Audi is getting ready to reveal the e-tron, an all-new electric SUV that will have two electric motors, all-wheel drive and quick-charging capability. The German automaker is keeping some key details, like pricing and total driving range, strictly under wraps ahead of the reveal event happening in San Francisco at 9 p.m. PDT.
Yet, before Audi’s entirely electric, five-passenger vehicle takes the spotlight, we’re here to offer hints about what to expect. Keep reading to discover more about how Audi is taking the electric SUV fight to Tesla, along with main rivals like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar.
Power and Grip
The Audi e-tron Quattro SUV is going to come powered by a 95-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack mounted low to “enhance driving dynamics.” To put that figure into perspective, know that the Chevrolet Bolt EV comes with a 60-kwh battery and returns up to 238 miles in driving range. At the high end of the spectrum, the 2018 Tesla Model X offers a choice of 75- and 100-kwh battery packs, with the latter of the two delivering nearly 300 miles of range for every charge.
With the Audi e-tron, the usable driving range could surpass that 300-mile barrier, too. Part of this will depend on the total weight of the vehicle — a heavier vehicle is usually less efficient and has less range. The Model X tips the scales around 5,400 pounds so, if Audi can keep the weight of the e-tron to a minimum, the range might exceed even 300 miles.
Also, Audi’s electric sport-ute will come with the company’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Two electric motors are located within the Audi, one at each axle. This could appeal to EV shoppers living in the snow belt or where inclement weather is a factor in daily driving. Once again, adding all-wheel drive does add extra weight, so it’ll be interesting to see if Audi has some clever pound-trimming tech lurking within this vehicle.
Audi says the e-tron has been engineered for both AC and DC charging. When using a 150-kilowatt DC fast-charging system, Audi states the e-tron needs only 30 minutes for an 80 percent recharge. That’s not earth-shatteringly fast, though it places Audi’s electric SUV among class leaders, such as the Tesla Model S and Model X, as well as the new Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV.
Audi will also offer an at-home charging station. This 9.6-kW Level 2 system can provide a full charge overnight (about nine to 12 hours). If you only have a 110-volt outlet at your disposal, the wait could likely stretch to more than 24 hours. Expect Audi to sweeten the e-tron charging experience with a deal that includes either free public charging for a set period or subsidies for the home charging system.
Keeping Cool and Using the Brakes
The battery pack of the Audi e-tron Quattro is placed low, directly in the floor of the chassis. This is done to reduce the vehicle’s center of gravity, which should benefit the ride and handling. Put too much weight too high up in any car or SUV and you’ll feel like you’re steering a boat — versus, say, a zero-emission German luxury SUV. The battery pack also has its own dedicated cooling system to combat the range-depleting effects caused by extreme temperatures.
The e-tron Quattro SUV comes with regenerative braking to capture the decelerative forces and turn these back into usable energy (i.e., more driving range). Audi says 90 percent of brake force can be converted back into driving power, providing approximately 30 percent of total driving range. How much Audi factors regenerative braking into the published driving range remains to be seen, however.
While this system sounds good in theory, many hyper-aggressive regeneration systems can feel jerky and artificial when used in the real world. By lifting off the gas pedal, the car might suddenly feel dragged down by some invisible anchor, all in the name of getting brake force back to the battery pack. Some systems are better than others; it remains to be seen how good a job Audi has done here.
Cutting-Edge Powertrain Meets Mainstream Design
Despite all the technology and promise of a new way of Audi driving, the e-tron Quattro SUV doesn’t push the envelope when it comes to its exterior design. For all intents and purposes, based on test mules seen online and teaser images provided to the media, this Audi EV looks very much like … well, a typical Audi SUV. There are two rows of seats with enough room for five people onboard, along with a liberal use of LED lights at the front and rear of the car.
Inside, the dashboard and driver display are dominated by flat panels and touch screens for the infotainment system. Most of the center console controls appear to be touch-controlled, which could bode nicely for fans of high-tech cabins — but also prove a headache when trying to quickly access controls behind the wheel. Audi has a solid track record when it comes to building quality cabins, so we’re hopeful that simple commands haven’t been needlessly complicated.
When, and for How Much, Can You Get One?
A deposit of $1,000 is needed to get on the waiting list for the e-tron Quattro SUV. These are fully refundable, and the ordering process can be completed online. Audi says it’s not going to limit how many people can put down a deposit, though the company recommends placing an order early “to ensure you get your e-tron as soon as possible.” First deliveries are scheduled to begin in early 2019.
As to the price, that’s the biggest mystery, though we expect it to fall in line with electric-powered rivals like the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X. The Jaguar carries a base price of roughly $70,000, while an entry-level Tesla Model X starts at about $80,000. We believe the Audi e-tron Quattro SUV will fall around these two, or perhaps slightly lower (especially if Audi offers a model with a smaller, less powerful battery pack).
Considering the standard five-passenger Audi Q5 carries an MSRP of about $42,000, Audi can’t expect even the most eager first adopters to spend unlimited amounts of cash to put an e-tron SUV in their garage or driveway.
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