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Geneva show: More Audi RS SUVs coming

Five star: Audi’s second-gen SQ5 has been recently revealed with petrol power, but an even more manic diesel version could roll out in Geneva next month wearing RS badges.

Audi Sport working on up to ten new RS models with SUVs under the spotlight

Audi logo7 Feb 2017

By DANIEL GARDNER

AUDI has confirmed that its line-up of RS-branded SUVs will grow beyond the sole RS Q3 baby of the range (below), with more top-performing high-riders set to join the Audi Sport stable.

While the German car-maker offers warmed up S-badged variants in the Q5 and Q7 ranks, the coveted RS badge is yet to be slapped on the boot of anything larger than its compact SUV, but that is set to change, Audi says.

When asked if Audi’s most potent range of RS models was due to gain a greater presence in the SUV segments, global Audi Sport managing director Stephan Winkelmann responded: “Yes, for sure, yes,” and explained that growth in the high-rider markets was driving demand for high-performance versions.

“This is one of our tasks to have more and more Qs given the growth of the segment and given the acceptance of sports SUVs this is one of our challenges,” he said at the Bathurst 12 Hour race last weekend.

As head of the Audi Sport division, Mr Winkelmann heads-up the global team for the development of all RS models plus the flagship R8 sportscar, with milder S-versions handled by the broader Audi engineering and development team.

Exactly which models of the auto-maker’s expanding portfolio of SUVs will get the RS boot-camp treatment remains to be seen but Mr Winkelmann said the performance branch was working on as many as ten projects.

While a number will be newcomers to the crossover line-up, Mr Winkelmann said some would be replacement versions of longer-standing RS variants which is likely to include the eagerly anticipated RS4.

“We have at least eight or ten projects,” he said. “When I say eight to ten, it’ s also changing and it’s the next generation. We are heading some out but we are also making strategic choices in which segments we want to go and which body styles.” While some pundits predict the next-generation RS4 will roll out out at the Geneva motor show in March this year, Mr Winkelmann dashed hopes, responding simply “nope” to the suggestion, but said there would be another important car from the hi-po Audi wing to look forward to.

“Geneva is in front of us and we will have a launch there which is going to be very important for us because it’s a new era in the B-segment of these cars,” he said.

While some scales place only the smallest compact models in the A-segment, Mr Winkelmann bundled all of the A3 and Q3 derivatives under the same umbrella, assigning A4, A5 and Q5 to the B-segment.

With little on the radar for RS badged sedans and coupes in the segment, the Geneva show car could be an even more potent version of the SQ5 large SUV, which would introduce an RS Q5 badge for the first time.

With the reveal of the new SQ5, Audi has confirmed that, unlike the first version, a diesel engine option will not be offered, but at the launch of the second-gen Q5 in Mexico last year, Audi told GoAuto it was likely a high-performance diesel was, in fact, on its way.

That news could indicate that the vicious 320kW/900Nm 4.0-litre V8 diesel that powers the recently-introduced SQ7 may have been shoehorned under the bonnet of the Q5, which shares the same platform as the larger SUV, creating the first RS Q5 and leaving petrol power the preserve of the SQ5.

Electrification is another explanation of the “new era” which would pioneer some kind of hybrid or EV for the esteemed performance brand.

As for other RS-badged SUVs, the smaller end of the line-up is likely to gain new offerings as well.

Audi has recently announced an all-new version of it’s unique five-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, which is exclusive to the RS stable under the bonnet of the TT RS, updated RS Q3 and forthcoming RS3 Sedan.

Mr Winkelmann agreed that the 294kW alloy engine was versatile but it would be limited to the A-segment, which brings the new Q2 baby SUV into line as future candidate for an RS makeover.

The global Audi Sport boss explained that a focus on the smaller end of the range was critical for the growth of the brand as it allows a new generation of buyers to join the RS family, but the company was treading carefully to not reduce the brand’s exclusivity.

“We are not going for volume, we are going for exclusivity so the A-segment is going to be covered which is important for our dealers – it’s also important to the younger generation for them to get into the mood of these kind of cars.

“Other than that we tend to see that we need to have those prestige cars which are not so much about volume.” The mighty mid-engined R8 coupe and Spyder also fall under the low-volume, high-prestige umbrella and while some sources predict the sportscar will be shelved as part of the company’s belt-tightening following the diesel emissions crisis, Mr Winkelmann said the model was safe “for the time being”.

With a focus on the sportier end of the SUV lines, a production version of the recently-revealed Q6 SUV coupe could also be chalked for the RS treatment.

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