Audi merged with Horch, DKW, and Wanderer to form Auto Union in 1932, and the four-ring badge that represented the four brands first appeared on racing cars developed before World War II. Based in the eastern part of Germany, the company was liquidated after the war, and what could be saved from the Soviet-controlled zone was moved to Ingolstadt in Western Germany.
The company started small, producing car parts, and only later moved to build front-wheel drive vehicles with two-stroke engines under the DKW brand. Auto Union was eventually bought by Daimler in 1958 and sold to Volkswagen in 1964. A year later, the Audi brand was resurrected after a 25-year hiatus. It was overshadowed by Volkswagen, whose management never wanted an Audi brand and only bought Auto Union to expand its manufacturing capacity. Only the success of the Audi 100 in 1968 convinced Volkswagen to give Audi more leeway as a brand.
Audi's parent, Volkswagen, installed a battery and electric motor in the Transporter T2 (known as the Bus in the US) and sold its first production electric car (Golf III Citystromer) between 1992 and 1996. Only 120 units were sold until the auto industry forgot about the oil crisis and moved on with ICE projects. Nothing of the sort happened at Audi, and that explains why their first electric vehicle concept (Audi e-tron) was only introduced to the public in 2009 as an electric version of the sporty R8.
Early concepts: Audi e-tron, Audi A3 e-tron, Audi R8 e-tronAudi penned the "e-tron" name to designate its cars fitted with an electric motor. This was not exclusive to battery-powered models, as some hybrid models also wore the e-tron badge until Audi clarified its strategy in 2019. Still, the first concept with the e-tron name was an all-electric two-seater resembling the Audi R8 but slightly smaller. On the other hand, the e-tron Spyder shown in 2010 was a plug-in hybrid.
Audi developed ten e-tron prototypes for research before canceling the project in 2013, citing the limited range. Alas, battery technology was not advancing fast enough, and the e-tron concept could only go 154 miles (248 km) on a charge. That was far more than the A3 Sportback e-tron concept from 2011 could achieve (75 miles/121 km). Still, Audi revisited the electric R8 idea and launched the R8 e-tron at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.
The Audi e-tron name returned as a production electric SUV in 2018Unveiled as the Audi e-tron quattro concept at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Audi e-tron entered production in 2018, with first deliveries in May 2019. Audi needed a decade to hone its EV skills to enter the market with a volume electric model. The Audi e-tron counts as Audi's first mass-produced EV, and it was a huge success, ranking among the most sold EVs in many markets.
The Audi e-tron is built on an ICE platform, specifically the MLB Evo it shares with the Porsche Macan and Audi Q7. Depending on the configuration, the Audi e-tron featured two or three electric motors (the S quattro variant), with power ranging from 230 kW/308 hp to 370 kW/496 hp. The battery pack had between 64.7 kWh and 86.5 kWh of useful capacity (71-95 kWh gross capacity), allowing the e-tron to travel about 204 miles (328 km).
The range increased with the update, going up to an EPA estimate of 300 miles (480 km) in the Q8 Sportback 55 e-tron case. The bulkier Q8 55 e-tron has a lower range of 285 miles (460 km). This is also helped by the battery capacity increased to 114 kWh. Audi also improved charging performance by bumping the DC fast-charging power from 150 kW to 170 kW.
The first mass-produced Audi EV has relatively reasonable prices in the US, especially considering its luxury features and the brand's status. The Q8 55 e-tron starts at $74,400, with the most expensive variant, SQ8 Sportback e-tron, retailing from $92,600.
Audi e-tron GT and Audi RS e-tron GTAfter its first EV model proved successful, Audi started an aggressive EV program, mirroring similar plans throughout the Volkswagen Group under the supervision of the former CEO Herbert Diess. To accelerate EV development, Diess wanted deeper integration between various brands while at the same time accelerating the development of new EV-dedicated platforms. That's why Audi introduced the e-tron GT on the same J1 platform as the Porsche Taycan and the Q4 e-tron, sharing the MEB technical bits with the Volkswagen ID.4.
The Audi e-tron GT sold in the US is basically a Porsche Taycan 4S, with 522 horsepower and a starting price of $106,500, only $5,200 lower than the Taycan. Its sportier brother, the Audi RS e-tron GT, features a 637-hp powertrain for $147,100, which puts it right between the Porsche Taycan GTS and Taycan Turbo as far as power and price are concerned.
Despite being almost identical to its Porsche sibling, the Audi e-tron GT got better EPA estimates. Audi claims 249 miles (400 km) for both variants, whereas the Taycan 4S only got a disappointing 206-mile (330 km) estimate. On the other hand, the Taycan GTS is good for 246 miles (396 km), very close to the e-tron GT.
Like its brother, the Audi supports DC fast charging up to 270 kW, an impressive feat even in today's car market. Charging the battery from 5% to 80% takes less than 23 minutes in ideal conditions, thanks to the 800-volt electrical architecture.
The controversial Q4 e-tron and its Sportback variantThe same year Audi launched the e-tron GT, it also offered something to its price-conscious customers: the more affordable Q4 e-tron. This was probably the most controversial decision in the brand's electrification push. Based on the MEB platform shared by many Volkswagen EVs, including the ID.3, ID.4, and even ID. Buzz, the Q4 e-tron is basically a Volkswagen ID.4 in fancy clothes.
That's why teardown veteran Sandy Munro showed his disappointment when reviewing the Audi Q4 e-tron. The EV is too similar to the Volkswagen ID.4 to justify the price premium, amounting to $13,000 when factoring in the IRA tax credit. To add insult to injury, Sandy liked the Volkswagen more, thanks to a superior touchscreen-centric user interface.
What Audi has over its Volkswagen-badged counterpart is the coupe-SUV variant aptly named Q4 Sportback e-tron. This features improved aerodynamics and a more attractive silhouette. If that's enough for you to justify the $3,000 price premium of the Sportback variant, then go ahead. The difference is even bigger considering that the Sportback is not available in a RWD configuration in the US.
Like the Volkswagen ID.4, the Audi Q4 e-tron is available in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations, with either 201 or 302 horsepower. The higher-capacity 77-kWh battery is the only option offered to US customers, and it's a good thing. The latest updates for the 2024 model year boosted the DC fast-charging speed to 175 kW for the quattro models. This cuts the 5-80% charging time from 36 minutes to approximately 28 minutes.
China-only models: Audi Q2L e-tron and Audi Q5 e-tronHaving exhausted the entire range of electric vehicles Audi sells in the US, it's worth mentioning that the e-tron badge was also used for two models sold exclusively in China. The Q2L e-tron launched in 2019, making it almost as old as the first series-production e-tron. The China-only electric Q2 is powered by a 38 kWh battery supplied by CATL and promises a range of 265 km (165 miles), albeit following the very optimistic Chinese standard. The Q2L will not have a successor once it reaches the end of its lifecycle.
EV development stalledWhile Audi has more electric models in the pipeline, the four-ring brand suffered the same setbacks as other Volkswagen brands. The Group's management linked the development of more advanced EV architectures to autonomous driving efforts, causing significant delays. After Herbert Diess paid for this with his job, the EV development essentially froze under Oliver Blume's management. New factories were scrapped, and existing projects were delayed.
That put the Premium Platform Electric (PPE), the new EV architecture developed for Audi and Porsche brands, on the back burner. This vastly affected the Porsche Macan EV and Audi Q6 e-tron, both expected to launch in 2022. The A6 e-tron was also scheduled to launch on the same architecture but is now delayed until 2024.
Not only that, but future projects, such as the Scalable Systems Platform (SSP), are now impossible to see with a telescope. Initially planned to underpin the first EV models in 2026, the SSP will not be here earlier than 2028. Unlike the PPE, which was developed specifically for the high-end models from Porsche and Audi, the SSP is designed to replace both PPE and the aging MEB across all Volkswagen brands and models. Given the current situation, the MEB will remain Volkswagen Group's main EV architecture for at least another five years.
The Audi A6 e-tron will be the first electric sedan with a four-ring badgeThe Audi A6 e-tron and its station wagon derivative will mark a new era for Audi as it transitions to an EV-only lineup. Until then, Audi decided to reserve even numbers for electric models, while odd numbers will designate ICE vehicles. Based on this, you can guess that the future Audi A7 will not feature an electric powertrain, just as the A6 will be exclusively battery-powered.
The Audi Q6 e-tron and Q6 Sportback e-tron: Porsche Macan in disguiseThe Porsche Macan EV and its sibling Audi Q6 e-tron were supposed to be ready for the market launch in the second half of 2022. Together with the A6 e-tron, they were supposed to be the first EVs built on the PPE platform. This will not change, but all three models are expected to launch next year. The delay was caused by ongoing problems at the Cariad software division that culminated with the ousting of the former Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess.
The Audi Q6 e-tron will also be available in a coupe-SUV Sportback variant, likely selling at a higher price, as all coupes in Audi's lineup do. Expect the same technical capabilities as the A6 e-tron, including the 800-volt architecture and fast charging of up to 270 kW. Early information points to a 100-kWh battery pack and range estimated at up to 350 miles (560 km). Dual-motor configurations provide between 370 and 503 horsepower, the latter reserved for the SQ6 e-tron model.