Audi has proven that electric-driven off-road machines can rule the desert when they emerged victorious in the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Though they came up short of winning the Dakar rally, the German manufacturer went back to the drawing board to return with something even better.

Audi unveils leaner, meaner RS Q e-tron E2 Dakar racer image

Here's the second evolution of the Audi RS Q e-tron. Featuring improvements to its weight and aerodynamics, the rally raid vehicle takes the abbreviation E2 from the legendary Audi Sport quattro that ruled Group B rallying in the 1980s.

According to Audi's chief designer Axel Löffler, the RS Q e-tron E2 did not adopt a single body part from its predecessor. And thus, the rally raid vehicle was redesigned from the ground up.

Audi unveils leaner, meaner RS Q e-tron E2 Dakar racer image

The most obvious details lie in the body shell. While it still has the massive roof scoop, the E2 lost most of its fenders with a slightly wider cockpit that tapers towards the front and rear. Audi says the changes resulted in weight savings, a lower center of gravity, plus a 15% reduction of aerodynamic drag. This means not only does it look leaner, the RS Q e-tron E2 cuts through the air a lot better.

When it comes to its powertrain, the RS Q e-tron E2 remains an all-wheel drive with electrically-driven axles. The vehicle still uses Audi's DTM-spec 2.0-liter turbocharged engine as a range extender, charging its four Formula E electric motors. However, changes were made to the car's onboard systems, which were optimized to use less power.

Audi unveils leaner, meaner RS Q e-tron E2 Dakar racer image

Audi also updated the digital screens in the cockpit that shows the driver and co-driver vital information and vehicle functions. The RS Q e-tron E2 has four system modes – Stage, Road, Error, and Settings. “Stage” refers to the functions used when racing, “Road” contains the turn signals and rear-view cameras for road sections or liaison areas, “Error” for diagnostics and servicing, and “Settings” is reserved for giving information to Audi engineers.

Audi unveils leaner, meaner RS Q e-tron E2 Dakar racer image

The Audi RS Q e-tron E2 is set to make its racing debut at the Rally of Morocco in October, featuring a powerhouse lineup that consists of two-time DTM and FIA World Rallycross champion Mattias Ekström, two-time champion and WRC legend Carlos Sainz Sr., and Mr. Dakar rally himself, 14-time winner Stéphane Peterhansel. The trio will headline Audi's assault when they take on Toyota Gazoo Racing and the Hilux rally raid in the 2023 Dakar rally.