Saturday, 22 February 2020

Holy heck, the new Audi e-tron S will drift

So what has changed?
It is the way the engines work. The standard e-tron uses two different engine sizes, with a smaller one on the front axle. The e-tron S folds the two around - puts the larger in front - but puts two of the smaller engines on the rear axle, and they work independently to create a torque vector system that delivers power shift pleasure without the need for a traditional, mechanical differential.
However, as an S-badged Audi, it must also be wise. So the way the power is shaken varies depending on the driving modes you are in. Comfort sees the power being distributed about 50:50 in the front and rear, but Dynamic can see the split as wide as 10:90, with constant torque distribution varying according to the circumstances - even off-road conditions ... as if one of them was ever on the road will be for something that is approaching the wilderness.
Oh, and considering how much this Tesla's territory enters, you probably want to know a 0-62 mph time. It will do it in 4.5 seconds, more than a second faster than a standard e-tron.
Tell me about drifting.
This is not suddenly a bizarre drifter, but the e-tron S will perform very well for the camera, if you ask for it. In Comfort, it offers an unmillable four-wheel drive; cheeky little hints of power that are used at the rear, but only for a neat, tidy and highly professional cornering posture. This is the car for when a snow pocalypse suddenly strikes and you are still planning to come home (as long as you have enough reach).
However, the dynamic mode is for the empty supermarket parking when you are back in one piece. It is not a hooligan on the surface, but loosens the stability check and it will allow some pretty excessive angles of upset with only mild provocation.
Is that relevant?
Not for buyers of electric SUVs. Lord no. But what it stands for is quite exciting. For the first time ever in the company of Audi engineers I got a wet circuit with an enthusiastic man in a brand jacket who encouraged me to disconnect the links from the ESP and to accelerate as flamboyantly as possible. Images of e-trons that act as mobile smoke machines played on video walls when I registered at the Neuberg test facility.
Normally I would not break through the fourth wall and describe such nerdy admin details, but it is clear that Audi wants us to know that electric cars can not only be fun, but also their own, often sleek performance cars. The usually smart S-badge has a new wanderer thanks to the freedom offered by electric power.
"Our sport differential is great for a car with a combustion engine, but we are always limited by the clutch," says Martin Baur, project manager for Audi's electric torque vectoring. "Here it is completely free and not limited. It is faster, with a much higher torque and a whole new freedom in torque distribution.
"This car floats on snow, on wet, on dry, on the circuit, in the Alps ... You can drive it wisely on the highway and it is a very efficient car with a lot of rain or you press the button and you have pleasure. "
And when you are sensible?
Away from the handling loop where childishness was actively encouraged, the e-tron felt neat and tidy for a car weighing more than 2.5 tons. A smoother, smoother test circuit showed how natural and mature this powertrain feels with smoother use and how well it repels understeer thanks to the magic with torque vectoring underneath.
Only if you hit the brakes hard and lose a lot of speed, the powerful torque is built up so effortlessly that you realize how enormously heavy this vehicle is. The engineers have thrown a cloak over the problem in the corners and concealed it with remarkable success.
What else does the S-badge deliver?
Stiff suspension compared to standard e-trons, as well as a butcher, more assertive appearance with 23 mm wider wheel arches, redesigned bumpers and 20 inch alloys that carry wider tires (with 21s and 22s optional).
It will be available in both e-tron and e-tron Sportback versions, the latter pictured here. The car you see here is described as "very close to production", and we will soon see the e-tron S without disguise, at the Geneva Motor Show in early March, where we also get more specifications and a specification idea of prices. And where, for the life of the rear tire, it will still be dead.

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