7 Ways the Audi e-tron Quattro Will Make The Tesla Model X Sweat
Should Elon Musk be worried?
Parked next to the unfortunate jellybean-cum-minivan Tesla Model X, the Audi e-tron Quattro's taut, sculpted lines are the difference between Silicon Valley cool and actual cool. And that's just one of the reasons Audi's upcoming electric crossover should give Elon Musk a bad case of the sweats.
No, I've not gone mental. The Tesla Model X, built on the proven and capable basis of the Model S, with its own merits (and Falcon doors!), established Supercharger network (and Falcon doors!), and Tesla's own rockstar brand (and FALCON DOORS!), will surely be a very good electric crossover.
As Tesla's second actual production car, and predecessor to the anticipated higher-volume Model 3, the Model X will bring in new buyers (already, nearly 30,000 people have put their money down to reserve a Model X), build the brand's portfolio, and likely dominate news cycles even among non-automotive media when the first buyers take the keys at the Fremont, California assembly plant on September 29.
But let's be realistic: when it comes to making, selling, supporting, and servicing cars, Audi has forgotten more than Tesla will know this decade or next. Swapping the combustion engine out for an electric powertrain is a matter of engineering -- something Ingolstadt's brains are very, very good at.
So, then, how will an Audi electric crossover that's less powerful, slower, and a couple of years late to the game have what it takes to put the Model X's tires to the fire?
The Model X P90D's dual-motor all-wheel-drive, 3.8-second 0-60 mph time, and probable 691-hp output are sure to impress. Audi's three-motor all-wheel-drive e-tron quattro concept offers a still-formidable 496 hp (in temporary boost mode; standard output is 429 hp), capable of 4.6-second 0-60 mph acceleration. No, it's not as fast. Yes, it's still way faster than most people will ever need or use. Tesla gets the bragging rights, but the Audi won't fall flat.
With just 5.5 percent more battery, the Audi e-tron Quattro offers 24 percent more range. That's due in part to the Audi's super-slippery 0.25 coefficient of drag (Cd). That figure matches the Cd of the 2016 Toyota Prius -- a very refined piece of aerodynamic engineering, however ugly it is, and if anyone loves efficiency, it's luxury EV buyers, right? Why would you spend your money on something as gauche as power and "Insane Mode" when you could still haul ass and save the planet 24 percent quicker?
Tesla has a big screen. Audi has smarter ones. The new Virtual Cockpit display in the instrument cluster does things the Tesla PC-in-the-dash can't even imagine, let alone emulate -- and in the e-tron Quattro, they'll be OLEDs, for stunning clarity and color in any lighting.
Then there's Audi's slate of real, actual, on-the-road-now driver assistance technologies, like Traffic Jam Assist, which can handle lane-keeping, acceleration, and braking in traffic at speeds up to 40 mph. I can hear the owner conversation now: "Your Model X can change lanes on its own, in some future update, maybe? Neat! My e-tron Quattro drove me 80 percent of the way here while I read the paper."
Oh, and the the e-tron Quattro can park itself on its wireless charging plate.
The Tesla Model X gets 250 miles of range in P90D form, possibly more in less-powerful variants with the 90-kWh battery pack. The Audi e-tron Quattro claims 310 miles of range from its 95 kWh battery pack. Here, the numbers do speak for themselves. Yes, Tesla's supercharger network is fairly extensive, and can take up some of the slack, but Audi's superior utilization of its available power is more than just a practical issue, as noted above: it's a matter of technical superiority.
Tesla's interior quality has improved, but still lags behind a segment leader like Audi. Materials, design, comfort, ergonomics, durability -- these are all things real people really care about, especially when they're tossing around six figures for a vehicular statement of their intellectual and ethical superiority.
Not A Beta Product
While the e-tron quattro will be Audi's first full-production electric vehicle, the company has built several examples in the past to learn its lessons, not to mentioned raced hybrid electric cars to overall victory at Le Mans. Paired with a validation and testing process that matches or beats anything in the automotive industry for its other production vehicles, you can expect the e-tron Quattro to be 100% functional, loaded with features, right out of the gate—a finished product. Tesla makes much of its ability to update its cars on the fly, to be sure, but really, that's a clever marketing spin on selling beta products to the public, and making beta testers of its owners.
Not A Startup
While Tesla struggles to scale its operations to meet the demands of developing a mere three vehicle lines and still build the Model S, resulting in constant delays, Audi builds and sells no fewer than 13 core models across 29 total variants in the U.S. alone. Right now. It can handle the addition of a new model with ease, rather than stress, and its network of dealers can service the new model with equal aplomb. When it comes to owning the car, particularly after the SHINY! NEW! AWESOME! has worn off, Audi's track record in customer service and support carries tremendous weight.
Will these factors combine to overawe the Model X? Can the Audi make the Tesla irrelevant? No, of course not. But come 2018, Tesla won't be the only game in town anymore, and it would do well to act accordingly -- as would Model X buyers.