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Audi Goes Green with the Electric 2016 R8 E-Tron

Image via Flickr by Mundo Velocidad

Image via Flickr by Mundo Velocidad

Until now, luxury car makers have largely steered clear of electric models. Perhaps they’ve been scared off by the incredible buzz and charisma of Tesla and it’s seemingly unstoppable creator, Elon Musk. But with some analysts speculating that the electric market could be worth as much as $70 billion by 2021, it’s no surprise that one of the world’s biggest luxury brands has stepped into the ring. Enter the Audi R8 E-Tron. The highly anticipated second-generation R8 debuted at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show. Didn’t get to see it in person? Don’t worry, we’ve got all the drool-worthy details.

Tesla’s First Challenger?

Until the E-Tron, the Tesla Model S was the only electric car in production with a reported per-charge range of more than 200 miles. (By comparison, the very unsexy electric BMW i3 has a range of about 80 miles.) Audi says the 2016 R8 E-Tron will have a range of 280 miles per charge, just over the Model S’s stated range of 265 miles, but no one has been able to test that claim.

Some skeptics think Tesla has little to fear, thanks to its combination of performance, technical innovation, and robust charging infrastructure. But Audi is just getting started, and there’s little doubt that Mr. Musk knows his days of having the market to himself are over.

Inspired by Motorsport

The automaker takes great pride in the R8’s motorsport roots. The previous generation of the gas-powered R8 racked up more than 200 racing titles around the world, and the updated conventional version features two 10-cylinder engine options and a wide, flat design that stays true to its roots. While you won’t find a V10 under the hood of the E-Tron, that muscular styling is still there, and in fact some observers prefer the subtle tweaks to the E-Tron’s exterior over the look of its gas-powered sibling.

Twice as Much Battery Power

How does the electric R8 get all that mileage out of a single charge? Audi nearly doubled the battery’s energy density from the previous iteration to this one — it jumped from 49 kilowatt-hours to 92. The battery is T-shaped, and sits in the center tunnel, behind the occupant cell, for optimal gravitational positioning. The new-generation lithium-ion battery is designed by Audi just for the E-Tron, and if it delivers on its promise, the car maker has reason to brag.

So What Can it Do?

Let’s talk numbers. The E-Tron’s two rear-mounted electric motors produce a reported 456 horsepower and 679 feet-pounds of torque. That translates to a zero-to-62 acceleration in 3.9 seconds, and a top speed of 155 miles per hour.

Before you break out the credit card, brace yourself. You’re going spend even more than you would for a Tesla. A lot more. The base price for the gas-powered R8 is $165,000, more than twice the base of the Model S, and it’s a safe bet the E-Tron will come at a big premium. But if the R8 E-Tron is all it’s cracked up to be, it might just be worth it for a very lucky few.