Audi is intent on pulling the plug on Tesla, and it is showing off a new battery SUV concept that could prove faster and deliver better performance than the new Model X electric utility vehicle the California carmaker will launch in the coming months.
Technically, the Audi e-tron Quattro debuting at the Frankfurt Motor Show is a concept vehicle, but the German maker quickly noted that it is meant to serve as a “foretaste of the production version” to come by “early 2018.”
The new model, “combines driving pleasure with great range, an expressive design and excellent comfort,” said Ulrich Hackenberg, the Audi board member in charge of technical development, during a presentation the night before the official opening of the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Audi – like its parent, Volkswagen AG – were relatively late to embrace the concept of electrification. But it has launched an aggressive campaign to not just catch up but leapfrog brands like Toyota and Tesla. Along with more conventional hybrids, Audi is working up a number of plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, including a BEV version of its R8 sports car.
The Audi e-tron Quattro concept reveals its plans to go after the fast-growing global sport-utility market.
(Mercedes among the brands taking aim at Tesla. Click Here to see what it’s planning.)
In concept form, the show car version measures 192 inches in length, 76 inches wide and 61 inches in height, about right in the middle between the conventional Audi Q5 and Q7 models. And though the maker didn’t disclose specific details, the production version is expected to make extensive use of lightweight materials like aluminum and, possibly, carbon fiber, to reduce weight.
Mass is one of the biggest enemies of range and performance in an electric vehicle. Another is wind resistance, so beyond conventional efforts to improve aerodynamics, the e-tron Quattro concept also incorporated electrically actuated elements in the hood, sides and rear to further reduce drag. A secondary benefit is the near elimination of wind noise at highway speeds, Audi claims, suggesting that “driving unfolds in near total silence.”
Among the high-tech elements are cameras that replace exterior mirrors. That currently isn’t allowed under U.S. federal regulations but rival Tesla has already applied for a waiver and conventional mirrors could soon begin to disappear from production vehicles if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it the green light.
Under the hood, the Audi e-tron Quattro concept uses three electric motors, one up front and the other two driving the rear axle. Together, they produce 320 kilowatts, or 429 horsepower, and that briefly can jump to 370 kW, or 496hp and 590 pound-feet of torque in the electronic equivalent of overboost mode.
While not quite as fast as the Tesla Model S sedan in its Luuudicrous Mode, Audi claims the SUV concept will hit 100 kmh, or 62.5 mph, in 4.6 seconds, with a governed top speed of 130 mph.
The motors draw power from a 95 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, one slightly larger than that offered in the latest Model S, a 90 kWh pack.
Thanks to the various efforts to maximize range, Audi claims the e-tron Quattro concept will yield 500 kilometers, or about 310 miles per charge. And using a Level III charger it should be fully up and ready to roll again in as little as 50 minutes.
(Jaguar Land Rover rolls out three Concept_e battery-based prototypes. Click Here to check them out.)
Among the other high-tech systems onboard, the concept SUV used matrix laser headlights that can light up the road for about a half-mile. It also has an assortment of sensors, including radar, video and laser, to permit “piloted driving.” Audi has been pushing aggressively into autonomous technology, but it isn’t saying just how close to full hands-free driving the production model will go.
Audi is just one of the brands aiming to take on Tesla. German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz are among those looking to offer extended-range electric vehicles to compete with the California battery-car company. Porsche, meanwhile, also announced a new battery sports car on Monday night that will develop about 600 horsepower.
(Click Here for TheDetroitBureau.com’s complete Frankfurt Motor Show coverage.)