Audi Q6 e-tron CUV Prototype a Dynamic Work in Progress

Together, the Audi Q6 e-tron and Porsche Macan will compete in what has become one of the world’s most hard-fought market segments: the midsize electric CUV.

Greg Kable

July 25, 2023

6 Min Read
Audi Q6 e-tron front 1.4 FAEROER024
Audi Q6 e-tron styling cues suggest Q4, Q8 e-tron models.Audi

TÓRSHAVN, Faroe Islands – The Faroe Islands are a long way from Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany. Located halfway between Norway and Iceland in the far northern Atlantic Ocean, they are an autonomous territory of Denmark with a population of 50,000, plus many more roaming sheep.

We’re here to drive pre-production prototypes of the Audi Q6 e-tron ahead of its planned unveiling later this year. Against a backdrop of rugged mountain terrain, unruly weather and midnight sun, the German automaker's most advanced electric model to date appears to have arrived from the future with its boldly colored camouflage.

In addition to the Q6 e-tron, we have been given time in prototypes of the more powerful SQ6 e-tron. Both are based on the new Premium Platform Electric architecture developed by Audi and its Volkswagen Group sister company, Porsche – the latter of which will use the structure for its closely related electric-powered version of the Macan.

The Q6 e-tron and electric Macan have been developed alongside each other in an engineering program aimed at achieving similar economies of scale as the internal-combustion-engine Q5 and the Macan. Together, they will compete in what has become one of the world’s most hard-fought market segments: the midsize electric CUV.

Audi Q6 Kable at Faroe Islands.jpg

Audi Q6 Kable at Faroe Islands

There’s an immediate visual familiarity with the new Audi model due in U.S. showrooms by the end of 2024. The styling, dominated by a large blanked-off grille, boasts a similar silhouette to the smaller Q4 e-tron and facelifted Q8 e-tron, but with new elements such as a split headlamp treatment up front and new OLED taillamps at the rear.

Audi says the advanced lighting technology to be used by the Q6 e-tron represents two world firsts for production models, including the ability to provide a triangular signal within the taillamps to warn fellow road users of an impending hazard.

The models we got to drive were all CUVs with a near-vertical tailgate and angled rear window. However, Audi says its fourth dedicated electric model also will be sold in Sportback form with a more sloping liftback-style tailgate, giving it a coupe-like profile.

At 187.6 ins. (4,765 mm) in length, 76.2 ins. (1,935 mm) in width and 66.2 ins. (1,681 mm) in height, the Q6 e-tron is 7.0 ins. (178 mm) longer, 2.8 ins. (71 mm) wider and 1.9 ins. (48 mm) taller than the Q4 e-tron. It is also longer, wider and taller than Audi’s existing ICE Q5, which runs to 184.3 ins. (4,681 mm) long, 74.5 ins. (1,892 mm) wide and 65.4 ins. (1,661 mm) tall.

The Q6 e-tron’s 800V drivetrain uses two newly developed electric motors with hairpin windings and oil cooling. Included is a synchronous unit sited up front and a more powerful asynchronous unit housed at the rear. Together, they are claimed to deliver peak power of up to 396 hp in the Q6 e-tron 55 and up to 510 hp in the SQ6 e-tron. The drive is sent through a newly developed oil-cooled gearbox at each end. There are five driving modes: Balanced, Dynamic, Comfort, Efficiency and Off-Road.

The battery consists of 12 modules with a total of 180 prismatic cells using NMC811 chemistry. Again, Audi isn’t giving too much away just yet but says it offers “close to 100 kWh” in energy capacity and provides the Q6 e-tron with a range of “over 373 miles” (601 km) on the WLTP test cycle, with charging at up to 270 kW.

Our drive of the pre-production Q6 e-tron and SQ6 e-tron prototypes took place in convoy over public roads at controlled speeds. As such, the resulting impressions should only be taken as a guide to the definitive production car.

The Q6 e-tron feels lively, if not super quick. Instant torque from the newly developed electric motors and excellent traction gives it a good deal of surge off the line in Sport mode. It accelerates with initial urgency under a loaded throttle, though with a curb weight over 5,510 lbs. (2500 kg) it is never threateningly fast once aerodynamic drag builds at speed.

With an additional 114 hp, the SQ6 e-tron is subjectively quicker at any point. The stronger performance isn’t all down to the added power, though. You can also feel it offers a lot more torque, proving every bit as determined as Audi’s claimed 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of “under 4.5 seconds” suggests.

The new drivetrain is highly refined, with near-silent operation. This combines with the flexible nature of the delivery to endow the new Audi SUV with highly agreeable cruising properties over extended distances in both Q6 e-tron and SQ6 e-tron models.

Audi says the Q6 e-tron has been conceived and developed to provide its own unique driving feel. “The base concept is shared with the Macan, but we have tuned the chassis to provide typical Audi characteristics,” says Oswin Roeder, head of calibration chassis characteristics.

Audi Q6 etron rear 3.4 FAEROER029.jpg

Audi Q6 etron rear 3.4 FAEROER029

There’s a rear-biased feel to the handling. The suspension receives a newly developed double wishbone design up front and a multi-link arrangement similar to the Q8 e-tron at the rear. It is underpinned by air springs, which offer four different levels of ride height depending on the driving mode, together with constantly variable dampers. In combination with the performance-based tires worn by the prototypes, there’s plenty of grip. However, the outright weight prohibits the Q6 e-tron from offering the same sort of agility as the similarly sized ICE Q5 despite its lower center of gravity.

Although the interiors on the Q6 e-tron prototypes we drove were heavily camouflaged, we did spot parts of a new-look digital instrument panel and infotainment display within a dashboard. Audi has given the Q6 e-tron a newly designed steering wheel with capacitive controls, along with a center console housing a slider-style gear selector among other touch controls. It gets a round design as standard and a hexagonal design as optional as part of an S-Line package.

Overall accommodation is good if not outstanding by class standards. Trunk space is put at 18.4 cu.-ft. (521 L) underneath the cargo blind at the rear with the rear seats in place. A small frunk also provides a space for odds and ends at the front.

There is still a lot to learn about the Q6 e-tron, but in final prototype form the new CUV appears poised to challenge a host of premium-brand electric-powered rivals. A lot will hinge on the price, which remains under wraps for now, but in terms of engineering and overall dynamic prowess, the latest Audi model is shaping up as a sound alternative to the more conventional Q5. At least for those prepared to go electric.

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