Ahead of its time technologically and ahead of its class in terms of interior space, the forthcoming fully electric Audi Q4 e-tron will offer a driving environment that perfectly embodies Vorsprung durch Technik. Sophisticated features including a pioneering augmented reality head-up display and touch-sensitive steering wheel control functionality are complemented in the all-new compact SUV by a level of space that far exceeds the current benchmark in the segment. Its interior is in fact more closely comparable to models from the classes above.
“Full electrification at Audi has so far been confined to the upper reaches of the range in our larger e-tron SUVs and e-tron GT grand tourers, so the launch of the Q4 e-tron into the core compact SUV segment will mark the point at which its influence really begins to radiate,” says Director of Audi UK Andrew Doyle. “The Q4 carries the now familiar e-tron SUV’s DNA as the world’s best-selling German premium BEV into the class, and this preview confirms some fundamentally outstanding qualities that begin to paint a picture of a car that has every chance of decisively building on that success.”
New and cleverly configured: the packaging
Standing 1,613 millimetres high, with a length of 4,590 millimetres and a width of 1,865 millimetres, the Q4 e-tron belongs at the upper end of the compact SUV segment where its exterior dimensions are concerned. Its modular electric drive system (MEB) architecture permits exceptionally space efficient packaging. This is clearly demonstrated by its combination of a short front overhang measuring just 86 centimetres and a generous wheelbase length of 2.76 metres, which surpasses SUV equivalents from the class above. Such dimensions favour the interior of the car, which at 1.83 metres in length, is similar in scale to a luxury class SUV.
Welcome aboard: comfortable entry, generously spacious
Comfort has been prioritised right from the point at which the driver and up to four passengers open the doors of the new forthcoming Audi Q4 e-tron. They open wide to reveal high-mounted, easily accessible seats and generous space, made possible in part by the fact that the electric drive concept enables the centre tunnel to be replaced by a considerably less intrusive flat step. The seats in the second row are mounted almost seven centimetres higher than those at the front, while still offering plenty of headroom, and the quantity of knee room is positively luxurious. When it comes to spaciousness, the compact electric SUV from Audi outshines its direct competitors in the premium segment.
A wealth of storage compartments: 24.8-litre volume and ergonomic bottle storage
The Audi Q4 e-tron has been conceived as a true all-rounder fit for everyday life and leisure and perfectly capable of fulfilling the role of a household’s main car. Its luggage compartment provides a very competitive 520 litres of space, or 1,490 litres when the split backrests are fully folded, and its capacity for stowage of belongings that need to fall more easily to hand in the cabin is equally impressive, with 24.8 litres of available volume including the glove compartment. The centre console integrates two cup holders, a 4.4-litre stowage compartment with a cover, two (or four as an option) USB type-C sockets, and the Audi phone box wireless smartphone charging module where this is fitted. All four door trims feature holders for bottles of up to one litre in capacity which are located far up in the front section of the armrest and are therefore very easy to reach. The upper bottle holders were developed in close cooperation between designers and engineers; finding a spot for them in the limited door space was a real challenge.
Fully digital at four levels: the operating concept
In common with the majority of Audi models, the Q4 e-tron will deliver its infotainment via a fully digital operating and display concept based around a central MMI touch display offering natural language voice control, complemented by the Audi virtual cockpit. And for the first time, this configuration will be available in the UK in conjunction with the option of an augmented reality head-up display – a new pioneering piece of technology.
A new dimension: the augmented reality head-up display
With the augmented reality head-up display in the Q4 e-tron, Audi is taking a huge step forward in display technology. It projects important information onto the windscreen on two separate levels – a status section and an augmented reality (AR) section. Key information and symbols from specific assistance systems and from the navigation module are visually superimposed on the ‘real life’ area to which they specifically relate as content of the AR section and displayed dynamically. They appear to be floating at a physical distance of roughly ten metres from the driver, and depending on the situation can even appear considerably further ahead in some cases. The driver can understand the displays very quickly without being confused or distracted by them, and they are extremely helpful in poor visibility conditions.
The field of view for the AR content from the driver’s perspective corresponds to a diagonal of around 70 inches. Below it is a flat near-field area window, known as the status section. It displays the speed driven and the traffic signs as well as the assist system and navigation symbols as static displays that appear to be floating roughly three metres ahead of the driver.
The heart of the system: the picture generation unit
The technical heart of the augmented reality head-up display is the picture generation unit (PGU), which is located deep inside the instrument panel. A particularly bright LCD directs the light beams it generates onto two level mirrors, and special optical components separate the portions for the near-field and distant areas. The level mirrors direct the beams onto a large concave mirror that can be adjusted electrically. From there, they reach the windscreen, which reflects them into what is known as the eyebox, and thus into the driver’s eyes. At an apparent distance of ten metres, or even further away depending on the situation, the driver sees the symbols just as clearly as their real-life environment.
Predictive picture generator: the AR Creator
What is known as the AR Creator serves as the mastermind and picture generator on the software side. It is a processing unit in the modular infotainment platform (MIB 3) that is comprised of multiple individual modules. The AR Creator renders the display symbols at a rate of 60 frames per second and adapts them to the geometry of the projection optics. At the same time, it calculates their location in relation to the environment, on which it obtains information via the raw data of the front camera, the radar sensor, and the GPS navigation. Its software consists of roughly 600,000 lines of programming code, around 50 percent more than the entire control system of the first version of the Space Shuttle.
While performing its computing work, the AR Creator takes into account that there are always a few fractions of a second between the identification of an object by the sensors and the output of the graphic content. During these brief time windows, the Q4 e-tron can change its position considerably, be it due to braking or a pothole. Multiple computations are performed continuously to ensure that the display in the eyebox does not jump into the wrong position.
One of them takes place in the camera software. For another, the AR Creator uses the most recent data to make a predictive calculation of the car’s continued forward movement. In a further computation, it estimates the vertical movement on the basis of data supplied by the camera, the radar, the sensors of the stabilisation control (ESC), and the height sensor system of the suspension with damper control (optional). These insights are incorporated into the “shake compensation,” which takes place a few milliseconds before the picture is displayed to prevent any disruptive shaking of the display.
Navigation: the drone flies ahead
The augmented reality head-up display demonstrates its strengths in a particularly impressive way in the context of navigation. On the road, what is known as the drone – a floating arrow – shows the next point of action on the route. It is dynamic: When approaching an intersection, for example, the floating arrow first announces the turning manoeuvre before an animated arrow steers the driver onto the road with precision. If the route then continues straight ahead, the drone flies ahead and disappears in order to then reappear with sufficient time before the next point of action. The distance to the turning point is displayed in metres in the lower window of the near-field area.
If adaptive cruise assist, which keeps the car in the centre of the lane, is installed and active, the augmented reality head-up display assists with visual hints. As soon as the Audi Q4 e-tron approaches a lane marking without the turn signal having been activated, the lane departure warning superimposes a red line on the real-life lane marking. Another example is in relation to a vehicle driving in front: If it is active, the car is marked on the display with a coloured stripe – this allows the driver to understand the status of the adaptive cruise assist or adaptive cruise control without being distracted. A red marking and a warning symbol appear if the adaptive cruise assist prompts the driver to verify that they are paying attention.
Three variants: the digital cockpit
The digital instrument cluster has a 10.25-inch diagonal and is operated via the multifunction steering wheel. The power meter, which is located next to the speedometer on the display, summarises all important information on the Q4 e-tron’s status, from the output and the state of charge of the battery to the active recuperation profile. The Audi virtual cockpit which will be standard for all UK models integrates the navigation map and infotainment control and can be switched between two views. In some versions, and in the technology package that will be optionally available, it will feature as the Audi virtual cockpit plus, offering “classic,” “sport,” and “e-tron” layouts, where the power meter plays the main part. Many displays can be configured freely via the MMI here.
Up to 11.6-inch diagonal: the central MMI touch display
The MMI touch display with acoustic feedback has a 10.1-inch diagonal and a resolution of 1,540 x 720 pixels. It is used to control the infotainment system, including the standard MMI Navigation Plus, as well as a number of comfort functions. In addition, it allows text input in handwriting. An expanded 11.6-inch version with a resolution of 1,764 x 824 pixels will also be available at the end of the year, and is notable as the largest display in the Audi portfolio to date.
Good understanding: voice control
The natural-language voice control, which is activated with the keywords “Hey Audi,” is the third control level in the Audi Q4 e-tron. It understands many entries and requests in everyday language, for example “Where is the nearest charging station?” If MMI Navigation Plus is on board, it performs an online comparison in many cases.
Progressive and airy: the interior design
The new era of technology into which Audi has entered is also reflected in the interior design of the Q4 e-tron. The elegant and progressive lines of the instrument panel enhance the sense of space and the cockpit with its markedly three-dimensional design underscores the absolutely contemporary feel.
In the Audi Q4 e-tron, the operating and display units take on the function of design elements more than ever. The digital instrument for the driver appears to be a separate entity embedded between two sections of the dashboard, while the central MMI touch display, which appears clean and light, occupies the space in front of the longer section. It is tilted toward the driver and well placed for ergonomic accessibility.
A slim inlay, which is known as the tech layer, connects the display with the instrument panel and will be available in a wide choice of finishes, including a technical hybrid fabric made partially from recycled material that will be reserved for S line models and offered shortly after the market launch.
Depending on version, the other contours of the instrument panel, which are known as accent surfaces, are designed in various silver and grey tones to match the inlay. The most striking of these contours runs across horizontally, dividing the instrument panel into two zones, and is decorated with a distinctive e-tron badge. Immediately below it, also facing the driver, lies the operating unit for climate control. Below it, a large operating panel with a black-panel look extends into the space. It holds the compact shifter for selecting the gears, a capacitive rotary volume control, the start/stop button, the hazard warning light switch, and the Audi drive select button. In addition, there are buttons for further functions that are designed as seamless touch surfaces in a black-panel look and backlit with white light.
The future in our hands: steering wheels with touch operation
The steering wheels in the Audi Q4 e-tron also give a nod to the future of mobility. With their double-spoke design, they belong to a new generation. The Four Rings on the impact absorber feature a flat design, and the bottom spoke bears the e-tron logo. The upper spokes feature touch surfaces in a black-panel look whose functional areas are also backlit to indicate the respective active buttons. Slight protrusions separate them from each other, thereby making them easier to use, and the buttons provide soft haptic feedback when pressed. As on a smartphone, there are not only touch gestures but also swipe gestures, for example for scrolling through lists.
The steering wheels are available in different versions. The top-of-the-range is flattened at both the top and bottom, making the interior ambiance seem even more futuristic. It features paddles for coasting recuperation and a two-part trim on the spokes, and is optionally available with heating.
Excellent safety: the front seats
Heated front sport seats with electrically adjustable lumbar support will be standard for UK Q4 e-tron models, and represent the state of the art in terms of safety technology. In the event of a side impact, what is known as the centre airbag unfolds from the right-hand bolster of the driver’s seat in addition to the side airbags to ensure that the driver and front passenger do not collide with one another. Electric adjustment will also feature as standard or optionally depending on version.
Dinamica and Pulse: seat upholstery made with recycled polyester
Among the many high quality materials and lustrous finishes available either as standard or optionally for the Q4 e-tron will be upholstery choices in either premium fine Nappa leather or combinations of leather and artificial leather or artificial leather and the microfibre material Dinamica. This looks and feels like suede but is made of 45 percent recycled polyester from various sources, including textiles and PET bottles.
Another particularly environmentally focused upholstery option will be reserved for S line models. It combines artificial leather with Pulse cloth, which is produced using a textile partly consisting of repurposed PET bottles. Up to 50 percent of the textile is derived from the bottles, which are transformed into yarn in an elaborate procedure that yields the same quality standards in terms of look and feel as conventional textile upholstery. A new lease of live is given to 26 1.5-litre plastic bottles to create a set of seats with this upholstery for the Q4 e-tron.
Audi goes electric: the Q4 e-tron launches into a dynamic market segment
The electric offensive at Audi continues to gather momentum. The Q4 e-tron follows the larger Audi e-tron and e-tron Sportback models, as well as the e-tron GT four-door coupé. As a new entrant into the particularly popular and fast-growing compact SUV class it will play a key part in the brand’s electrification strategy, offering Audi customers the opportunity to make the transition to electric premium mobility.