New 2018 Audi e-tron: Audi accepts deposits for electric SUV

Audi is now accepting deposits online for an early production version of its new e-tron SUV. The all-electric model can be reserved for £1,000 ahead of it officially going on sale later this year. 

Like Tesla with its Model 3 last year, the deposit is fully refundable, and is offset against the as-yet-unknown purchase price of the car. The deposit enrolls the buyer in a "Priority Order Members Club", giving them access to special preview events and exclusive competitions before the vehicle is delivered to a specified Audi Centre. 

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The Jaguar I-Pace rivalling e-tron made a public debut of sorts at last week"s Geneva Motor Show, with nearly 250 liveried-up development prototypes appearing on the streets. It was a move to steal the limelight away from Audi"s British rival, which made its production-ready debut at the show.  

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The e-tron is the first vehicle in Audi"s all-out assault on the premium SUV market, with eight new high-riding models due to arrive before the end of the decade. It"s due to appear in production form in the second half of this year and our exclusive images reveal how it could look.

With China and the US also cited as significant markets for the car, it’s clear that Audi has the Tesla Model X in mind as its closest competitor, along with Jaguar’s I-Pace. As our images suggest, the production e-tron is set to be subtly toned down from the design of the concept first seen in 2015. With designer Marc Lichte determined to add more differentiation between models, the e-tron will feature a different front end shape to the Q5 and Q7, with a smaller, partially blanked grille and reshaped headlamps.

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Audi e-tron - front (watermarked)

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A broad shoulder line stretches the length of the SUV’s side profile, while a coupe-like rear end shape helps give it a sleeker look than other Audi SUVs. Aerodynamics are a big focus, as the firm looks to trump the I-Pace with a drag coefficient target of just 0.25Cd, maximising the battery’s range.

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We’ve yet to see the interior, but we can expect design and tech influence to be taken from the latest A8. The brand’s Virtual Cockpit will be adapted to show details of range, power usage and charging times, while the dual-screen infotainment set-up from the A8 could also feature. We’d expect level-three autonomous technology to be offered as well, at least as an option. Despite the coupe-like roofline, the e-tron is likely to feature five seats, and its boot space should be similar to a Q5’s.

The SUV sits on an adapted version of the MLB platform that underpins the Q5 and Q7. Details of the e-tron’s powertrain have been kept secret, but the 2015 concept featured three electric motors: one mounted on the front axle, and two spread across the rear axle, providing all-wheel drive.

Audi has previously confirmed that it is targeting a range of 311 miles (500km) from a single charge. Power outputs are still under wraps, although we know the concept claimed to produce 496bhp and 800Nm of torque, translating to a Model X-rivalling 0-62mph sprint time of 4.5 seconds.

It’s possible that Audi will adopt Tesla’s strategy of offering a number of power outputs, allowing a competitive entry price as well as more expensive performance variants. Alternatively, the more potent powertrains could be reserved for a production version of the e-tron Sportback coupe-SUV concept that was shown last year.

Would you pick the Audi e-tron over the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace? Let us know in the comments section below...