Audi Q6 E-tron Quattro, an Electric SUV, Comes in 2018

With Clean Diesel busted, Audi expedites this Tesla Model X competitor to clear the air.

Audi’s Clean Diesel dreams hit a huge snag in September, when parent company Volkswagen got caught using software that allowed its diesel models to pass U.S. emissions tests in the laboratory yet release excessive NOx into the atmosphere when driven in the real world.

Fixes are in the works. But now, bursting forth from that murk, comes the truly clean, all-electric Q6 E-tron Quattro, the production version of the Audi E-tron Quattro concept revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year. Had there been no diesel caper, we would have expected this concept to reach production in several years. But with the klieg lights having dimmed a bit on the whole “Progress Through Technology” banner, Audi hopes the batteries in the Q6 E-tron Quattro will get everything radiant again.

Rumor has it that the luxury brand has shut down all non-core car development to get the electric Q6 out to dealers mach schnell. The target on-sale date is in 2018, which means the new A6 E-tron Quattro will be the first battery-powered competition for the Tesla Model X SUV to come from a major manufacturer.

The powertrain layout from the concept is planned for production: Two electric motors drive the rear wheels the majority of the time, while another in front assists at low speeds and during light acceleration. Total output: 429 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque in standard use, but that can jump to 496 hp for short spells using a boost function. The 95-kWh lithium-ion battery housed in the floor is good for a claimed 310 miles of range. If you’re planning a day much closer to home, the A6 E-tron Quattro battery will hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 130.5 mph.

For comparison, the all-wheel-drive Tesla Model X in 90D guise gets a 90-kWh battery juicing two 259-hp motors, dashes to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, has a 257-mile range and a top speed of 155 mph. You can get a Model X P90D that will do the stoplight dash to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, but come now—it’s not a competition. The electric Audi Q6 will offer seating for five; the Model X can be equipped with space for seven.

The same Q6 E-tron Quattro architecture will play another tune around 2019, when a hydrogen-powered fuel-cell version is due. This Q6 will have two electric motors: a 121-hp unit in the bow and a 188-hp unit in the stern, dispensing 406 lb.-ft. of total torque. You’ll get faster refills and superior range with this one, 370 miles, but you’ll take about two seconds longer to get from standstill to 60 mph. Just in case it is a competition...