BAKER, Calif. — Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. While recharging at the Electrify America station in Baker, Calif, we came upon a camouflaged car sitting by itself. A quick glance at the front revealed the outline of Audi’s logo. Judging by its size and its hatchbacked trunk, it sure seemed like it was the next-generation Audi A5 Sportback.
Soon, it was joined by a few production Audis and then two more camouflaged future vehicles, which unlike the future A5, were in need of charging: a Q6 E-Tron, which we’ve already previewed, and the future Audi A4 E-Tron. It too had a hatchback, so it’s possible that this was the A4 E-Tron Sportback and that there will also be a regular A4 E-Tron sedan. It’s important to note here that we know that Audi’s future naming convention will consist of even numbers representing gasoline powered cars and odd numbers being E-Tron electric vehicles.
Although the A4 E-Tron and A5 Sportback seemed to be roughly the same size, there are differences between power source. The E-Tron has the same split front lighting arrangement as the Q6 E-Tron has, indicating that this will be a point of visual differentiation for future E-Tron models. The A4 also has a higher, more pronounced “Bangle Butt” trunk lid for lack of a better term, but there’s definitely a resemblance to the infamous turn-of-the-century BMW 7 Series’ trunk lid (as well as the contemporary 6 Series). Speaking of BMWs, Audi had a BMW i5 M60i along with them, possibly for benchmarking purposes.
Finally, both the A4 and Q6 E-Trons had a large, curved display presumably doing double duty as an instrument panel and infotainment display/touchscreen (we didn’t get to see the interior during the prototype first drive). We were only able to photograph it from afar in the moving Q6, but we could clearly see it in both cars, and will be new hardware for the Audi brand. It will be interesting to see how functionality differs from Audi’s existing haptic touchscreen infotainment system, as well as whether there will be a second touchscreen below handling the climate control and other functions, or if Audi will go back to some physical controls (we wouldn’t bet on it.
Given the location in Baker, it’s a safe bet that these cars had just been testing in Death Valley, albeit in winter rather than torturous summer testing. The mountainous terrain and extreme wind would still pose a tough challenge for any EV. Given the rather complete look of these cars apart from the camo, it appears they’re not too far away from full reveals.