In less than a decade, Tesla’s created what many say is still an insurmountable lead with regards to electric vehicle technology, from batteries to motors and so. This undeniable advantage has posed a problem for many storied and long-established car manufacturers as their EV offerings are inevitably compared to Tesla.
And so, here we are. The Tesla Model S first hit the road in 2012. Since then, the car has barely evolved physically, be it inside or out. Attractive as it was then, it still manages to get by on its looks today but they are very secondary compared to the car’s innovative technologies and what it did to push the EV agenda forward, and line Musk’s pocket-book.
Over the years, the Model S has been offered in a number of configurations, from single and dual motor, and a half-dozen battery sizes. Now, in 2020, the Model S’ specs are simplified to a point where there’s one battery pack, and two trims.
Audi, unlike Tesla, benefits from the Volkswagen Auto Group’s extensive resources. With the group behind and a series of developed tools, Audi introduced its first EV to market roughly a year ago. In the last 18 months or so, Audi’s also unveiled a number of e-tron concepts including the fantastic GT concept. Fast-forward today and the production version is the Sportback.
While it’s not quite as much of a visual knockout than the concept, the Sportback is still quite special. If anything, it’s so far unique in design but not in the way it can be spec’d out. Like the Model S and the e-tron SUV, there’s one powertrain configuration and a few “trims.”
Both manufacturers have experienced difficulties getting their respective products on the road but there’s one big difference: Tesla got over the initial bugs eight years ago. Audi faced delivery complications with the e-tron last year and hopefully, the Sportback will not face the same problems.
The 2020 Tesla Model S and Audi e-tron Sportback are both fully electric luxury cars and are closely matched in many regards. Let’s see how.
What is the pricing and when will they be available?
The 2020 Tesla Model S is available and pricing starts at $112,990 for the base Long Range Plus. Moving up to the bonkers Performance version sees the price jump an incredible $25,000 to $137,990.
The 2020 Audi e-tron Sportback will start at $93,400. The mid-trim Technik will start at $101,400. Audi has announced that a limited run launch edition, or Edition One, will be offered and will be priced at a hefty $111,500.
The new e-tron Sportback is expected to arrive this summer. The Coronavirus pandemic may or may not push back the date to later in 2020.
Which Has The More Interesting Powertrains?
Much of the disappointment surrounding the e-tron SUV was the relatively poor performance figures. Namely, the 95kWh battery enabling the SUV to travel only 328km on a full charge. It is capable of 150 kW rapid charging.
In contrast, the Tesla Model S’ 100kWh battery delivers an EPA range of, hang on, 629km. That rating is for the Long Range Plus model. The Performance delivers “only” 560km of EV driving. Fast charging capability is of 200 kW.
The Audi’s two asynchronous electric motors generate a combined 355-horsepower (up to 402 in Boost Mode) and 414 lb.-ft. of torque (490 in Boost Mode). The Sportback is rated to reach 96km/h in 5.5 seconds.
The Model S sports a permanent magnet synchronous motor upfront while the rear is an asynchronous type. Together, they produce up to 762-horsepower and an Everest-like amount of torque. The Long Range Plus sprints to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds while the Performance cuts that number to no more than 2.5 seconds.
Now, on paper and in the real world, the Tesla will smash the Audi outright in all measurable ways no matter what. However, Audi, like Porsche, can be conservative at times with their shared data.
Which is better equipped?
The 2020 Audi e-tron GT is quite well equipped as expected. The $93,400 Progressiv features heated leather seats, heated steering wheel, leatherette on the dashboard, 4-zone climate control, power trunk lid, Audi Virtual Cockpit, an upper 10.1-inch and lower 8.6-inch displays, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and much more.
In Tesla’s corner, the $112,990 Long Range Plus comes with the 17-inch touchscreen display, front and rear heated seats and steering wheel, HEPA air filtration, navigation, wireless phone charging, and much more like basic Autopilot. There is one thing that is also included ant that’s free unlimited supercharging on Tesla Supercharger network.
There are a number of options available on the e-tron such as the Audi Phone Box (wireless charging), Driver Assistance, and Convenience packages, that increase its level of features to that of the Tesla Model S. Comparatively speaking, the Audi is still far less expensive at $97,400.
What About Style?
We’ve touched slightly on this topic already. Although the Tesla Model S is relatively dated, it still looks quite contemporary. With the right colour and the available 21-inch wheels, it remains totally attractive.
The Audi e-tron Sportback, on the other hand, is quite the charmer. The Sportback has far more visual character punctuated defined body lines. Depending on trim, the wheel arches are dark in colour, increasing the Sportback’s appeal to that of an Allroad Audi.
Importantly, both are 5-door sedans or, better yet, hatchbacks.
How important are these vehicles for their respective brands?
At one time, the Model S was Tesla. It represented the brand’s abilities, technologies, and capabilities. It was, at once, the utility vehicle with its large trucks and 7-passenger capacity, as well as it’s halo sports car.
The endless upgrades and updates made to the Model S over the last eight years have kept it at the very top of its small segment. The title of flagship vehicle for Tesla still belongs to the Model S however it’s the latest Model Y SUV that will lead the way from now on.
As for the Audi e-tron Sportback, its role is not quite so defined. In Audi’s electric e-tron family, the SUV should be forging a path however it, like the Jaguar I-Pace, has proven to be ineffective foes to the Model X and are likely to fall further now that the Model Y is here.
The Sportback may very well do better than the SUV if mostly for the fact that it’s not an SUV and is closer physically to a wagon. It will be interesting to see how and where Audi positions this cool EV and we’re sure to find out before long.
Now, although the 2020 Tesla Model S and Audi e-tron Sportback are fascinating in their own right, they both have a problem in the Porsche Taycan 4S. At $119,400, the base Taycan might be down spec-wise on the Tesla but as we all know, the Porsche delivers.