With the all-new 2016 Audi Q7 now launched at last week's Geneva Motor Show, and a diesel plug-in hybrid model to follow, luxury maker Audi can turn its attention to its next utility project.
That would be a stylish all-electric crossover SUV that takes direct aim at the Tesla Model X, which is currently scheduled to start deliveries before the end of this year.
At the Geneva Show, Audi's chief of engineering, Ulrich Hackenberg, confirmed that the company was working on the all-electric SUV.
He told the English magazine Auto Express that the lessons learned from developing the all-electric 2016 Audi R8 two-seat sports coupe would contribute to the development of the VW Group brand's next fully electric vehicle.
UPDATE: Audi showed a teaser image of its new all-electric crossover at its annual meeting and press event, held yesterday. In the official transcript of Hackenberg's speech at the event, he said the new “battery-powered sports activity vehicle" will compete in the “large premium segment” with a “new, very attractive design.” Hackenburg promised that we “will hear and see more of this before the end of the year.”
2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011
While Auto Express notes that Audi's press release referred to a "vehicle with a saloon (sedan) character," a company representative later confirmed that the word was a mistake.
The next electric vehicle will be more of a crossover utility in character, the Audi spokesperson said.
Hackenberg said the electric utility would be "more passenger orientated," meaning it will likely have four if not five seats.
The electric Audi SUV "can be used by families that have some money, it is premium," he said. And, "it will have a big battery capacity."
Hackenberg said it would have a range of "more than 500 kilometers" (313 miles), although that distance is likely to be derived from the gentle NEDC European test cycle.
A comparable rating from the U.S. EPA could be somewhere between 240 and 280 miles
He also revealed that the Audi electric vehicle will have dedicated bodywork, rather than adapting an existing vehicle and making the e-tron electric model simply one version of a broader lineup.
And, he suggested, battery capacity could be as high as 90 kilowatt-hours, which even in a large SUV-shaped vehicle should produce a range nearing 300 miles.
Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Range Rover are all in various stages of developing battery-electric vehicles of varying body styles to compete with the Tesla Motors lineup.
Those vehicles are not likely to launch before 2017, by which time the Tesla Model X will have been on the market for one to two years.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The Audi e-Tron Quattro Concept, first unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, was long expected to carry the Q6 designation when it launched as a production vehicle in 2018 or later. In October 2016, however, Audi said the production version would be called simply Audi e-tron. We have updated this article accordingly.]