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Audi unveils e-tron electric SUV

by Drew Johnson

The e-tron will retail from about $75,000.

Audi has unveiled its first ever, fully electric production model. Known as the e-tron, Audi's electric SUV will take direct aim at the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I Pace.

Set to go on sale next year, the e-tron takes the form of a mid-size SUV with an overall length of 193-inches. That places the e-tron squarely between the Audi Q3 and Q7. The e-tron will offer seating for five and 28.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seats; that area expands to 57 cubic feet with the second-row stowed.

Overall, the e-tron doesn't look radically different from Audi's conventionally powered SUV models. The nose of the e-tron is familiar but with a more aerodynamic shape, including a sleeker interpretation of Audi's signature Singleframe grille with a platinum gray finish to signify the SUV's electric drivetrain. Headlights are full LEDs and include four horizontal bars intended to look like a charging status indicator. The rear of the e-tron features a tailgate spoiler to improve aerodynamics and LED taillights with a connecting lighting strip.

The interior of the e-tron is just as high-tech as its drivetrain. In addition to Audi's virtual cockpit digital gauge display, the e-tron is also equipped with a pair of high-definition LCD screens that handle all infotainment and climate control tasks. The e-tron's MMI infotainment system has even been fully integrated with Amazon's Alexa digital assistant, so drivers can use voice commands to listen to music, control connected home devices or use Alexa skills as they would on their home-based Alexa-enabled device.

Audi will offer the e-tron in two different trim levels -- Premium Plus and Prestige. Additionally, 999 units of a First Edition model will be available to U.S. customers.

All e-tron models are powered by dual electric motors (one at each axle for quattro all-wheel drive) and a 95 kWh battery system. That battery unit, which includes a crash structure, weighs 1,543 pounds. Audi hasn't announced any range estimates for the e-tron, but it should be able to cover about 250 miles on a full charge.

Speaking of charge, the battery system in the e-tron can be charged to 80 percent capacity in just 30 minutes using a fast-charging system. When hooked to a 240-volt lead, Audi says the e-tron will require an overnight charge to fully replenish the battery.

Home charging systems will be available through a collaboration with Amazon Home Service. Called "Audi Home Charging powered by Amazon Home Services,” e-tron owners will be able to order the charging system through Amazon and have it setup by Amazon Home Service.

When on the road, e-tron drivers will be able to charge up via the "Powered by Electrify America” charging network. By July of next year, Electrify America will have about 500 charging station complete or under development. The purchase of an e-tron will include 1,000 kWh of charging at Electrify America sites over four years of ownership.

On the performance front, Audi says the e-tron will be capable of accelerating from 0-60 in 5.5 seconds. The electric SUV will have a top speed of 124mph. Performance specs weren't given, but the e-tron should have about 400 horsepower and nearly 500 lb-ft of torque. The e-tron is rated to tow 4,000 pounds.

In the name of efficiency, the e-tron will operate in two-wheel drive under most driving conditions. If more power is summoned or if the system detects wheel slippage, the e-tron will automatically activate its front electric motor. A brake-based torque vectoring system is also used to improve handling. And of course, the e-tron's brakes are capable of energy regeneration.

All e-tron models will come standard with adaptive dampers and an air suspension capable of adjusting the vehicle's ride height by up to 3 inches. The system automatically lowers at higher speeds to improve efficiency and can be raised 2-inches higher than standard when switched to off-road mode.

Prices for the e-tron will start from $74,800 for a Premium Plus model, which includes niceties like a premium audio system, heated and cooled front seats, and a panoramic sunroof as standard. The top level e-tron Prestige will list from $81,800 and include upgrades like a head-up display, a driver assistance package and power-door closers.

The limited edition e-tron First Edition is based on the Prestige spec, but gets a few unique upgrades of its own. Those 999 buyers that spring for the First Edition will get 21-inch wheels, Daytona Gray pearl effect paint, orange brake calipers, Volcano Gray Ash Natural Wood inlays and Night Vision Assistant. All prices exclude a $995 destination fee.

Those interested in e-tron ownership can place a refundable $1,000 deposit with Audi via this website. Audi says it will begin U.S. deliveries of the e-tron during the second quarter of 2019.

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