Project e-tron: Racked and Ready

words/photos: George Achorn

Summer 2020 was to be the ultimate test. With Project e-tron reaching its peak, we were ready to hit the road for the annual road trip to Maine for vacation. Route 1, which runs in the southern reaches of Vacationland, is an automotive fashion show of the family truckster variety. We were excited to show our e-tron amidst this mix and planned our charging station hops along the way. We even lined up some of the best rack kit in order to better carry our gear with us. Then the COVID-19 curtain dropped.

Taking the plunge on a rack system is a solid investment for those who carry gear, and especially for those with an affinity for “longroof” style Audi offerings. That Audi Genuine Accessories offers a solid mix, and that most of it is compatible with Thule offerings, makes going factory with Thule the obvious choice. We’d made the investment in things like bike, ski and roof box attachments several cars back, though when those previous haulers went away, our Audi/Thule mix of gear remained and has grown.

Thus far, the bike, ski and roof box pieces are straight out of the Audi Accessories catalogue. The box, in particular, is invaluable for beach trips like our annual Maine sojourn. To and from New England, keeping the sandiest or smelliest of gear out of the cabin is required for anyone concerned about their car’s interior. Long road trips are already hard enough on a car, but sand is the absolute worst. Not so when you have a roof box, and our panel-sided Audi unit is also a great way to perform the tourist ritual of adorning stickers from our destinations… again, without making the car itself take the brunt of such getaway shenanigans.

Since we already had the attachments, getting up and running with the e-tron was quite easy. Audi Accessories already offers cross bars that fit perfectly on the e-tron’s stock roof rails. We only needed to buy a new set of bars, and we were back in business with all of our Thule Aero bar compatible attachments.

Next up for our rack needs was the hitch. We’d specifically spec’d our e-tron to have the hitch package… less for towing and more for carrying gear. You see, we have two Super 73 S1 e-bikes that we use as pit bikes while at the track and that are also great for puttering around coastal Maine villages. E-bikes, like our fat tire S1s, are heavy, some 70 lbs., and so you can’t just throw them up on the roof of a car. Those roof rails (and your back) aren’t rated for such things.

For the heavier e-bikes, we turned to Thule and their EasyFold XT 2 hitch-mount bike carrier. While many hitch mounts can carry up to four bikes, the XT 2 is just for two. The reason for that is weight. It’s Thule’s heaviest-duty option for weighty bikes like the Super 73 S1. It also features a fold-up and tilting design that even includes ramps stowed under the tilting platform should you not want to lift the bikes even to the low-slung platform. Using care with bikes mounted, you can tilt the bikes away from the e-tron to access the trunk, though with no bikes mounted, the e-tron’s trunk even clears the unit without tilting. In addition to straps for the bikes’ tires, the unit’s two mounting arms attach to the cross bars of the bikes with the batteries removed, which is easy enough. Other features like built-in wheels for moving the unit around, and locks on both the bike arms and the hitch, are smart and welcome.

When considering equipment, weight is important. The e-tron has a tow rating of 4000 lbs. Figure that translates to a 400 lb. tongue weight rating for hanging a rack. The Thule XT 2 weighs 45 lbs. and each e-bike weighs 61 lbs. without batteries. The bikes alone then are 122 lbs, just shy of the 130 lb. load capacity of the XT 2 rack, and a cumulative 183 lbs. on the hitch.

Will we ever get to take our rig to Maine or learn just how much our range is affected with all that extra weight and aerodynamic drag? Time will tell, but for now we’ve been making use of the setup doing short runs to local bike trails while we wait out the COVID-19 quarantine.

Parts Installed:
903202 – Thule XT 2 Hitch-Mount Bike Rack
4KE071151 Audi Accessories Base Carrier Bars
8T0071128 Audi Accessories Aluminum Bike Rack Attachment
8K0071200 Audi Accessories 405L Cargo Carrier Roof Box
4M8071129 Audi Accessories Ski & Snowboard Holder with Pull-Out Action
Super 73 S1 e-bike