Audi’s e-tron badge has been bandied about for some time now, attached to vehicles both real and imagined, to the point where it’s getting hard to follow along. The latest twist in the e-tron saga is that the long-teased Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid—originally slated to arrive in the first half of 2016—probably won’t get here at all. Instead, an all-electric crossover, the e-tron Quattro, is being fast-tracked for production and is said to be two years away. With the Volkswagen Group’s new prioritization of electric vehicles, that new EV is just the start of a strong future for the sub-brand, which has had its share of plot twists recently.
At one time, the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid was to be joined by companion e-tron PHEV versions of the A6 (and possibly the A7), but those, too, are now off the table, mostly owing to the fact that the A6 or A7 e-tron was to use a 3.0-liter TDI V-6 in conjunction with its electric motor. A reformulated version with a four-cylinder gasoline engine isn’t likely to show up, either.
The only current U.S.-market Audi to wear the nameplate is the A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which has been unusually successful for a PHEV: In 2016, according to Audi, 4280 A3 e-trons were sold, out of 31,538 sales for the A3 model line—nearly 15 percent of the mix. That may be due in part to the fact that the A3 Sportback comes only as an e-tron (the Sportback also had been available with the TDI four-cylinder, but obviously that’s no more). For 2017, the A3 e-tron received updates that include additional active-safety features, a panoramic sunroof, and a newly optional Sport package, among other new items. While we’ve found the A3 e-tron’s performance to be quite good, with an electric-only driving range that meets or exceeds the EPA-estimated 16 miles, its gas mileage as a hybrid hasn’t left us nearly as impressed.
Then there was the curious history of the Audi R8 e-tron. It appeared in concept form at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show and then, after some reformatting, made its debut in 2015 as a stunning rear-wheel-drive, all-electric supercar—which was then discontinued in 2016, with fewer than 100 examples built.
For now, the product that’s a definite go is the e-tron Quattro, an EV (pictured above) that takes the form of a crossover, although its sheetmetal is not shared with any other Audis. Sometimes referred to as the Q6, it’s due to arrive in the first half of 2019 and is targeted to deliver a range of 250 to 300 miles per charge with a price between $65,000 and $70,000.
- Audi Decides on Engine for U.S.-spec Q7 Plug-In Hybrid—If It Comes Here
- Audi Switches Focus to e-tron, Delays Other Models
- Audi A3: Info, News, and Reviews
As for diesels, they’re on hiatus at Audi, at least through 2017. After that, Audi potentially could bring back the TDI variants of its SUVs, but they won’t return in the brand’s passenger cars. The focus for the brand is forward to more electrified vehicles, and they’re expected to comprise a quarter of Audi’s sales by 2025. With that as the goal, there are likely to be more e-trons in Audi’s future, despite their checkered history to date.
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