Audi Introduces Its Answer to the Tesla Model X

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Volkswagen’s Audi group on Monday took the wraps off the company’s first all-electric luxury midsize sport utility vehicle, the Audi e-tron. The vehicle won’t be available until the second quarter of next year, but buyers can configure their car and put down a $1,000 refundable deposit to get in line.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the way Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) revved up enthusiasm at its introduction of the Model 3 sedan. Tesla claims to have taken more than 400,000 deposits for the Model 3, a total that Audi is not likely to match.

In the first place, there’s the price. The Model 3’s base price is $35,000 while the base price for an Audi e-tron is more than double that, at $74,800. And from there the price goes up, as it can on the Model 3.

The e-tron comes in three basic trim packages: Premium Plus (aka, the base price); Prestige, at $81,400; and First Edition at $86,700. A fully loaded Model 3 could set you back more than $86,000.

Compared to the Model X SUV, the e-tron is right on target. The base price for a Model X is $79,500, and it’s possible to add enough options to push that price well north of $100,000.

The Audi e-tron’s range is estimated at 250 miles, in the same ballpark as the base Model X 75D’s 238-mile range. The e-tron’s battery is rated at 95kWh where the base Model X battery is a 75 kWh version. The Model X also offers a larger 100 kWh battery.

One unique feature of the new Audi is its partnership with Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) to provide “Audi Home Charging powered by Amazon Home Services.” According to Audi’s announcement, the charging system “offers e-tron buyers a fully-digital experience for in-home electric vehicle charging installations, designed to make the process of home charging set up as easy as ordering the millions of others items and services U.S. customers depend on from Amazon.”

Audi also noted that by next July, the company’s “Powered by Electrify America” network will include nearly 500 fast-charging sites complete or under development throughout 40 states and 17 metro areas. Offering advanced charging, Electrify America’s chargers are capable of delivering up to 350kW. With the purchase of the Audi e-tron, customers will receive 1,000 kWh of charging at Electrify America sites over four years of ownership. Electrify America is part of the price that Audi parent VW had to pay for its diesel emissions cheating.

The other all-electric luxury midsize SUV in the game now is Jaguar’s I-pace, which carries a base price of $69,500 and range of 240 miles with a 90 kWh battery. By the time the Audi e-tron hits the U.S. market next summer, there are likely to be even more players on the field.