AUDI is set to double its SUV line-up as part of a pitch to defend its market leading position of high-riding crossovers.
Heading the charge will be an all-electric SUV likely to be called Q6, a car set to fight the upcoming Tesla Model X with 500 kilometres of electric range and a high-performance all-wheel-drive system.
Speaking at Audi’s annual press conference, chairman Professor Rupert Stadler confirmed the long mooted electric SUV – a car teased in the recent Audi h-Tron concept – would be produced at a Brussels factory from 2018 using battery cells supplied by LG and Samsung.
“Our first fully electric large-series car will go into production the year after next,” said Stadler.
Fellow Audi board member and the man in charge of technical development for Audi, Stefan Knirsch, confirmed the car would not have a conventional petrol or diesel drivetrain, instead being fitted exclusively with alternative powertrains.
“It’s prepared also for plug-in hybrids, but we believe that this car should only be a battery electric vehicle or a fuel cell vehicle,” said Knirsch.
In the shorter term it’s the A3-based Audi Q2 – a car revealed at the 2016 Geneva motor show – and yet-to-be-revealed Q5 that promise to accelerate the SUV sales growth for Audi.
The Q2, in particular, is seen as a crucial model at the entry level end of the SUV range (prices are expected to start from about $35,000) and brings big hopes of tempting younger buyers into the brand.
But the Q2 may not be the cheapest Audi SUV for long.
“Now we are producing the Q2 … let’s wait for the success of this car and then we’ll see if we have any new ideas,” hinted Knirsch when asked about a smaller SUV.
Helping flesh out the range will be a Q4, a car given the green light following a move to secure rights to the badge from Fiat Chrysler, which previously used it on Alfa Romeo models.
The Q4 is expected to focus more on style than space with an eye on the successful Range Rover Evoque as a prime competitor.
Then there’s the Q8, set to follow the lead set by BMW’s X6 and, more recently, the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.
Like those cars, the Q8 will trade space for style, with a coupe-like silhouette and sportier demeanour; expect to see it around 2019.
Speaking of sporty, Audi is set to ramp up the performance SUV offerings, starting with the Audi SQ7 revealed this week. Utilising a new tri-charged engine – with two traditional turbochargers and one electric compressor for instant throttle response – the V8-powered SQ7 takes advantage of demand for high-performance SUVs.
But Audi has also registered the RSQ7 and RSQ5 names, suggesting even more powerful models could be on the way.