Tesla has made a serious splash with its Model S sedan over the last couple of years, and unsurprisingly, other automakers aren’t content to leave Tesla in control of the electric vehicle market. Tesla isn’t sitting still though, and it’s working hard to bring the smaller Model 3 sedan to market, as well as its SUV, the Model X. While quite a number of electric cars in development, Audi has just confirmed a Model X rival, an all-electric SUV called the Q6.
Based on the Audi Q7, the Q6 will use a slightly larger version of the Audi R8 e-Tron’s electric powertrain but won’t have quite the range of the electric R8, mostly due to the SUV’s extra weight and less aerodynamic shape. Still, the expected 180 mile range would be enough to drive around town, commute to and from work, and even make short road trips without suffering serious range anxiety. You can expect the electric Q6 to go on sale in late 2017, according to a report from AutoCar.
Competing with Tesla isn’t the only reason Audi is developing a range of electric vehicles. Several states have already passed laws that require that by 2025, at least 15% of all new cars sold be electric. Sports cars and supercars don’t sell in high enough numbers to be the only electric vehicles in Audi’s lineup, so finding other ways to sell electric vehicles will soon be incredibly important.
Design-wise, you can expect the Q6 to draw inspiration from Audi’s Prologue concept that was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show this year, a look that will find its way into Audi’s line of sedans as well. Audi also promised a more coupe-like shape than the Q7, likely mirroring the profile of the BMW X6 or the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLC. If the Prologue is any indication though, the Audi Q6 will likely be a cleaner, better proportioned design than the somewhat-awkward X6.
Audi also confirmed the production of the Q8, an SUV that will slot above the Q7 and will rival its flagship sedan, the A8, in terms of luxury. While it will still have the ground clearance of an SUV and be capable off-road, the design is expected to focus less on a rugged appearance and instead look sleek and sporty. While the Q7 offers a lot of features, it doesn’t quite have the looks or luxury to compete with Land Rover’s Range Rover line, with which the Q8 is clearly targeted to compete.
The same platform that will be used to build the Q6, Q7,and Q8 will see use in several other of Volkswagen A.G.’s SUVs, like the Volkswagen Touareg, Porsche Cayenne, and Bentley Bentayga. While the Q8 will be incredibly plush and luxurious, Audi claims that it won’t compete with Bentley’s upcoming SUV due to a significant price difference. The Q8 will start at less than $100,000, giving it a healthy amount of distance between it and the Bentley as well as a price tag that allows it to compete directly with Range Rover.
The Bentley Bentayga, on the other hand, will be priced significantly higher and will be much less widely available. Exclusivity is incredibly important to an ultra-luxury brand like Bentley, and moving the price too low runs the risk of diluting the brand. While “badge engineering” of nearly identical vehicles may have been much more popular in years past, Volkswagen A.G. is confident that it can create a Bentley SUV that’s distinct enough from the Audi Q8 to justify the much higher price.
In fact, the MLB platform they’re based on is claimed to be even more flexible and variable than it’s currently being used for, with length and width being adjustable enough that new vehicles can be built to have even more distinct feel or “personality.” Developing the architecture for a vehicle to be built on is incredibly expensive, so sharing that development cost across several models saves money, but without enough distinction between models, the version sold by the luxury brand can end up feeling like it isn’t significantly different than it cheaper sibling.
Audi has big plans for its SUV lineup, and extensive use of the MLB platform will soon allow it to see 40% of its sales in the form of SUVs. With the Q6 and Q8 now confirmed, that means that Audi’s SUV lineup will consist of the eight different models. All combined, that should lead to yearly sales of nearly 800,000 SUVs for Audi. The US is still expected to be a strong market for Audis newest off-roaders, but expect to see strong demand in both China and the Middle East as well.
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