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ANALYSIS - Future SUVs and electric Audi models

By Glenn Brooks | 3 January 2018

e-tron Sportback concept debuted at last years Shanghai motor show: a production model is now just over 12 months away

e-tron Sportback concept debuted at last year's Shanghai motor show: a production model is now just over 12 months away

This is the second chapter of two concerning current and future Audi vehicles. The first looked at sedans, hatchbacks, wagons, coupes and convertibles. Now comes an in-depth round up of what the company is planning for SUVs and electrified vehicles. The final part of this series on the Volkswagen Group's divisions will be all about Porsche.

Electrified models

Audi is officially planning a limited series electric car in the A segment by 2021, its management told the media at an event in June 2017. This car could be sold as the A1 e-tron. It should be based on the next generation of the VW e-up!.

Premium priced B segment SUVs will probably become a booming segment in Europe and China. Audi is already there with the Q2 (see below) and sources believe a fully electric one is being developed. This would reportedly be manufactured in China, mainly for that market. As such, it would have a longer wheelbase than the made-in-Germany Q2. The model name will be Q2 L e-tron.

Audi began selling a petrol-electric A3 in selected European markets from mid-2014, with Audi of America commencing its first deliveries in late 2014 for its 2015 model year. Cars for the UK followed from January 2015. The A3 Sportback e-tron was the first five-door version of the A3 to be sold in the US.

The first of two concept versions, each of which was called A3 e-tron, debuted at the Shanghai motor show in April 2011. According to Audi, this four-door sedan was powered by an electric motor and a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol range-extending petrol engine. The second concept was revealed at the Geneva motor show in March 2013. This one used the five-door hatchback body and was a plug-in hybrid. Its total power was claimed to be 150kW (204hp) from a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor. This is the same powertrain as the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE.

A facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron was announced by Audi in April 2016. The next A3 Sportback e-tron is due in 2019. It will likely remain a plug-in hybrid but there should also be a sedan for China and the USA.

After the e-tron quattro and the e-tron Sportback (see below), Audi will offer a third fully electric model. This Tesla Model 3 rival should be slightly larger than the A3 sedan and Sportback. It is due for release in late 2019. There should be two electric motors and a range of around 500km. 

Some e-tron vehicles are PHEVs and some are fully electric models. In the case of the future Q5 e-tron, the powertrain should be a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid set-up. This vehicle might be added to the line in Mexico from later in 2018.

Audi told the media in March 2015 that it was developing a plug-in 'sports activity vehicle' and that it would be on sale in early 2018. The e-tron quattro name is speculative but the company has at least confirmed the vehicle's size, with a prototype appearing at the Frankfurt IAA in September 2015. Audi issued the following information to the media at that time:

The aerodynamically optimized underbody is completely closed. With a cd value of 0.25, the car sets a new record in the SUV segment. This contributes considerably to the long range of more than 500 kilometers (310 miles).

The study is based on the second-generation modular longitudinal platform, which provides considerable scope for the drive system and package. Its length is between that of the Audi Q5 and the Q7. Its typical SUV body and flat, coupe-like cabin give the Audi e-tron quattro concept a very dynamic appearance. The spacious interior offers room for four people. 

The large lithium-ion battery is positioned between the axles and below the passenger compartment. This installation position provides for a low center of gravity and a balanced axle load distribution. And that gives the car better driving dynamics and driving safety than other vehicles in the segment.

Audi uses its experience with the electrically driven Audi R8 e-tron sports car for the drive system. Three electric motors – one on the front axle and two on the rear axle – drive the Audi e-tron quattro concept.

In August 2015, Audi told the media that it would work with LG Chem and Samsung SDI to develop a battery pack capable of giving this electric SUV a range of 500km.

Audi's Forest plant in suburban Brussels will produce not only the e-tron but also its battery pack, Audi announced in January 2016. To make room at the site, the company will transfer production of the A1 and S1 from Belgium to SEAT at Martorell in Spain. The Q3, which is currently produced at Martorell, will in turn shift to Hungary.

The model name had originally been expected to be Q6 e-tron quattro but it is now claimed that Audi will instead call this model simply 'e-tron quattro'. It will compete with the Jaguar I-PACE.

The e-tron Sportback, which had been known for a time within Audi as the X17 BEV Coupé, is to enter production in 2019. The company stated this date to the media in April 2017. The announcement was made at the Shanghai motor show as the covers came off the e-tron Sportback concept. It can be thought of relating to the e-tron quattro in a similar way to how the BMW X6 looks compared to the X5: a smaller boot, a lower roof and a higher price.

In June 2017 came news from Audi that its Forest plant in Brussels will be the production location for both e-tron quattro and e-tron Sportback.

This 4.7m long crossover, a rival for a future Land Rover codenamed L590, will have the same three-motor powertrain as the e-tron quattro. There will be one electric motor on the front axle and two on the rear, powering all four wheels. The concept's total output was quoted as being 320kW, which could rise to 370kW in the boost mode. Audi claimed a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds. With the battery's energy content of 95 kilowatt-hours, the range would be "in excess of 310 miles". 

Audi of America executives have reportedly stated that the e-tron Sportback will be available in the USA from the 2020 model year.

The e-tron Sportback will probably be the first model to be available with the solar roof supplied by Alta Devices which Audi announced to the media in August 2017.

Meanwhile, Audi's chairman Rupert Stadler announced what had been believed to be one future electrified model at the Beijing motor show in April 2014. It would be a plug-in hybrid but other than that, no other details were revealed. Instead of one, there are two Q7 e-tron quattros: one petrol and one diesel.

The diesel derivative was announced in December 2014. Called Q7 e-tron quattro, it is powered by the combination of a 190kW (258PS) 3.0 TDI and one electric motor, which is integrated into the eight-speed tiptronic. This has an output of 94kW. Combined power is 275kW (373hp) and torque is 700Nm (516.3 lb-ft). The Audi Q7 e-tron accelerates from 0 to 100km/h (62mph) in 6.0 seconds, and from 0 to 60 km/h (37.3 mph) in 6.1 seconds on electric power alone. Top speed is 225km/h (140mph).

The diesel-electric plug-in Q7 had its world premiere at the Geneva motor show in March 2016. Production commenced in May 2016.

This was the world's first PHEV with a heat pump, which minimises the energy requirement for heating and air conditioning. Furthermore, the customer can preheat or precool the car via an app. The lithium-ion batteries store 17.3 kWh of energy, enabling a range of up to 56km (35 miles) in electric mode.

Later in their lifecycles, these vehicles should be available with AWC (Audi Wireless Charging). This featured in the prologue Avant concept which Audi revealed at the 2015 Geneva motor show and which had a powertrain almost identical to that of the Q7 e-tron's. AWC draws energy from a floor plate which is connected to the power grid and which can be embedded on or into the asphalt. The plate integrates a primary coil and an inverter (AC/AC converter). When active, this coil induces a magnetic field of alternating current.

Ulrich Hackenburg, Audi's now ex-head of R&D and current board member at Valmet, told a conference in April 2015, "Our [AWC] system will start with 3.6kW of charging and it will go to 7.2kW soon, and there are ideas to go higher." He added that the company hopes to offer automatic parking so that the car perfectly aligns with the charging plate.

The diesel-electric Q7 went on sale in mainly European and North American markets from July 2016 but there is also a four-cylinder petrol-electric version for certain markets. The latter, badged as the Q7 2.0 TFSI quattro, is available in China, Japan and Singapore. The petrol-hybrid plug-in Q7 is powered by a direct injection turbo 2.0-litre petrol engine and one electric motor. Its claimed range on EV power is 33 miles (53km). The petrol engine and electric motor deliver 270kW (367hp) and 700Nm (516.3 lb-ft) of system torque.

To be positioned as a high-priced plug-in hybrid, a Q8 e-tron is expected to be added in late 2018 or possibly, 2019. See below for more details of this additional SUV.

China is the largest national market for the Audi A6. The A6 L, the special long wheelbase A6 that is built and sold there, is manufactured at the FAW Volkswagen joint venture's Changchun plant. It had its debut at the Beijing motor show in April 2012. A plug-in petrol-electric prototype also premiered at the same event: the A6 L e-tron concept.

A second preview of the production model, the A6 e-tron, was revealed at April 2014's Beijing motor show. Despite not having an L in its model name, it had the long wheelbase body. Other than having a claimed up to 50km range, Audi revealed no further details of the car.

An updated prototype was revealed at April 2015's Shanghai motor show. This was called A6 L e-tron. Unlike the similar turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor powertrain of the Q7 e-tron 2.0 TFSI quattro, the A6 L e-tron prototype did not have all-wheel drive.

The 2.0 TFSI gasoline engine produces 155kW (211hp) and 350Nm (258.1 lb-ft) of torque, according to Audi. The disk-shaped electric motor provides 91kW and 220Nm (162.3 lb-ft) of torque. Together with a decoupler, this is integrated into the eight-speed tiptronic transmission, which transfers the power to the front wheels. System output is 180kW (245hp); maximum system torque is 500Nm (368.8 lb-ft).

The car's lithium-ion battery comprises 104 cells and stores 14.1kWh of energy. Located beneath the luggage compartment, the battery reduces its volume only slightly: capacity is 340 litres (11.9 cu ft). Two-phase charging technology allows charging with 7.2kW of power. With the appropriate infrastructure (high-power industrial outlet) and high-power charging cable, the batteries can be fully charged in roughly two hours. On a typical household outlet in China, the procedure takes "somewhat longer than eight hours".

The driver can choose between four driving modes. EV (electric vehicle) mode prioritises electric driving at up to 135 km/h (84mph). In hybrid mode, the management system chooses the drive type for the best possible efficiency. In battery hold, the system stores the available electrical energy and charges the battery. The A6 L can coast in hybrid mode. i.e. when the driver takes his or her foot off of the accelerator, both drives are deactivated. The electric motor assumes most of the braking, charging the battery. The hydraulic brakes are used only for heavy braking.

As with other e-tron Audis, the A6 L plug-in hybrid has certain distinguishing features:

Production commenced in Changchun during October 2016. This was the first PHEV to be manufactured in China by Audi. The second generation A6 L e-tron is due out in late 2018.

Audi's chairman, Rupert Stadler, told the media at April 2014's Beijing motor show that an A8 e-tron would be launched "in the years to come", which was taken to mean as part of the then next generation model range.

The car was announced to the media in July 2017. The A8 L e-tron quattro is to be a plug-in hybrid powered by a 3.0 TFSI petrol V6 and one motor. Their combined outputs are 330kW (449hp) and 700Nm (516.3 lb-ft). The lithium-ion battery stores enough power for up to 50km (31 miles) of electric driving. It can optionally be charged by Audi Wireless Charging. A pad in the owner's garage floor transfers the power inductively to a receiver coil in the car via a power output of 3.6kW.

SUVs and allroad crossovers

There are only a few missing numbers in Audi's SUV line-up and there is certainly room below the 4,191mm long Q2 for a sub-4m model. Officially, Audi has no plans to add such a vehicle but the company will likely create a Q1 in the early 2020s. It should be around the same size as the Renault Kwid, i.e. 3.7-3.9m. MQB A0 would be the logical architecture for this vehicle, although MHB Evo is another possibility, should that theoretical platform happen - an update of MHB but with AWD capability.

In December 2012, Audi confirmed rumours that it was developing a small crossover. Such a model was first hinted at by the Q2 Crosslane Coupe, a concept which premiered at the Paris motor show in September 2012. The design study was a three-door model but the production version has five doors.

The 4,191mm long Q2 had its world premiere at the Geneva motor show in March 2016, with production at the Ingolstadt plant commencing six months later. Audi of America says it has no plans to sell the Q2. This is probably because the model would be considered too small.

A long wheelbase model, the Q2 L, should appear for the Chinese market later in 2018.

A long wheelbase model, the Q2 L, should appear for the Chinese market later in 2018.

Prototypes of the SQ2, a future high performance version of the Q2, have been seen on test in Germany. The production model should appear later this year.

Facelifts for the Q2, Q2 L and SQ2 are expected in 2020. A second generation Q2, due to roll out from 2023, will use what is tentatively termed MQB A0 Evo as its architecture.

The Q3, a five-door crossover, was confirmed for SEAT's Martorell plant by Audi in April 2009. This 4.39m long SUV was revealed at the Shanghai motor show in April 2011. Production started three months later.

The FAW Volkswagen joint venture began building the Q3 at its Changchun plant in Q1, 2013. The locally built model had its premiere at the Shanghai motor show in April 2013.

In September 2013, Audi stated that Volkswagen's São José dos Pinhais plant in Curitiba would build the A3 Sedan, to be followed by the Q3, in 2015. Audi first entered Brazil in 1999, when it started building the A3 at the same plant but Audi stopped its assembly line there in 2006.

A facelifted Q3 was announced by Audi in November 2014. It had its public debut at the Detroit auto show in January 2015 and went on sale from the following month. The facelift was new for North America's 2016 model year range. In September 2016, Audi then announced some further exterior changes for the exterior appearance of some trim lines.

While the timing is yet to be confirmed, in September 2014, Spanish members of Volkswagen Group's works council told the media that the next Q3 would again be built at SEAT's Martorell plant. The announcement followed an annual meeting at VW headquarters in Wolfsburg. However, Audi contradicted this with a media release issued in January 2016. Instead of Martorell, European build of the next Q3 will be at Audi Hungaria's Gyor plant. This should commence in the final quarter of 2018. The second generation car should also be made in Brazil.

The latest A4 allroad, a replacement for a model of the same name, had its public debut at the Detroit auto show in January 2016. It has quattro drive as standard and the car is 34mm higher than the previous model. There should be a facelift in 2019. The next generation A4 allroad is due out in 2022.

Audi confirmed in March 2017 that it intends to add a 'Q4', a rival for the BMW X4, in 2019. One month later the company told the media that its Hungarian plant would be the place of build.

The car was previewed by the TT offroad concept at April 2014's Beijing motor show. After a period of doubt, the Q4 model name can be used. Audi is said to have struck a deal with FCA: there was once an Alfa 156 Q4 and there are also Q4 (AWD) versions of Maserati models.

Build of the second generation Q5 in Mexico replaced production in Germany. This follows the April 2012 announcement that Audi would erect a plant in that country to build an unnamed SUV from 2016. The location was confirmed in August 2012: San José Chiapa in central Mexico and close to Puebla where Volkswagen has its own manufacturing base. Up to 150,000 units of the new model are now made there annually.

Some €900m was spent to erect the plant, which includes not only a body shop and assembly line, but also a press shop. The plant was opened in September 2016, coinciding with the debut of the second generation Q5 at the Paris motor show.

In April 2014, Magna International said it would be the supplier of all-wheel drive systems for the Q5. The company built a 16,000 sq m (172,000 sq ft) facility in Mexico, the third building at Magna Powertrain's operation in Ramos Arizpe.

The Changchun plant of China's FAW Volkswagen joint venture is almost guaranteed to be the other manufacturing location for the Q5. Car production at this facility comprises the four essential areas of vehicle manufacturing: press shop, body shop, paint shop and assembly. Annual Audi production capacity at FAW-VW in Changchun was increased to 400,000 cars over the last few years.

A long-wheelbase Q5 L is said to be under development for China and possibly for export from there. There should be facelifts for all Q5 variants in 2020 and a new-generation Q5 and Q5 L from 2023.

There should eventually be three versions of the SQ5: TFSI, TDI and TDI plus. The TFSI had its world premiere at the Detroit auto show in January 2017. It is powered by a 260kW (354hp) & 500Nm turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol/gasoline engine. The TDI and TDI plus are likely to be powered by versions of the Volkswagen Group's latest 3.0-litre V6 diesel.

Like the Q5 upon which it is based, the SQ5 is manufactured in Mexico. While air suspension was not available for the first generation vehicle, it is standard for the latest SQ5 range.

The RS Q3 is the only Audi SUV to be available in RS form, but an RS Q5 might be added to the Q5 range later in the model's lifecycle.

There are few available details of the Q6 as yet. This additional model should be closely related to the Q5 but have a more coupe-like appearance. A prologue Q6 concept should appear about a year before the production model. The latter is expected to be manufactured in Mexico from 2019 or 2020 and to use the MLB Evo architecture.

A higher riding version of the A6 Avant went on sale in Germany and elsewhere from April 2012, the A6 allroad having had its global debut at the Geneva motor show the previous month. The current shape model is available with the Volkswagen Group's supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine or else a 3.0-litre V6 diesel.

A facelifted model premiered at the Paris motor show in October 2014. A second facelift was announced in April 2016.

The next A6 allroad is expected to have been previewed, styling-wise, by the 5.13m long prologue allroad showcar. This first appeared at the Shanghai motor show in April 2015. A PHEV, the concept had a claimed 734PS of system power and a 33-mile electric range. Its powertrain consisted of a biturbo 4.0-litre petrol V8 with an electric motor integrated into the eight-speed tiptronic automatic gearbox. The future A6 allroad will likely be revealed at the Paris motor show in October.

The second generation of Audi's biggest (5,052mm long) SUV had its public debut at the Detroit auto show in January 2015. The main news was the loss of 325kg for the 3.0 TDI (now weighing 1,995kg) compared to the first generation Q7 3.0 TDI. A five-seat layout is standard but 5+2 seating is optional, though the latter is standard in the UK and certain other markets. All Q7s have an eight-speed tiptonic transmission and all-wheel drive.

The SQ7 TDI was announced in March 2016, going on sale in relevant markets from May 2016. This was the first vehicle to be powered by the Volkswagen Group's 4.0-litre diesel V8. This engine has a Valeo-developed turbocharger which is powered by an electric motor instead of the engine's exhaust. The principle behind it is that the impeller, which pumps air and fuel into the cylinders, still spins at 10,000 rpm even when it's not needed. For this reason, turbo lag is eliminated. Power is 320kW (435hp) and torque is 900Nm. As well as the electric turbo, there are two conventional turbochargers.

The Q7 was the first vehicle for a Volkswagen Group architecture known as both MLB Evo and PL73. The first deliveries in European markets were in July 2015, with cars for North America's 2017 model year following in the fourth quarter of 2015. A facelifted Q7 should be released during the final quarter of 2018.

In mid-2023, Audi should bring the third generation Q7 to market. This will be on a new platform.

A coupe-like derivative of the second generation Audi Q7 will be launched globally in 2018. The US and China should be the main markets for the Q8

The Q8 was confirmed as being under development by Audi's then head of R&D, Ulrich Hackenburg, speaking to the media at November 2014's LA auto show. A concept version had its world premiere at the 2017 Detroit auto show. A second concept, the Q8 sport, appeared two months later at the Geneva motor show.

The Volkswagen Group stated in June 2017 that it would commence Q8 production at Bratislava in early 2018, also noting that annual capacity will be 40,000 vehicles. An RS Q8 is rumoured for 2019, powered by the same 478kW (650PS) and 850Nm biturbo 4.0-litre petrol V8 as features in the new Lamborghini Urus.

Hydrogen

Audi revealed a design study for a potential hydrogen fuel cell SUV at January 2016's Detroit auto show. The h-tron quattro concept was a large crossover. The company said at the time that the car was powered by a "fuel cell achieving an output of up to 110 kW with a battery that provides a temporary boost of 100 kW".

Series production of an h-tron model is said to be as far off as 2022.

Series production of an h-tron model is expected to be as far off as 2022. As the concept closely resembled the e-tron quattro concept, it is presumed the production version of the h-tron quattro will be based on the same architecture. Given the popularity of SUVs, and the need for a fuel cell vehicle to accommodate a large tank, such a body style seems to be the most obvious way for Audi to go.

It is presently unclear whether or not an h-tron quattro will be built at Forest, the plant which will make the e-tron quattro. Production volumes would probably be less than 2,000 vehicles a year. It seems more likely that Audi will choose to make its fuel cell vehicles in Germany. Under that presumption, a logical location would be at Böllinger Höfe. This purpose-built production plant near Neckarsulm is where the R8 is manufactured.

The debut of the h-tron quattro concept was not the first hydrogen-powered Audi prototype. The company revealed an experimental car at November 2014's LA auto show. The A7 Sportback h-tron was a PHEV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

Additional data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans, such as code names, production plants and expected annual build, are available in PLDB from QUBE.