Report: Audi is Working on Answer to Tesla’s Model X

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Audi’s (VLKAY.PK) e-tron electric vehicle and hybrid program has been on and off the books for the last couple of years, but for 2017, it appears that it’s on for now. But rather than gun for the lower end of the luxury EV market like BMW has done, the company aimed directly at Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and the Model X that is scheduled to begin production later this year.

In addition to whispers about the future of Audi’s e-tron initiative, there has also been talk of a conceptual Q8 model, an SUV that would find itself slotted above Audi’s current, range-leading Q7. In a convergence of the two, Autocar is reporting that the Q8 — should it materialize — would be electric, and possess a range of about 370 miles, a game-changing figure by today’s standards.

The move would be a direct assault on Tesla’s electric utility vehicle, but it’s a probably a wise decision on Audi’s part. Automakers from BMW to Kia have been occupying themselves with making small, compact electric cars with limited range and capability. Tesla’s Model S took EV engineering to a whole new level, but as a sedan, it still doesn’t offer the degree of functionality that SUV and crossover drivers are accustomed to. Enter the Model X, and enter — theoretically — the Audi Q8.

In its R8 e-tron project, Audi paired twin electric motors with 376 combined horsepower with a range of about 250 miles. Should it see production, it would undoubtably be gratuitously expensive, and if Audi is serious about its electric vehicle platform, it would make more sense to see it in a more pedestrian car. But at least we know that the company has the know-how.

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Like the Model X — which was recently confirmed to only have an all-wheel drive option — the Audi would also run on all fours. Its battery would be “at least” equal to the battery pack found in the Tesla, which is rated at 80 kWh, and by the time the vehicle actually gets here, there is expected to be significant progress made with battery technology, which will help improve its range and performance.

Auotcar reports that the Q8 won’t be exclusive to the e-tron platform. Buyers will still be able to choose from gasoline, diesel, or a plug-in hybrid powertrain, and an SQ8 high-performance model is also in the cards.

Don’t expect the Q8 to resemble the Q7 (pictured), however — Audi is planning to build an entirely new vehicle, albeit on a frame shared with its current largest SUV. The Q8 will be far sleeker than the cumbersome Q7, though. Autocar says the Q8 will have the five-door hatchback format with a higher waistline, lower roofline, and shallower side windows than the Q7, and can be had in five- or seven-seat options.

Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s technical chief, said to Autocar that the Q range has “lots of potential” for Audi, and the firm reportedly already has plans to launch a Q1 baby SUV in 2016.

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