by: George Achorn
Though the Audi e-tron may mark just the beginning of a new electric era, we find some things simply don’t change no matter the method of propulsion. Improving upon elements like a car’s stance, and also the wheels and tires, remain some of the most effective ways to improve the aesthetic of any car… electric or otherwise.
Lowered Ride Height for this Long Roof e-tron
“Why would you want to lower it?” an unnamed Audi product planner asked when I’d shared my plans for the e-tron with him. “It’ll look like an Avant.”
Well, yeah…that’s the point.
His point was that the general consumer market is drawn to crossovers and SUVs, and not station wagons. Contrarily, Project e-tron is enthusiast owned… and Audi enthusiasts tend to prefer Avants. The low-slung long roof of the e-tron’s body makes for a quasi-Avant profile. While the general automotive buyer **may** disagree, we think there’s something to it. Audi’s considerable history of sporting longroofs gives considerable credibility and resonates with aficionados. For us, lowering Project e-tron was always part of the plan.
Like many Audi models before it, the e-tron is fitted with a height adjustable air suspension. For those seeking to lower the car, this amounts largely to a software change. In most cases of an air suspended Audi, the aftermarket usually provides “piggyback” modules that adjust the suspension downward. Given the relative newness and untraditional nature of the e-tron, we weren’t aware of any options yet to be had.
Then, we heard New German Performance in Virginia had determined a way to program the car down without using a module. They’d worked out a solution for the Audi Q8 and, given the e-tron shares many components with Audi’s MLB-evo architecture, they were confident they’d be able to work out a solution for our e-tron.
In the end, their method worked. Project e-tron now sits about 30mm lower than it did when it was delivered at the dealership. Effectively, every setting in the range is now 30mm lower, with the allroad setting being roughly equivalent to the previous comfort setting.
To our aesthetic, the e-tron’s resulting ride height is quite improved, garnering many more comments from other Audi owners at enthusiast events. Though the general car market may like crossovers, the more Avant-like stance of our long roof e-tron definitely resonates amongst car people.
Handling is similarly augmented. The e-tron’s center of gravity is already quite low thanks to the placement of the battery mass in the floor but tightening up the corners help keep it balanced.
Also, that the e-tron runs at its lowest from the factory while in efficiency mode means there are likely efficiency gains going on.
Are there drawbacks? Yes. In the lowest suspension settings, mainly efficiency and dynamic, the ride is bouncy. On a very smooth highway, these lower settings handle very well. However, on more imperfect pavement, you’ll want to move to a higher setting. We find ourselves using comfort the most. To our eye, it’s just below the factory-height dynamic setting, low and sporting but with much less pronounced rebound.
New Shoes from Audi SQ7
Another obvious choice for marked visual and performance improvement is an upgraded set of wheels. Project e-tron came from the factory with the largest possible 21-inch wheels that were light, forged and optimized for e-tron – narrow width and rated for the higher weight of electric batteries.
When it came time for an upgrade, we wanted to stick with the OEM look of an Audi factory wheel. So, we went with the 22-inch 5-V Spoke Star design wheel in titanium finish from the SQ7. It is a handsome design from Audi Sport that first appeared on the last-generation RS 6 Avant and the titanium finish of the SQ7 application matched the titanium accents on the e-tron.
An important consideration when dealing with e-tron is the aforementioned weight. Though smaller than the SQ7 TDI sold in Europe with its heavy V8 TDI engine, the e-tron is still some 400 lbs. heavier. If you go with a wheel that’s not weight rated for your car, you could find yourself easily bending your wheels or even worse. We did our best to find out what we could about the weight rating of the SQ7 wheel and came away confident enough to give it a try. Even still, it is heavier than stock and boasts a wider contact patch, which meant our electric range would suffer.
Given no e-trons yet wear a 22-inch wheel from the factory, we didn’t have a recommended factory fitment tire. However, we noticed Vossen’s own upgraded e-tron (see: Academic e-tron, p.36 Q3_2019) used 285/35R22. As it happened, this was the exact fitment that was already on these former Q7 fitted wheels. Given the 285/35R22 Toyo Proxes S/T tires were properly weight rated and that Vossen had experienced no problems, we decided to give them a try.
As you can see, the fitment looks very good on the car. The wheels and tires fill out the wheel wells satisfyingly, though don’t rub in any way. Since the tires are summer fitment, we are running them only in warmer weather. Before the seasons turned, we were able to log some miles and found that the greater weight and larger contact patch with summer compound tires did take a toll on range. We’ve seen that come in at about 185-190 miles for a full charge in fall temperatures.
All told, we’re very happy with the results of our suspension and wheel upgrades. Yes, the changes have affected range, so the more range anxious e-tron owner may wish to steer clear.
However, the upsides are obvious to car enthusiasts. Our e-tron has evolved from subtle family hauler to garnering comments most anywhere we go. We even managed to take it to Audi Club Nationals 2019 (see: p.34 Q1_2020) where the net response from enthusiasts with gas-powered cars was universally positive. Not surprisingly, a low-slung aggressive-looking longroof is a hit amongst Audi brand aficionados no matter their preferred method of propulsion.