Established automakers have finally decided they have the stones to challenge Tesla. Over the last few months, premium manufacturers have issued a glut of product announcements on vehicles targeting the premium EV segment. Audi dabbled in electrification earlier than most before scaling back a bit. However, it’s now positioning three new battery-electric models for production — the E-Tron Gran Turismo, Quattro SUV, and Sportback crossover.
The “e-tron” branding (obnoxiously styled by the automaker in all lower case) has been affixed to countless concept hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. But with the R8 e-tron killed off (in 2016), the only production model currently wearing the badge is the A3 Sportback. Audi claims this will change when its first round of fully electric vehicles arrive later this year. Unfortunately, the E-Tron GT isn’t supposed to commence production until “early next decade.” At that point, Tesla’s Model S will be nearly a decade old.
German automakers all seem to have a pseudo sub-brand for electric vehicles they can’t seem to stop mentioning, but lack a clearly defined path. For Mercedes-Benz it’s EQ, which promised to have 10 models ready by 2022. However, the company has yet to officially endorse the production of any EQ vehicles and recently showcased the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe without making mention of the EQ performance hybrid system it teased in 2017.
BMW has the i Series and arguably the most well-defined EV subset. The i3 and i8 may be extremely different from one another, but they are unified in their distinctive styling cues and branding. They’re also real cars people can purchase right now.
Audi’s E-Tron occupies a strange middle ground. While the company has built vehicles bearing the brand-specific EV designation already, its overall strategy took a while to come into focus. Fortunately, things have cleared up since the company’s annual press conference. Rather than isolating its EVs as wholly different from the cars residing in Audi’s main stable, the automaker has decided to keep them relatively normal and push them hard.
The all-electric E-Tron Quattro is a prime example. It doesn’t look out of place slotted between Audi’s Q5 and Q7. But its 95 kWh battery pack makes it a completely different animal beneath the sheet metal. Good for a European-rated 310 miles (range will be estimated more conservatively in the United States), it’s ready to go head-to-head with the Tesla Model X and all-new Jaguar I-Pace. However, like those vehicles, it will not come cheap.
“The price of the e-tron has been fixed as of today: It is available in Germany starting at 80,000 euros,” said Rupert Stadler, Audi board chairman, during a Thursday conference. “The Audi e-tron stands here as a representative of many more electric cars that we will present to you in the coming years. The Audi e-tron Sportback will follow in 2019.”
Essentially an edgier, crossover-bodied Quattro, the Sportback will also use a trio of electric motors good for a total output of 429 horsepower. All in, Audi wants to bring 20 brand new electrified vehicles to market before 2025. Among them will be the aforementioned E-Tron Gran Turismo. While a great many details on the model are TBD, we’re expecting all of VW Group’s electric vehicles to share hardware — including Porsche’s Mission E.