A made-for-Motown variation on its electric wundercar theme, the awkwardly-named but admittedly cool-looking Detroit showcar Audi e-tron offers a scaled down and even more aggressively styled take on the original. Measuring just 154.1 inches in length and with a 95.7-inch wheelbase, the Detroit showcar variant is more than a foot shorter than the e-tron shown in Frankfurt and even smaller than Audi's current TT model. This de facto prototype for what Audi foresees as a possible future sports car below the R8 range weighs just 1,350 kg (2,976 pounds) -- 250 kg (551 pounds) less than the seminal e-tron. Like the original e-tron, it uses a combination of Audi aluminum space frame architecture combined with carbon fiber to ensure an exceptionally strong and rigid platform.
In addition to its more compact dimensions, the Detroit showcar uses only two, rather than four, electric motors. Both are located on the rear axle and matched with an 880-pound lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack, controller and integral cooling system also positioned behind its two-passenger cabin to yield a 40/60 percent weight distribution. Rated at 204 horsepower, these high-torque motors can send the Detroit showcar Audi e-tron from 0-60 mph in less than 5.9 seconds.
Electronically limited to 125 mph, this Audi-in-waiting can travel up to 155 miles on a single charge. The 45-kWh power pack in the Detroit showcar requires between two and 11 hours to be fully replenished, depending on the specific energy source. To facilitate on-the-fly recharging, Audi also fitted its latest-iteration e-tron with an even more effective form of regenerative braking that employs full electronic actuation of the rear calipers to yield an even greater degree of energy conversion.
Shod with unique Audi-design 235/35 tires on 19-inch, 35-spoke wheels and using an advanced intelligent torque vectoring system to optimize the power sent to each rear wheel, the Detroit showcar e-tron promises an even more dynamic driving experience that's virtually devoid of understeer and oversteer issues. Electromechanical power steering and a sport-tuned suspension that Audi claims still retains a good measure of ride compliance round out its performance pedigree.
Whether we'll see a production version of this particular vehicle, or whether it's really meant to serve as a portent of what the next-gen TT or a more-affordable "R4" model might bring -- or perhaps both -- remains to be seen. But statements from its CEO, Rupert Stadler, indicate that the automaker intends to continue exploiting the potential of the "e-tron" experience for years to come. Audi has already confirmed that an A8 Hybrid will appear on its show stand in Geneva in March. Who knows what else may be joining it?