Nobody saw this coming.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class and its electric counterpart, the EQG, will soon face competition from Audi, as the four-ringed brand is allegedly looking at developing an electric off-roader based on underpinnings sourced from VW's new EV brand, Scout. Audi has never displayed any interest in this particular segment before, despite being responsible for making all-wheel drive as prominent as it is.
In an interview with Autocar, Audi designer Marc Lichte hinted at a new rugged 4x4, and the German brand's bigwigs are on the verge of giving the unnamed off-roader the green light. Lichte did not want to go into details but said Audi's G-Class and Defender rival would sit on a platform borrowed from one of the other brands within the Volkswagen Group. That means it will not be built on the PPE architecture Audi shares with Porsche. It also rules the updated T6 Ford Ranger platform, on which Volkswagen builds the all-new Amarok.
If we look at all the Volkswagen Group-related news over the past year, only one platform makes sense. As you might have heard, VW is reinventing Scout as an entirely EV brand. VW is not half-assing the resurgence of the Scout brand and is developing a completely new platform to make it as rugged as possible.
Coincidentally, the rumor mill suggests the VW Group will use Magna to build the EV. Audi already has an existing collaboration with Magna relating to EV components. As a bonus, Magna builds the Mercedes-Benz G-Class in Austria, so it has years of experience with ladder-frame luxury SUVs.
Why now, however? "If you think about the history of Audi - the rallying success in the '80s with the Quattro and Sport Quattro - it's easy to explain why Audi needs a car like this. And if we talk about Quattro 2.0, it matches even more," said Lichte. "I think there is space [for a rugged Audi off-roader]."
While it's true that Audi has an impressive rally heritage, its actual production cars are not known for off-roading. The first-generation Audi A6 allroad was a nifty off-roader, but it mainly produces a series of (sublime) mall crawlers.
For years automotive enthusiasts have wondered why Audi never used the first-generation VW Amarok platform to build a high-end midsize pickup truck, but the spectacular failure of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class proved that it was a segment too far.
Still, Audi now has a semi-favorable EV off-road image thanks to its efforts at the infamous Dakar Rally. If the lessons learned from that program can be implemented into a ladder-frame chassis provided by Scout (excellent approach, breakover, and departure angles included as standard), Audi would have a winner. Think Audi Q8 e-tron with short overhangs, sitting on a ladder-frame chassis.
Add a layer of Audi luxury and style, and people would think twice about buying a G-Class or Defender.
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