Audi's new luxury saloon is set to have three electric motors, a 300-mile-plus range and sophisticated self-driving technology; expected to be on sale by 2020
30 August 2016

Audi boss Rupert Stadler has given the go-ahead for a four-wheel-drive electric saloon to rival the Tesla Model S.

The luxurious new four-door is expected to be called A9 e-tron and will share much of its technology with the upcoming Q6 e-tron SUV.

The A9 e-tron name will position the advanced saloon at the top of the Audi line-up as a leader for a new range of electric vehicles, which will also include a successor to today’s A3 e-tron.

The A9 e-tron will have a range of up to 500km (311 miles) between recharging. It is also due to have level four autonomous driving technology — one step up from that used in next year’s new A8

“By 2020 we will have three EVs in the line-up,” said Stadler. “We’ll start with the production version of the e-tron quattro concept car, which will have a range of up to 500km. By 2025, 25% of our line-up will be battery-driven models.”

Although Stadler is yet to name the A9 e-tron officially, he describes the big electric saloon as being “as high up as possible, in the A8 segment”.

Under an earlier model strategy, Audi had planned to apply the A9 name to a large, conventionally powered four-door coupé to rival the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé and Bentley Continental GT. However, it has been overlooked in favour of the electric luxury saloon, which will have unique styling and the performance to challenge the Model S.

The starting point for the new Audi is the EV platform showcased by the e-tron quattro concept at last year’s Frankfurt motor show. The predominantly aluminium structure differs in design from the one being developed by VW Group sister company Porsche for the production version of its Mission E concept car, which is also due to go on sale by the end of the decade.

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Further similarities between the Q6 e-tron and A9 e-tron are expected in the drivetrain. The Q6 e-tron will use three electric motors — one up front, sending drive to the front wheels, and the remaining two at the rear, acting on the rear wheels.

In the e-tron quattro concept, three electric motors produce a combined 429bhp, with a second, sportier drive mode able to temporarily increase that to 496bhp and lift peak torque to 590lb ft.

Audi R&D boss Stefan Knirsch said he is confident the new electric saloon will deliver a unique driving experience through the use of electric motors and a power electronics package that Audi is developing.

Knirsch said: “Some rivals have gone for a synchronous motor with a high power density but at relatively low revs. There are also asynchronous motors that typically achieve similar power outputs but at much higher revs. From 2018, our electric cars will be equipped with asynchronous motors. We are convinced they offer higher efficiency levels than synchronous motors.”

He also pointed to the tuning of the electric drive system as one key area that will differentiate the driving characteristics of Audi’s EVs from those of rivals.

“You’ll see significant differences in the torque vectoring, the four-wheel drive set-up and the power electronic packages,” he said.

The system being developed for the A9 e-tron sends power to all four wheels via a drive management system, which uses electronic torque vectoring to apportion power between individual rear wheels depending on grip levels. The single-ratio gearbox offers the choice of two modes: Drive and Sport.

As an indicator of performance, Audi says the production version of the e-tron quattro concept will have a 0-62mph time of 4.6sec and a top speed limited to 131mph.

As with the Q6 e-tron, the A9 e-tron will have a large, liquid-cooled 95kWh battery bolted to the floor below the passenger compartment.

As well as traditional EV charging, A9 e-tron owners will be offered an 11kW inductive charging option using Audi’s latest wireless charging technology and an autonomous parking function that will automatically park the car over a charging plate.

The new saloon will also spearhead Audi’s push into fully autonomous driving as the first model to offer level four technology.

“Next year the A8 will be the first model with level three automation,” said Ricky Hudi, head of electric development at Audi. “On motorways, it will able to drive itself at up to 37mph.

“Level four is challenging because it requires considerable improvements to sensors and processing power. But it represents a big leap, because the car will be able to drive itself in many situations — not only on the motorway.”

Join the debate


30 August 2016
Lol, that will be useful. An autonomous mode that only works upto 37mph on motorways.

30 August 2016
Its an Audi remember so it needs to pointlessly constantly swap lanes in very slow traffic even if all lanes are going the same speed as it gives the delusion of getting somewhere quicker. Audi have just automated it.

30 August 2016
They tested lane swapping in Mythbusters. They found it DOES save time, maybe 5 mins per hour in journey time (from memory, it was a small amount at any rate) but concluded the stress involved wasn't worth the time saved. Better to stay in lane and relax.

30 August 2016
LOL. We've had new models from Audi proclaiming a 'more aggressive' new look... from 2021, they'll be advertising them with 'a new, more aggressive autonomous drive algorithm'.

24 December 2016
Isn't it funny how Porsche/Audi paper launched EVs always seem to have 5 kwh bigger battery than Model S? When Model S was at 85kwh they were talking about 90 kwh. After Model S 90kwh the next level was this 95 kwh. I'm just waiting for the next paper launch at 105 kwh battery :)


30 August 2016
It's interesting that Audi are essentially looking to achieve in 2020 (without the charging infrastructure) what Tesla delivered in 2014. I'd kind of expected they'd push things forward a bit.

30 August 2016
“On motorways, it will able to drive itself at up to 37mph". That will make for an interesting sight.

30 August 2016
usual yobs in here who turn their noses up and raise their chins at any Audi - because they dint get one from the company or cant afford to buy one from their own income. Meanwhile of course we can guarantee that Autocar et all will gripe about steering feel and at the same time tell you it goes round corners better than anything else in class - go figure~!!!

30 August 2016
You can't win here. Have a bit of a laugh and a piss take and you are a yob without a bank balance. Say something positive you are a Fanboi who works for the company whose car you praise.

31 August 2016
it may be slow on motorways but the size on rural Scottish roads and the lack of charging points in remote areas will limit it.The smaller Porsche may do better.Undoubtedly a technical achievement but doubt I will live to see it really fulfilled.My grandsons might.


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