powered by a bigger-capacity battery (95 kWh, instead of 70 kWh) and the Ingolstadt-based brand claims the e-tron S has an optimal range of 359 km from a full charge, while the slippier S Sportback can travel about 364 km between full charges.
The futuristic e-tron S has no fewer than 5 digital display areas in its cabin, including 2 for the side-view cameras.
To distinguish the S derivatives from their standard siblings, they’re fitted with sportier bumpers (with distinctive triangular air intakes at the front and a diffuser at the rear), more flared wheel-arches (that make the cars 50 mm wider), brushed silver trim (in the case of the Sportback S), aluminium mirrors housing and red "S" badging.
The pair are shod with 21-inch (or optional 22-inch) alloys, while their interiors feature, inter alia, electrically adjustable sports seats, Nappa leather trim and be specified with carbon-fibre inserts at extra cost. The newcomers will go on sale in Europe towards the end of the year, while the standard e-tron, which we drove in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2018, is expected to make its South African debut in the 4th quarter of the year. Could the S versions bolster the local range in future? We dearly hope so!