For almost a year, Audi has been talking about its plans to bring a plug-in SUV to market with the power and range to take on the mighty Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] in the electric car world.
Today, on the opening day of the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, it unveiled that vehicle for the first time in the form of an all-newAudi e-tron Quattro Concept full-size SUV. While Audi hasn’t officially confirmed if the concept will make it into production in its current form, the new concept car previews the design language we’ll see in Audi’s all-new Q6 SUV. Due to reach the market in early 2018, it is expected to be offered with both traditional gasoline and diesel drivetrains as well as a plug-in hybrid and long-range, fully-electric variants.
Powered by not one but three electric motors — one driving the front wheels and two driving the rear for a total of 370 kW of power — Audi says the e-tron Quattro Concept SUV is capable of a 4.6-second 0-62 mph time and an electronically-limited top speed of 130 mph where legally allowed.
Like the Tesla Model X Audi hopes its production Q6 e-tron electric SUV will cross-shop against in the marketplace, the e-tron Quattro Concept features a massive lithium-ion battery pack located within its floorpan to offer a claimed 310 miles of range per charge but also excellent handling characteristics and a low centre of gravity.
Unlike the upcoming Model X, which offers either five or seven-seat capacity depending on specification, the Audi e-tron Quattro Concept only seats four. That’s partly due to the massive centre console which extends from the dashboard all the way to the rear seats and partly we’d guess to the trend towards four-seat concept cars in recent years.
Either way, we should note that the interior of the e-tron Quattro Concept certainly lacks the open and flexible design of the Model X.
That said, despite its limited seating arrangements, the e-tron Quattro Concept does offer 615 liters (22 cubic feet) of luggage space with all four seats occupied. While Tesla has yet to release official specifications for the Model X’s luggage space, we note that the Tesla Model S offers 815 liters (28 cubic feet) of storage between the tailgate and rear seats. If we had to guess, we’d predict a similar volume for the Tesla Model X, giving the Californian plug-in an edge on the Audi both in terms of performance and interior volume.
It’s clear however from the Audi e-tron Quattro Concept that the Model X wasn’t far from the minds of Audi’s designers when they penned this new concept car. While it doesn’t directly follow Tesla’s design ethos, Audi’s dashboard for the e-tron Quattro does offer its own take on Tesla’s fully electronic dash.
In front of the driver, there’s a fully electronic, high-resolution OLED display displaying information about speed as well as routing, energy information and state of charge. Fully-customizable as it is in the Model X, it can be programed to display a variety of different pieces of information.
To the right of the driver, two fully-customizable touch-screen displays serve the same function as Tesla’s legendary 17-inch touch-screen console. Arranged one above the other, with the bottom of the two angled slightly upwards, the e-tron Quattro’s centre console isn’t quite as impressive as Tesla’s single-screen unit, but certainly aims to cover the same kind of functionality.
It’s worth noting too that the Q6 e-tron will likely ship with Audi’s own semi-autonomous piloted drive technology, another feature which Tesla is bringing to market with the Model X in the form of its autopilot system.
Don’t think however that Audi has simply copied the basic points of the Model X in order to beat it in the marketplace. While much of the e-tron Quattro’s functionality can be found on the Tesla Model X, there are some innovative features which deserve mention.
The first of these is a system of automated vents and flaps which open and close according to the speed of the Audi e-tron Quattro Concept in order to enhance road handling and aerodynamics at speed.
The second is a new rear-view camera system featuring small wide-angle digital cameras and curved interior rear-view monitors located in place of traditional glass mirrors to lower drag. While Tesla’s production Model X will ship with standard mirrors, it’s worth noting that the Model X originally used a similar feature in an attempt to lower drag.
Due to various safety standards around the world and the lack of agreed standards for rear-view cameras, Tesla was forced to use traditional mirrors on the Model X. It’s not clear if Audi would have to do the same for its production Q6 but unless there’s a shift in statue around the world, we suspect it too would have to forgo the aerodynamic benefits of cameras for rear-view mirrors for a production model.
Do you like the look of Audi’s latest concept car? Does it have what it takes to beat Tesla in the marketplace, or is it just too late to the party?
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