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Audi ramps up SUV armoury

Gaining traction: Audi’s new range-topping Q8 SUV is expected to take the fight up to BMW’s X6 and Mercedes-Benz’s GLE.

Three all-new Audi SUVs confirmed for production, including electric Q6 e-tron

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Audi logo27 May 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

AUDI has laid bare its SUV future, confirming that it will top and tail its range with the compact Q1 next year and large but sporty Q8 in 2019.

In between, it will launch an all-electric Q-series entrant – reportedly called the Q6 e-tron – that will boast a one-charge driving range of more than 500km, in 2018.

Second-generation Q7 and Q5 wagons are also in the pipeline for Australia, with the Q7 set to arrive first, in the final quarter of this year, and the mass-selling Q5 probably landing about a year later, in the second half of 2016.

The moves are designed to maintain Audi’s global SUV sales lead over its luxury car rivals. This includes Australia where the Ingolstadt-based company this year has moved ahead of long-time prestige SUV leader BMW for the first time.

Audi’s product rollout was outlined on Friday by chairman Rupert Stadler who told the company’s annual general meeting in Germany that Audi sales were on target to surpass last year’s record 1.74 million units, growing faster than the world market.

He said Audi was the world’s leading brand for premium SUVs, and planned to continue the Q-models success story.

“The Audi Q1 will be the new entry level model among our SUVs as of 2016,” he said.

“In the large luxury segment, we will make an impact with a sporty Q derivative, with the Audi Q8.

“And we are developing an electric vehicle, also in the Q series, to be ready by 2018 – a sporty SUV with a very emotive design and a range of more than 500 kilometres.”

The Q1, Q6 and Q8 are among eight additional models Audi intends to launch over the next five years, taking its range from 52 to 60.

Volume wise, the most important of these will be the Q1 which opens up a new battleground for luxury car-makers, in a class currently populated by cheap and cheerful small wagons.

Apart from confirming that the entry level Q1 would arrive in 2016 – in Europe, at least – Mr Stadler gave no details.

However, Q1 will slot into the range below the top-selling Q3 and most likely be based on the A1 hatchback.

Audi Australia senior product communications executive Shaun Cleary told GoAuto that it was too early to say if the Q1 would be added to the Australian Audi line-up.

"Nothing is confirmed other than it will go into production in 2016," he said.

"But we would look at that with great interest, considering the success of models such as the Q3 and Q5."While Audi Q1 breaks new ground, the Q8 is the company's response to BMW’s well-entrenched X6 and Mercedes-Benz’s new GLE.

It is set to get a new design language based on Audi’s series of Prologue concept vehicles shown at recent motor shows.

The coupe-style Q6 e-tron’s performance and range will mean it will be pitched against all-electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model S. It is likely based on the upcoming second-generation Q5 and, like the Q7, is expected to ride on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB platform.

The Q7 is due to be launched in Australia in September.

Next year, the Q7 range will be extended with the arrival midyear of a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid e-tron variant, with the second-generation Q5 to follow once production starts at a new plant under construction in Mexico.

So far this year, Audi Australia has sold 2963 SUVs, up 15.1 per cent on the first four months of 2014.

The evergreen Q5 is Audi’s top seller, with 1323 sales to date this year, making it the number one luxury SUV on the market.

BMW’s SUV range has slipped to second place, with 2719 sales – down 2.2 per cent year on year.

Mercedes-Benz brings up the rear on 1678 sales, although this represent a 34.8 per cent increase, mainly thanks to the arrival of the small GLA.

On the sedan front, Audi is set to welcome one of its most important new models of all – the all-new A4 – which is set to be revealed in the second half of this year, with a 2016 on-sale date for Australia.

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