Audi put together its Artemis team to shake up how high-tech electric vehicles are developed, and the first example of that in action is tipped to be a lavish flagship fit to take on the best of Mercedes, BMW, and other high-end brands. Announced back in May, Artemis is Audi’s experiment at EV fast-tracking, bypassing the current vehicle development process to create “a pioneering model.”
That’s “model” both in the vehicle sense, and in the design and engineering sense too. Led by Alex Hitzinger, formerly in charge of Volkswagen’s autonomous vehicle efforts, and prior to that on Apple’s own self-driving car project, Artemis will have full access to all of VW’s hardware, software, engineering, and design talent.
In doing so, it’ll sit alongside – or, more accurately perhaps, pierce right through – VW Group’s existing electrification strategy. That has seen the development of universal electric vehicle platforms like MEB, which will underpin EVs from everyday affordable hatchbacks like the ID.3, though to more unusual fare like an electric Microbus. Audi will use the MEB itself, too, but Artemis will have its own flexibility around how the technology is implemented.
What we weren’t sure of was just what car that would lead to. All Audi would say was that the goal was “a highly efficient electric car that is scheduled to be on the road as early as 2024,” and that it would lean heavily on highly-automated driving tech.
According to Autocar‘s sources, that vehicle could end up being the Audi A9 e-tron. Described as an electric luxury sedan, it’ll pick up on the themes the automaker first explored with the Aicon concept back in 2017. In terms of positioning, it will slot in above the A8 sedan.
The Aicon was billed as Audi’s vision of the Level 5 autonomous, high-end luxury four-door EV. Exploring themes such as how car interiors might evolve as manual driving became less commonplace, it filled its near 18 foot long body with a vast cabin modeled after a “first-class airline” experience. Accessed via front and rear hinged doors, the 2+2 interior is more like a lavish salon, with OLED touchscreen controls woven into a command strip, and no traditional steering wheel or pedals.
The A9 e-tron isn’t expected to be quite so aggressive in giving up physical controls, but that’s not to say it’ll be like anything else on the Audi forecourt today. Believed to be codenamed E6 internally, and still in its early stages of development, the car is said to have exterior dimensions in line with the current Audi A7 – which is just over 16 feet long – and have either a sporting sedan or liftback body style. Courtesy of the electric drivetrain, though, the interior is said to be more akin to Audi A8 in size.
It’ll be an opportunity for Audi to heap on its handiwork in cutting-edge tech, too. That means both 5G and car-to-X communications, plus features like augmented reality. There’ll be support for OTA updates to add new features, along with Audi’s newest driver-assistance technology. That, in the shape of the Level 3 “traffic jam pilot” system, had initially been intended as an upgrade to the current-generation A8, but Audi shelved those plans after realizing the scale of regulatory hurdles – not to mention a lack of consistency across markets – in the industry today.
Whether or not Artemis’ car does launch as the Audi A9 e-tron remains to be seen. However the goal is clear: take on vehicles in the pipeline such as the Mercedes-Benz EQS and the new Jaguar XJ, each expected to be fully-electric, and give not only Audi but VW Group as a whole a tech-savvy halo car.