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Audi’s Tesla-punching sedan is beginning to take shape

Audi’s electric vehicle offensive will allegedly include a fast, luxurious sedan aimed right at the Tesla Model S. Tentatively called A9 e-tron, it will be positioned near the top of the Audi lineup.

The sedan will be “as high up as possible, in the A8 segment,” according to company boss Rupert Stadler, but it won’t share many components with its gasoline-powered sibling. Instead, the A9 is tipped to ride on the same aluminum-intensive modular platform as the production version of the year-old e-tron quattro concept, which could adopt the Q6 e-tron name when it arrives in 2018.

The A9 will get the Q6’s electric drivetrain, too. That means it will use a large battery pack sandwiched between the axles and no less than three asynchronous electric motors. Audi predicts that asynchronous motors will give the A9 an edge over the competition, which predominantly uses synchronous motors.

“Some rivals have gone for a synchronous motor with a high power density but at relatively low revs. There are also asynchronous motors that typically achieve similar power outputs but at much higher revs. From 2018, our electric cars will be equipped with asynchronous motors. We are convinced they offer higher efficiency levels than synchronous motors,” explained Stefan Knirsch, the head of Audi’s research and development division.

The drivetrain will send 425 horsepower and nearly 600 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels in its most basic configuration, though performance specifications haven’t been announced yet. British magazine Autocar reports the A9 e-tron will boast at least 300 miles of range, and owners will be able to top up the battery pack wirelessly thanks to Audi’s inductive charging technology.

Audi will rival Tesla on the autonomous driving front, too. Insiders have revealed that the A9 will be capable of level four autonomy, meaning it will be able to drive itself without any input from the driver. Notably, the autonomous tech won’t be limited to highway use.

Read more: Is Audi’s V8 engine an endangered species?

If the rumors are accurate, the Audi A9 e-tron will arrive in showrooms before the turn of the decade. More details about it will trickle out over the coming years, and odds are that in the not-too-distant future, a close-to-production concept will give us a preview of what it will look like.