Audi has confirmed a new electric SUV, likely to be badged Q6, will join its growing line-up of SUV models in 2018, with a larger, range-topping Q8 model to follow in 2019.
Speaking at the firm's annual conference, Audi boss Rupert Stadler said the company's range would expand from its current line-up of 52 models to 60 by the end of the decade. As well as the Q6 and Q8, Audi's SUV range will also be bolstered by the arrival of the Q1 in 2016.
Alongside its extra models, Audi will also benefit from an extra €24 billion worth of investment, to be spent between 2015 and 2019. Audi says 70% of that investment will be put into developing new models and technologies.
The R8 e-tron has a predicted range of 280 miles, so the bluffer and less aerodynamic Q6 is expected to have a range of at least 250 miles on a full charge.
Speaking to Autocar, Stadler said that regulations in eight US states requiring 15% of new cars to be electric by 2025 have ensured that premium car makers will have to "build a range of all-electric vehicles".
As Tesla established, it is customers at the top of the market who are most in tune with the idea of limited-range electric vehicles. Premium priced electric vehicles also make more sense for car makers, which need to accommodate costly battery packs in the factory cost of the car.
Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s research and development boss, told the annual press conference in 2014 that the Q6 was currently under development and that the final styling would take much from the Prologue concept car. The new A6, A7 and A8 models will also share design traits with the Prologue.
He added that MLB platform had been designed from the outset to be flexible enough to accommodate a battery pack as well as plug-in hybrid and gas tanks for natural gas power.
Hackenberg also revealed that the next generation Audi A4, which is based on the smallest version of the MLB platform and due to be seen later this year, will also come as a gas-powered version, dubbed the g-tron.
The crossover Q6 SUV will challenge the likes of the BMW X6, Range Rover Sport and the Mercedes-Benz GLE. It is also aimed directly at the upcoming Tesla Model X SUV, which is due to be launched later this year. Like the Tesla, the Q6 e-tron will have electric motors driving the front and rear wheels.
"When the Q6 arrives," said Hackenberg. "It will be something new, following designs established on the Prologue concept [revealed at the LA show]. It will be positioned as something more emotional and more sporty than the Q7. The Q7 will be a car for seven people, the Q6 will be more coupé-like."
The Q7 will be one of the last Audis with the current design language. Hackenberg said he and new chief designer Marc Lichte arrived at the firm too late from Volkswagen to influence the look. To that end, the Q8 will have some visual differentation to the Q7 both inside and out.
Audi Q8 to follow electric Q6
The upmarket Q8 forms a crucial part of Audi’s growth strategy that will see it extend its line-up.
“We see a great deal of potential, particularly in the SUV segment and in the especially prestigious full-size category,” said Stadler earlier this year.