2025 Audi Q6 e-tron Is a Tiny Tech Powerhouse: Electric SUV First Drive

Mike Powers
2025 Audi Q6 e-tron Is a Tiny Tech Powerhouse: Electric SUV First Drive


The Tesla Model Y’s success as 2023’s best selling car globally proves what we already know: Midsize premium SUVs are so hot right now (especially in America) and many shoppers in the class are both curious about and ready to make the EV conversion. The new Audi Q6 e-tron and its sport-tuned SQ6 variant are shots aimed at the heart of this highly competitive segment, marking their debut with a salvo of new technologies. 

The Q6 is the first Audi model built on the new PPE electric vehicle platform shared with Porsche’s upcoming Macan EV, boasting faster charging and improved efficiency. The EV fills its dashboard with the latest generation of the automaker’s tech and trio of OLED displays powered by Android and AI. Even the taillights break new ground with unique features that boost safety and style. Audi has pulled out all of the stops for what could be the most important model in its battery-powered lineup and a critical step on the brand’s path to full electrification.

Slotting into Audi’s e-tron family between the three-row Audi Q8 e-tron and the compact Q4 e-tron, the Q6 measures 187.8 inches long with a 114.1 inch wheelbase — scaled to precisely compete with the Model Y and serve as a premium alternative to other midsize EV SUVs like the VW ID 4, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Kia’s EV6. You’ll find around 18.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the power lift gate. Up front, an additional 2.2 cubic feet of frunk storage accommodates a small carry-on size bag or the charging cable. Inside, a spacious cabin boasts room for five passengers with a flat, hump-free floor. Audi also claims over 2 tons (US) of towing capability for the midsize e-tron SUV.

EV performance and range

Underpinning the Q6 e-tron is the Volkswagen Group’s new Premium Platform Electric architecture, which is shared with the upcoming Porsche Macan EV. At launch, the SUV will be offered in two specs — Q6 and SQ6 — each with dual-motor all-wheel drive. The front motor is an asynchronous (ASM) unit that provides on-demand torque to the front axle as needed, while the rear permanent magnet (PSM) motor is a bit more powerful and serves full time. Both motors have been designed to use fewer heavy rare earth metals in their construction and identical diameters for their rotors and stators, which allows them to share many components, saving cost and complexity. One notable shared component is each motor’s self-contained dry sump lubrication and cooling system — inspired by motorsports combustion engines — which injects oil directly onto the e-motors’ rotating components to improve thermal performance, efficiency and, ultimately, range.

The Q6 will debut in its all-wheel drive SUV configuration, but rear-drive and Sportback models will join the family post-launch.

Audi

In the US, Q6 e-tron quattro outputs a combined 315 kilowatts (or around 422 horsepower), but can boost to 340 kW (456 hp) for a launch control burst to achieve its estimated 5.0 second 0-60 mph sprint. Meanwhile, the more potent SQ6 e-tron steps up to 360 kW combined (483 hp) and a 380 kW (510 hp) launch-controlled sprint to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. The SQ6’s 143 mph top speed is also slightly higher than the Q6’s 130 mph speed limit. 

I was able to experience the SQ6’s power firsthand when I hopped behind the wheel of a European-spec prototype for a very brief first drive around a parking lot handling course at the Audi Brand Experience Center at Munich Airport. It’s quick and extremely responsive in its Dynamic drive mode, which keeps both motors active while also weighing up the steering for a more precise feel. Efficiency mode, on the other hand, deactivates the front motor for improved range, retaining what still feels like ample power for around town motoring. I’d need more time behind the wheel for more detailed driving impressions, so we’ll loop back on the Q6 e-tron when the North American spec arrives.

The Q6 and SQ6 configurations both make use of a new 100 kWh nickel manganese cobalt battery pack (or 94.9 kWh when accounting for reserve) featuring a new chemistry that requires less cobalt to produce while claiming 50% more energy density than the previous generation. Audi says this allows the Q6’s pack to be 15% lighter than its previous EV generation of the same capacity, squeezing “over 300 miles” of range between charges. (Actual EPA estimates are yet to be released.) SQ6’s performance upgrades, larger wheels and wider tires will cost it a bit of range, but at time of publication, Audi hasn’t stated how much.

One battery that acts like two

Audi also claims the new Q6’s 800-volt architecture charges 30% faster than its previous EVs. If you can find an 800-volt DC fast charging station, the EV can accept up to 270 kW, rocketing from 10% to 80% state of charge in as short as 21 minutes. However, most DCFC stations you’ll find today operate at 400 volts. To deal with this, Audi’s 800-volt battery can split itself into two “virtual batteries” that charge in parallel at 400 volts each. In this mode, the maximum charging speed drops to 135 kW, but there’s less energy lost to voltage conversion, potentially saving charge time and cost.

When connected to a lower voltage DC fast charger, the Q6 e-tron’s 800-volt battery can split into two 400-volt banks.

Audi

One thing that I’ve always loved about Audi’s e-tron models is that they’re available with dual charging ports, which can now be found on the rear fenders of the Q6 where they allow a bit more flexibility when parking and charging at home and destination chargers. On the driver’s side, the CCS combo port accommodates the DC fast charging and AC Level 1 and Level 2 charging. The passenger side port is AC only, accepting up to 9.6 kW/40A on North American single-phase 240-volt power. Though Audi has committed to switching to the NACS standard, the Q6 e-tron will not feature the “Tesla port” at launch.

Like most EVs, the Q6 is also able to recharge itself with recaptured braking energy. There are now five user-selectable regeneration modes, including a new one-pedal driving mode that engages full regen when the accelerator is lifted and can bring the SUV to a stop without touching the brake pedal. All modes offer up to 220 kW of recuperation — reclaiming up to 95% of braking energy with each stop — automatically balancing friction brakes with the regeneration as needed.

Active OLED technology

This wouldn’t be an Audi debut without a new lighting technology that’s too advanced for our vehicle regulations here in the States. The new Q6 e-tron debuts new generation LED and OLED technology. Up front, the daytime running lights feature 61 white LED segments each, while the rear lights share 360 triangular digital OLED segments that can display animated sequences that greet the driver when approaching or locking the vehicle. This feature also powers 11 user-selectable themes that customize the look and shape of the SUV’s light signature. One theme even features animations that play while driving, using an algorithm to ensure that the overall light output of the animation remains constant to reduce distraction to other drivers. US regulations prevent the use of moving lights on passenger cars, so we’ll get only the static themes.

The next-generation OLED Matrix rear lights feature user selectable themes and driver aid iconography.

Audi

Beyond just looking cool, Audi is thinking of ways to use its lighting tech to improve safety. For example, when activating the hazard lights or when the automatic emergency braking system is triggered, the OLED taillights reshape to form a triangle icon (similar to the shape on the button for most cars’ hazard lights) to warn other drivers of danger. Audi also demonstrated tail light configurations that notified pedestrians or other drivers that the Q6 was performing an automated parking maneuver or that a door was about to open into a bike lane. In all cases, the effect is subtle and doesn’t seem to affect visibility.

Audi Digital Stage

Settle in behind the wheel to be greeted by Audi’s new triple-display Digital Stage MMI infotainment suite. This setup mates a pair of flexible OLED displays — an 11.9-inch digital instrument cluster and a large 14.5-inch main touchscreen — to a single glass panel that curves around the steering wheel. The hardware runs the latest-generation of Audi’s Multimedia Interface (MMI) software, which is now based on Android Automotive OS. Though, without “Google Built-In,” users will use Audi’s own curated marketplace rather than Google Play Services to download apps like Spotify, PlugShare, YouTube or Beach Buggy Racing. (Video apps and games, by the way, will be restricted to use when parked and charging.)

Audi’s marketplace also enables downloadable “function on demand” features like improved surround sound processing or alternate light signature themes, which kind of sounds cool. However, mostly this opens the potential for microtransactions and paywalling features which, ultimately, I’m not super thrilled about.

Rounding out this triple screen rig is the 10.9-inch passenger display located on the far right of the dashboard. This is a fully featured infotainment interface that allows the front seat passenger to search for and send destination to the main navigation screen, select audio sources and more. Passengers can even view video sources, like YouTube, while the vehicle is in motion thanks to an Active Privacy Mode that prevents the driver from seeing or being distracted by the auxiliary screen.

There are fewer physical controls and more screens in the Q6 e-tron’s cabin, but a new AI voice assistant system (hopefully) reduces distraction.

Audi

This generation of MMI features fewer physical and haptic controls than before, unfortunately, moving more controls onto the touch screen and voice control. To that end, the Q6 will feature Audi’s new AI-voice assistant powered by a mix of cloud-based and offline natural language recognition with over 800 functions, many with up to 100 variations. The system will also be able to answer knowledge-based questions about the vehicle itself (like “how much pressure goes into the tire?”) and general subjects.

Directional microphones ensure that a child in the backseat can’t change the route by shouting, “Hey Audi, navigate to Coldstone” — only the driver can do that. When the vehicle detects that the driver is alone in the cabin, the “Hey Audi” hotword isn’t even necessary; just speak aloud and the car will answer.

The Q6 e-tron is also available with a large augmented reality head-up display that projects speed, navigation and driver aid information into the driver’s field of view. Audi says the HUD can also be used to play one of two games using steering wheel controls when the e-tron is parked. Along the edge of the dashboard at the base of the windshield, users will also note the Audi Interaction Light, a strip of 84 full-color LEDs that light up and animate to communicate various functions, such as the turn signal, driver aid alerts or the AI Assistant voice command. The strip is visible from outside the vehicle, allowing it to also serve as a charging indicator when plugged in. We’ve seen a similar technology used on the Q6 e-tron’s older cousin, the Volkswagen ID 4.

The SQ6 e-tron’s more aggressive design and larger wheels are visual indicators of its increased power.

Audi

What’s next for the Audi Q6 e-tron?

Having checked the tech and taken the Q6 and SQ6 e-tron SUVs for very short first drives has left me excited for this new addition to the EV landscape and eager to spend more time behind the wheel, experience the performance under real-world conditions and see how Audi’s unique approach to dashboard tech shakes out on the road.

The first Audi Q6 e-trons will begin reaching European customers this summer with orders opening this month (March 2024) starting at 74,700 euros (around $81,203). North American prices will almost certainly be significantly lower to slot in between the smaller Q4 ($56,395) and larger Q8 ($75,595) e-tron models, but final MSRP hasn’t been announced. Expect to learn more when reservations open in the coming weeks at AudiUSA.com.

Post-launch, Audi expects to add Sportback variations and two rear-wheel drive configurations to the mix (one long range model and an entry-level spec that I reckon will use a smaller 83 kWh battery pack.) When asked whether we’ll eventually see an even hotter-trotting RS Q6 e-tron variant, representatives of the automaker refused to confirm beyond knowing smiles.





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