Audi is set to approve an all-electric off-road SUV that will compete with the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQG and Defender EV, in an unexpected and first-ever foray into the rugged 4x4 realm for the luxury German brand.
The scoop comes courtesy of Autocar.co.uk, which writes that Audi will probably debut its electric off-roader sometime in 2027, quoting the brand’s lead designer, Marc Lichte, who stopped short of offering conclusive details, but when pushed with additional questions, hinted that the model will ride on a platform taken elsewhere in the Volkswagen Group.
In other words, the 2027-bound 4x4 will probably sit on the next-generation EV platform that will underpin the first models of the resurrected Scout brand, which was acquired by the VW Group back in 2021 with plans of launching two Rivian-rivaling electric off-roaders under the dormant American brand.
Autocar explains this probable move on Audi’s part in the context of the Volkswagen Group delaying its next-generation Scalable Systems Platform (SSP), which will replace the current Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB), until at least 2028.
Another hint of Audi’s intentions is the recent debut of its Activesphere concept, which has an all-electric drive system, complete with all-wheel drive, height-adjustable air suspension, and a rear end that can transform into a pickup bed for carrying e-bikes or sports equipment.
Gallery: Audi Activesphere Concept (2023)
But while the eye-catching coupe-crossover prototype sits on the brand’s Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture, the upcoming rugged 4x4 will have a ladder-frame chassis, with the batteries nestled between the frame rails, just as in the upcoming Mercedes EQG.
The first-ever series production electric Defender is also reportedly in the works and will have been revealed by 2027, making Audi’s job even harder in creating a model that will have to convince potential customers it’s better than its competitors.
Audi isn’t a stranger to the concept of off-roading, having competed in rallying throughout history, most recently with its Dakar prototypes, but it never made a full-stop off-road production SUV, so it will have an uphill battle ahead, considering one of its main rivals in this segment has been sold in one form or another for over 70 years (the Mercedes G-Class has been on sale since 1979 and the Land Rover Defender can trace its roots back to 1948).
However, the German brand’s lead designer thinks there’s space for another player in this segment. “There is potential because there are only two premium players and I think there is a space for a third one, ” said Lichte for Autocar, adding that “It will not look like a G-Class and it will not look like a Defender, I can promise you. It will be something else."