Speaking to Wheels at the opening of the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, Audi Sport chief executive Stephan Winkelmann said the German luxury brand’s performance skunk works would continue to invest in SUVs“because I think they can be very driveable and the segment is growing worldwide”.
Until the company is ready to reveal its next move, the Q3-based Audi RS Q3 will remain the sole offering but Winkelmann said, while there is no size limit for RS-badged SUVs, there will not be a sub-RS Q3 model and not every SUV will get the high-performance treatment.
“We skip models but it’s not so much about sizes but about body style. I think big SUVs can fit maybe big limos cannot. But we will not pick every one. We will not go below RS3.”
In the lesser performance S category, Audi already offers the SQ5 and SQ7, based on the Q5 and Q7 models, but an even more driver-focused RS version of either model could be on the cards. A version of the forthcoming Q8 is also another prime candidate.
The R8 e-tron signalled Audi Sport’s electrified intent with the limited-production high-performance coupe, but a more large scale car will join the RS or R8 fold “between 2020 and 2021”, Winkelmann said.
Quite whether it will be a pure EV or hybrid offering is yet to be confirmed, but Winkelmann said Audi Sporthad to get its one shot right.
“For me electrification is important,” hew said.“It’s something we will not stop but how fast it is going to be, we will see, but we will have one BEV (battery electric vehicle) because we are small we have to decide if we go half step hybrid or full step with the BEV because we think that we have the duty to position the brand not just within Audi Sport but within the Audi group.”
As for petrol power, the recently updated 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo unit that powers the RS3, RSQ3 and TT RS is only just getting started with 294kW, and Winkelmann confirmed the unorthodox five-pot has more to give.“There is more power in the engine,” he said.
The in-line five is limited to MQB applications and a transverse orientation, which pits the likeable donk at the smaller end of Audi Sport’s range.However, we can expect a flow of tuned-up variants including Plus versions and more potent specials.
But while its power and torque is key in the fight against other German grenade engines – most notably Mercedes-AMG’s 2.0-litre turbo four – Winkelmann said the five-cylinder was as much about offering exclusivity in the range as it was about producing hefty performance figures.
“I said we should stay in this segment because we developed this engine and it gives us exclusivity,” he said.“In general, we are not giving the RS badge to every Audi that is coming out of the factory. We want to pick them very carefully because we are going for exclusivity. I see exclusiveness in the RS3 and TT RS because of the five-cylinder.”
Exactly which segments the feisty Audi skunkworks will dip its toe into next will have to wait until more information is made public, but Winkelmann said the brand was not limited by particular body styles, and a wide range of future products were all on the table.
“These are the things that are important because we will move into other segments and other body styles. We want to come from 11 models today to 16 by 2020,” he said.
As for whether the top Audi Sport man will stay in the role amid reports he has one foot in at Bugatti? “Nothing to speculate,” he said.
Audi Sport used Frankfurt to show two additions to its line-up; the rear-drive R8 V10 RWS, and an all-new RS4 Avant featuring a return to a twin-turbo V6.