Audi shows off the Q4 E-Tron’s new augmented reality display

Audi has revealed the interior of its next EV, the Q4 E-Tron, which serves up mostly modern SUV vibes and features a few new technologies making their way into Audi’s vehicles.

The centerpiece of what Audi debuted on Tuesday is a new augmented reality heads-up display in front of the driver, which offers a wider field of view and more accurate and advanced animations. Some examples Audi gave of it in use are:

the AR system placing a red line over a lane marker to let a driver know when they’re drifting too far to one side;

an animation that tracks the car ahead when using adaptive cruise control;

turn-by-turn navigation that places a bright blue arrow in the driver’s field of view.

Audi says this new AR system pulls in more than 1,000 “signals” from sensors all over the Q4 E-Tron to figure out exactly where to place these AR elements — and to keep them in place, even if you are driving over a bumpy surface — which is somewhat reassuring. It’s one thing when there’s a heads-up display that’s small and only shows relatively static information like the car’s current speed. As soon as the field of view is increased and you start messing around with dynamic graphics, it becomes really important to make those elements look like they’re actually adhering to the real world, or else things could get distracting — or worse, disorienting — really quickly.

Exactly how well Audi pulled this off, though, is unclear. The company only showed off a few simulated animations of the AR display in action. We’ll have to wait for the full reveal of the Q4 E-Tron in April, and really until people start driving the SUV, to get a sense of what it’s truly like.

The Q4 E-Tron also features — as an option — the biggest touchscreen Audi’s ever put in one of its vehicles, which measures 11.6 inches diagonally. The standard touchscreen is the more common 10.1-inch size found in Audi’s recent cars, and there’s a 10.25-inch driver display behind the steering wheel as well.

That Q4 E-Tron’s steering wheel is new, too, and Audi has traded physical buttons out for backlit touch-sensitive ones. There’s haptic feedback to simulate the feel of pressing a button, and some of them can be swiped to scroll through lists on the driver display. Despite all this, though, the Q4 E-Tron’s cockpit is still adorned with physical buttons in a way that some EVs aren’t.

The German luxury carmaker also showed off a camouflaged version of the Q4 E-Tron’s exterior, which is slated for a full unveiling in April, and released a few other basic specifications about the SUV.

The Q4 E-Tron is the third in Audi’s new all-electric lineup of vehicles, but it will be the first to be powered by parent company Volkswagen’s modular “MEB” platform. That same platform is what underpins the VW ID lineup of electric vehicles, as well as the forthcoming Sportback version of the Q4 E-Tron SUV.

Audi shared Tuesday that the Q4 E-Tron will be 4,590mm (15.1 feet) long, 1,865mm (6.1 feet) wide, and 1,613mm (5.3 feet) tall, which the company says puts it in the “larger compact SUV segment.” In more practical terms, it’s just a bit smaller overall than the original E-Tron and the Tesla Model Y and is quite close in size to its cousin, the VW ID 4.

While Audi has not released a range estimate since the Q4 E-Tron concept debuted in 2019, the smaller size and the use of the MEB platform will likely mean the SUV won’t be nearly as heavy as the original E-Tron, which weighed about as much as a Tesla Model X. That should help the Q4 E-Tron beat its predecessor’s serviceable mile range figure. (Audi had originally promised the Q4 E-Tron would get around 280 miles on a full charge, though we’ll see where the final estimate winds up later this year.)

Despite its stature, Audi says the Q4 E-Tron has a wheelbase that’s more comparable to medium-sized SUVs and interior space that’s more in line with a full-size SUV — which is accomplished by moving a lot of the technology into the MEB platform that makes up the floor of the SUV.

All of this should set Audi up for relative success with the Q4 E-Tron. It’s a more approachable size and is built on what looks increasingly like a solid platform from Volkswagen, though the SUV will still feature plenty of Audi styling and technology all its own. (That’s a good thing when considering the trouble VW has had with its own software in the ID 4 and the smaller ID 3 in Europe.) Audi sold around 47,000 electric cars in 2020 with the E-Tron SUV and E-Tron Sportback, accounting for nearly 3 percent of all of the company’s sales. The Q4 E-Tron will undoubtedly keep pushing those numbers higher, though it is still just one of a number of electric vehicles coming to the German brand’s lineup in the next few years.