It’s Audi’s face, after all, would you go out without your face?

Audi showed off the brand-new E-Tron GT Conceptat the L.A. Auto Show and, well, it’s a good looking car. For starters, it’s a well-balanced four-door luxury sports sedan, and I rarely let those words come out when talking about modern cars. It’s got those massive hips towards the back and an aggressive front end that features the oversized Audi grille. If you still don’t like it, you’re not going to agree with the looks of any upcoming Audis, electric or not, since the German manufacturer is keeping it.

The E-Tron GT Concept previews the third model in Audi’s EV lineup that also consists of the E-Tron, that hopes to topple the I-Pace and Mercedes’ EQC, and the E-Tron Sportback that’s slated for a 2019 release. The GT Concept will be here in production form by 2020, and it is positioned as the flagship model of the EV range. It’s roughly as big as an A7 and, if they keep those proportions intact, it will be quite a head-turner because it takes whatever was good about the A7 and A5 Sedan and turns the dial to 11 - including the unmistakable single-frame grille.

Brand identity is of utmost importance nowadays and Audi knows it

Don't Expect the 2020 Audi E-Tron GT, or any other Audi EV, to Ditch the Massive Grille Exterior
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Audi is edging ever closer to an all-EV future. This week, at the L.A. Auto Show, the German Automaker unveiled what is unarguably the most exciting EV concept with four rings on the nose since the R8 E-Tron Quattro. Named the E-Tron GT, it’s going to be the flagship of Audi’s electric range and its development has been carried out by the Audi Sport division.

Design-wise, it's very close to how the production version will look like, according to Audi, and that's a great thing since the protruding rear wheel arches are the right kind of muscular.

That’s without mentioning the LED-adorned taillight bar which divides into separate elements as it extends and widens towards the corners of the rear fascia. All in all, it’s a great looking car without straying away Auid’s well-known design language.

Don't Expect the 2020 Audi E-Tron GT, or any other Audi EV, to Ditch the Massive Grille Exterior
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That’s actually a double-edged sword, at least in some people’s minds. You see, Audis that have rolled out since about 2005, have looked decidedly similar across the board. The same rectangular taillights and headlights and the same single frame honeycomb grille up front. Well, if you are one of those who shares this opinion, be prepared to look down at Audi’s design team some more because the brand’s most important element, that massive grille, isn’t going away even on EV cars that don’t need a grille.

Autocar talked to the man at the helm of Audi’s design department, Marc Lichte, about the E-Tron GT Concept’s design and what it represents in the broader scheme of things for Audi. Lichte pointed out that "[the E-Tron GT] is the next evolution in our design in 2020, both exterior and interior." What that means is that we’ll see more of those nice taillights and flared rear quarter panels, we hope.

Don't Expect the 2020 Audi E-Tron GT, or any other Audi EV, to Ditch the Massive Grille Exterior
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Lichte also talked about the grille, which isn’t a relevant part on an electric car, which means it’s only there to serve stylistic purposes. "For Audi, it would be a big mistake to remove the grille. For our customers, it’s the Audi DNA. Before 2004, we didn’t have a unique face. It is very important that we don’t desert our face. So we said, why not invert it? It’s body color. For me, it’s still an Audi but not with a combustion engine." He then added that "this is the face of all our future EVs."

Judging things from the opposite perspective, that Audi needs to stick close to those design elements that keep their cars 'Audi-looking', makes you understand what Lichte is saying.

To offer some background, the single frame grille first appeared around 2003 on the Audi Nuvolari Concept which was designed around the time that Walter de Silva took over Audi’s design team after Hartmut Warkuss’ departure. The latter was the one who introduced the two, separated, grilles in the ’90s. Previously, Audi models sported only one main rectangular grille between the headlights like you see on the Audi 80 or the classic 100.

One of the first production Audis to receive the unified grille was the A8. "Now the grille becomes strong and not just functional but symbolic," said, back in 2013, Wolfgang Egger, Audi’s former Chief of Design when talking about the introduction of the single frame intake. Egger argued that having a symbolic design element was quintessential for Audi since the German manufacturer lacked a defining element of that nature - like Alfa’s grille for instance which’s been around since the ’30s.

Don't Expect the 2020 Audi E-Tron GT, or any other Audi EV, to Ditch the Massive Grille Exterior
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With the grille in place, Audi’s design time started to refine it ending up with the "three-dimensional, sculptural shape,” which, according to Egger, opened " a world for us to distinguish the models,” and was first seen on the Q3. The grille on the E-Tron GT Concept is an evolution of that idea and it’s here to stay for many years and on many models, as Audi says it will have a 12-car E-Tron lineup by 2025.

Further reading

Don't Expect the 2020 Audi E-Tron GT, or any other Audi EV, to Ditch the Massive Grille Exterior
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The Audi E-Tron GT Is a Firm Model S Competitor; Can Deliver Repeat Acceleration

Audi Teases an E-Tron GT That Could Battle the AMG GT 4-Door and 8-Series Gran Coupe on Electricity Alone Exterior
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Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Audi E-Tron GT.

2017 Tesla Model S Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Tesla Model S.

2020 Porsche Taycan Exterior Spyshots
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Read our full review on the 2020 Porsche Taycan.

2019 Audi E-tron Quattro Exterior Interior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Audi E-tron Quattro.

2015 Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2015 Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept.

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