September 2, 2016

Audi has confirmed that the A9 e-tron will take the fight to the Tesla Model S, but not until 2020.

The A9 e-tron will come with level 4 autonomous driving, which will build on the level 3 system that the company expects to have in place by 2018. The name is still unofficial, but we expect the finished car to bear that badge.

Will it will be the second electric release?

By the time the A9 e-tron hits the showroom floor, the production version of the Audi Quattro concept should already be with us. The Ingolstadt marque has once again gone quiet on the R8 e-tron sportscar, but it surely has to bring that to market as well.

The SUV should give us more than 300 miles on a single charge and it will pave the way for the luxury A9 that could put a serious dent in the global sales numbers of the Tesla Model S, if Audi can price it right.

Audi is chasing Tesla

The German marque is undoubtedly playing catch-up with Tesla. But it has massive resources to throw at R&D thanks to the collective might of the VW Group, which includes Porsche, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, VW, SEAT and Skoda.

If all of these marques intend to switch to electric or hybrid power and Porsche is already well on the way, then their shared intelligence could mean that Audi and possibly Porsche are the most realistic challengers to Tesla’s fledgling electric empire.

Mercedes is coming, too, and we’ll know more about its plans next month when the company launches at least one car and potentially a whole new brand at the Paris Motor Show. BMW and Jaguar have electric luxury cars on the way, too. So the EV scene could be a bloody battleground by the time this car hits the showrooms.

Musk might have a surprise or two

There’s a lot riding on the A9, then, but there is also time for Elon Musk to respond with developments to the Model S.

Musk is currently collecting millions of miles of Autopilot data every day and that is set to grow exponentially with the launch of the Model 3 next year. By the time Audi hits the market with Level 4 autonomy, then, Tesla could quite conceivably have Level 5 ready and waiting.

This is a fascinating tech war between a disruptive newcomer and the old guard. Right now, the establishment is rocking on its heels and the likes of Audi need to work hard to get back into this fight.

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