Audi moves to keep its promise, potentially debuting the E-Tron Quattro by early 2018

Back when Audi debuted the Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, it promised a production version of its all-electric SUV would be ready in 2018. Sure enough; it looks like Audi is about on par with keeping that promise as the production version of the E-Tron Quattro was just spotted in the wild for the first time. Little is known about the E-Tron Quattro at the moment, but based on the concept and what we see here, it will be a sporty, sleek SUV that shouldn’t have a problem standing up to vehicles like the Tesla Model X. I wouldn’t expect to see all of the futuristic tech from the concept inside, but it should get a digital instrument cluster and a large tablet-like display. If Audi keeps the same drivetrain setup from the concept, the production model should boast a 95 kWh battery pack that’s good for 310 miles per charge along with somewhere around 429-496 horsepower and up to 590 pound-feet of torque.

Of course, by the time this thing hits the market as a 2019 model, it’s quite possible that other automakers could be taking part in the all-electric SUV niche too. Think about models like the Mercedes EQ and the BMW i5, which should both be on the market by 2020 or 2021. Be that as it may, the segment is rather bare right now, and it looks like Audi just might beat the flock in enough time to grab itself a nice little piece of the market. Before that happens, though, let’s take a good look at the spy shots we have now and talk a little more about what we can expect.

Update 3-15-2018: The Audi E-Tron Quattro hasn’t made its debut quite yet, but it did show up to Geneva in prototype form, cruising the streets of the city center hoping to generate some buzz about itself. Check out the latest images and what’s changed since we last talked about it.

The Audi E-Tron Quattro Prototype

2019 Audi E-tron Quattro Exterior
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The Quattro Prototype is pretty much production ready as showcased by its ability to drive around the city center at Geneva. Since the last round of spy shots, the E-Tron Quattro has morphed from the boring camo and plastic trial trim to authentic production goodies. It rocks the traditional Audi Grille, which seems unnecessary considering its electric nature, along with the production headlights and taillights. Even the front fascia looks production ready with tiny fake corner vents and a large, wide-open air dam. The rear end sports the same taillights we saw on the concept, which we hadn’t seen on any of the test mules, so we’re a bit relieved to have seen them on this prototype.

As expected for an EV, there are no exhaust outlets, and the rear fascia is actually quite boring. The side profile doesn’t look all that aggressive and will probably follow the traditional Audi design style of being mild and unexciting. With that said, we have a bunch of new pictures from Geneva, so check out the gallery at the end of this speculative review.

Exterior

2019 Audi E-tron Quattro Exterior Spyshots
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2019 Audi E-tron Quattro Exterior Spyshots
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Looking at the front end, you can see a lot of the Concept’s DNA, including the sleek headlights, the wide and short grille, and the lip in each corner of the lower fascia.

Now usually, when a concept moves over into production, it loses a lot of the unique styling cues that made it so cool to begin with. This has been a problem plaguing the industry for years, and almost always results in us getting a lot less than we expected from the start. When it comes to the E-Tron, however, that may not be the case. Looking at the front end, you can see a lot of the Concept’s DNA, including the sleek headlights, the wide and short grille, and the lip in each corner of the lower fascia. The hood even appears to have similar body lines on the outside and in the center – not bad Audi. Not bad. There are a few differences up here, and the first is that the grille looks to be sporting a series of large holes right in the center. On the concept, this area was dominated by a sleek grouping of horizontal louvers, but on the production version, this could be a good way to for Audi to keep the battery and/or electric motors cool during operation. It should be noted that the headlights also look largely the same, but they do have a slightly different outside and lower edge that will help differentiate it from the concept.

2019 Audi E-tron Quattro Exterior Spyshots
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Moving over to the side profile, this thing has all the credentials of a beautiful SUV and the concept’s DNA to back it up.

Moving over to the side profile, this thing has all the credentials of a beautiful SUV and the concept’s DNA to back it up. It’s pretty easy to spot the slightly sloped roof and the beltline that runs nearly parallel to the ground with just a slight grade from front to rear. The rear door glass will look a little different from that of the concept, which will add a little more character, while the rear stationary glass will maintain the same shape but look a little smaller. And, of course, this prototype has mirrors and door handles. Down below, thick cladding surrounds the fascias, wheel wells, and lower sides of the body offering both protection and a sturdy way to add attractive side skirts to a model that might see the less-beaten path. In general, the sides skirts look about the same as those of the concept but are defined a little more in the rear.

Around back, the E-Tron gets a rather large overhang atop the rear hatch that also has side wings – something the concept didn’t have. We can’t make out much of the taillights, but I wouldn’t bet on them running the full width of the hatch. The rear-quarter portions of the lights should resemble those of the concept, albeit with a different matrix layout, while the hatch-mounted portions will likely be smaller and be primarily for the reverse lights. Down below, the rear fascia is all cladding but does feature an insert in the center that adds a little bit of character. Nothing special to write home about here, but I suspect the production model will see this insert match the color of the body to help offset things a bit. It should also be noted that the way the body cladding is designed, the SUV does have a raked look, despite sitting parallel with the ground.

All told, the E-Tron will probably look a lot like the new Q6, but that’s okay. It will still have its own features to stand out, and it can still boast about that all-electric drivetrain. And, I should also point out that Elon Musk should be a little worried as this baby is probably going to look a lot better on the outside than the Model X, but what about the inside?

Interior

2015 Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept High Resolution Interior
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Interior from 2015 Audi E-tron Concept

As of now, the production interior is a complete mystery, but I wouldn’t expect it to be too similar to the concept. The exterior may share a lot of DNA, but some of the technology in the concept is a little far-fetched for this point in time. It may still get a flat-bottom steering wheel, high-sitting center console, and digital instrument cluster, but I suspect the infotainment display will be more of a larger, tablet-like device while the HVAC controls will likely be analog. That doesn’t mean that a touchscreen controller won’t be there to control them, I just wouldn’t expect it quite yet. Of course, the production model will be void of side-view screens since it will have traditional mirrors outside, but a 360-degree camera should provide an ample view of the outside for parking purposes.

I doubt it will offer up quite as much as the Audi Q6, but because of the way the battery pack is built into the floor, the only real sacrifice will likely be rear seat headroom.

As far as passenger and cargo volume goes, I doubt it will offer up quite as much as the Audi Q6, but because of the way the battery pack is built into the floor, the only real sacrifice will likely be rear seat headroom. The rear seats will likely sit a bit higher than that of its non-electric counterpart, but should still lay flat to provide ample cargo room when needed. Expect the rear seats to be electronically controlled with at least a 40-20-40 split if not a 60-40 split. The rear tailgate will likely be electric too, making for easy access to the rear even when you have your hands full. I wouldn’t expect anything spectacular for rear seat passengers, but a pair of infotainment displays aren’t necessarily out of the question – with more than 300 miles of range, this thing isn’t exactly obsolete when it comes to road trips. If it gets that solar roof from the concept, it could potentially offer even better range too, which really ups the need for some rear-seat entertainment, don’t you think?

Drivetrain

2015 Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept High Resolution Drivetrain
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Drivetrain cutaway for 2015 Audi E-tron Quattro Concept
The production model should get one large motor up front and two smaller ones out back, providing for AWD capability and easy torque distribution control to the rear wheels.

So, when Audi designed the E-Tron Concept, it basically designed the body around the drivetrain, so you can bet that the drivetrain in the production model will be quite similar, if not identical. This means that, like Tesla’s vehicles, it will have the battery stashed in the floor and motors at each axle. The production model should get one large motor up front and two smaller ones out back, providing for AWD capability and easy torque distribution control to the rear wheels. Audi said that the concept could manage to pull 310.7 miles “when driven conservatively,” so I would expect a similar range, if not better. The Concept made use of a 95 kWh battery, so I wouldn’t expect much more than that. Then again, that solar roof could also aid in range as well, if it actually makes it into production. Based on the camo of the prototype, I wouldn’t bank on that feature, but it’s really still too early to tell.

As far as performance goes, the three electric motors of the concept delivers 429 horsepower. But, when in overboost, a limited function, total output increases to 495 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. It was said to be able to hit 62 mph in 4.6 seconds on the way to a top speed of 130.5 mph. Whether the production model will retain these specs remains to be seen, but I would expect something similar. This thing is going to be pricey, and it needs to be able to keep up with the Model X as well as other competitors that will show up on the market soon. As far as charging goes, expect the standard equipment to include a 110-volt plug for charging away from home and the ability to charge with 220-volt at home with a special in-home charger. Whether or not it will get wireless charging is still up in the air, but it’s not completely out of the question either.

Pricing

2019 Audi E-tron Quattro Exterior Spyshots
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As of the time of this writing, there’s no telling how Audi will decide to price E-Tron Quattro, but if I know Audi, it certainly won’t be cheap. The brand thinks it is royalty and charges as such in most cases, and its first major foray into the electric SUV market will certainly come at a cost. On top of that, the Model X starts out at $82,500 for the 75D, $99,500 for the 100D, and $145,000 for the P100D. With that in mind, Audi will likely price the E-Tron Quattro around the $85,000 mark with a smaller battery, while the range topping version could approach $140,000 territory.

References

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

Competition

Tesla Model X

2016 Tesla Model X Exterior
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2016 Tesla Model X Exterior
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The Model X was the first official, all-electric SUV, and the first one to offer up a decent range at that. It boasts its own unique look on the outside, with a large air dam down below to match the LED fog lamps in the corners. Its overall silhouette has a bubbly look, but it does have the Gullwing doors in the back which is unique to this segment and probably always will be. Inside, the Model X is quite comfortable, and the large tablet-like display serves its purpose very well. Under the metal, you’ll find a 75 kWh battery in the entry-level model or a 100 kWh battery in the middle and upper-range models. The 75D is good for 237 miles per charge, offers a 4.9-second sprint to 60 mph, and tops out at 130 mph. It comes in at $82,500 before government incentives. Moving up the line to the 100D will get you a larger battery pack that’s good for 295 miles. This model will get you to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph. The cash price will set you back $99,500. Finally, the range-topping P100D comes with the same battery, but you sacrifice range by 6 miles to get a 2.9-second sprint to 60 with Ludicrous mode. It too tops out at 155 mph. You’re going to pony up for this model too, with the cash price set at $145,000.

Read our full review on the Tesla Model X.

Conclusion

2019 Audi E-tron Quattro Exterior Spyshots
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I have to say that the E-Tron Quattro looks quite promising, and if Audi can manage to keep the price just a bit lower than Tesla on all of its trim levels while offering up a similar form of semi-autonomous driving, it could throw a monkey wrench in Musk’s whole program. Of course, it probably won’t be able to compete with the P100D, but it’s kind of hard to expect a brand just now venturing into this niche to put all of its eggs in one basket. Impressively enough, it appears as if the production version will look quite a bit like the concept, and that’s really good news as Audi really needs some diversity in its lineup. Hopefully, it will maintain its own unique look over the Q6 and other Audi SUVs, but I’m not holding my breath as Audi could easily bring these looks to its other models in the next few years as well. For now, things look quite promising, but we’re a long way from production, so a lot can change between now and then. What do you think so far? Let us know in the comments section below.

Press release

Audi unveils the prototype for its first all-electric model at the Geneva Motor Show. The sporty SUV combines the space and comfort of a typical luxury car with a range suitable for everyday use. Until the start of series production, almost 250 development vehicles will complete testing under extreme conditions worldwide. Specially camouflaged prototypes kick off the chase for the most spectacular photos.

The Audi e-tron prototype offers a preview of the first all-electric model from the brand with the four rings. The camouflaged exterior conceals a sporty premium SUV with space for five people along with plenty of luggage – the space and comfort are similar to that of a typical Audi luxury class model. The range suitable for longer journeys and the comprehensive charging options allow customers to drive purely electrically without making compromises. The production version of the Audi e-tron prototype can fill up on electricity at fast-charging stations with up to 150 kW charging capacity. In just under 30 minutes, the SUV is then ready for the next leg of the long-distance journey. The electrical quattro catapults the four-wheel drive into a new age and ensures strong performance on any terrain. The production version of the Audi e-tron will be launched on the European market at the end of 2018. The car is produced at the carbon-neutral plant in Brussels.

“Audi sets an important milestone for the company’s future with its first purely electrically powered model,” said Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG. “In 2020 we will have three all-electric vehicles in our product range, with a four-door Gran Turismo – the production version of the Audi e-tron Sportback concept – and a model in the compact segment joining the sporty SUV. We will be launching more than 20 electric cars and plug-in hybrids by 2025 – spread across all segments and concepts,” the Audi CEO explains.

Showcasing high-voltage technology: the design camouflage
The Audi e-tron prototype does not wear the traditional prototype camouflage, but instead illustrates its electrification with a specially developed design film. The distorted e-tron lettering stretches across the entire flank, as if it was charged with electricity. The “e” winds its way around the tailgate at the height of the front fender and is literally electrifying. Mimicking the high-voltage grid, orange elements illustrate the fact that the Audi e-tron prototype is fully electric – the lower part of the car, for example, is encircled with alternating orange and black segments. The expressive sills, with their colorful inserts, indicate where the battery and therefore energy center of the car are located.

Four continents, more than five million kilometers: testing under extreme conditions
Until the first electric model of the brand with the four rings is launched at the end of the year, the sporty SUV will complete test drives on four continents. Whether in the cold of Scandinavia or the heat of Africa, in the mountainous altitudes of Asia or on the north loop of the Nürburgring, in the stop-and-go traffic of major Chinese cities or on American highways – the purely electrically powered SUV has to prove its all-round qualities in uncompromising practical tests under extreme conditions. Audi is testing the pre-series vehicles for customer-focused operation in all climate zones ranging from below -20 to above +50 degrees Celsius (-4° to +122° F). In addition, intensive tests of the charging technology are being conducted worldwide – an important safeguarding criterion for battery-electric models. The individual charging standards are tested on proving grounds and in public areas to validate the full range of different charging options. In total, just under 250 Audi e-tron prototypes are used in the tests. They will cover more than five million kilometers (3,106,856 mi) – roughly equivalent to 125 times around the earth and 85,000 hours on the road.

Hunting down the prototype in Geneva: pictures at www.e-tron.audi
Prior to the world premiere, part of the Audi e-tron test fleet will be out on public roads wearing the electrifying camouflage. The first stop for the distinctive prototypes is in Geneva. Here they drive past prominent sites in the Swiss metropolis at the start of the motor show. Anyone interested can take advantage of these and other opportunities to photograph the prototype in its designer livery and post their spectacular scoop photos on social networking sites using #etron. Audi will publish the best pictures on the website at www.e-tron.audi, without any hide-and-seek.

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