Call it a sign of the times: Audi Sport, the go-fast division responsible for Audi’s RS performance cars, is set to expand its SUV portfolio as the brand’s offerings grow.
From its initial launch concentrating on only one RS-prepared model line at a time, Audi Sport will expand its range of high-performance vehicles to include a total of 16 models, six of which will be unveiled over the next three years.
At the international launch of the second-generation RS 5 coupe in Andorra last week, Audi Sport boss Stefan Winkelman told Australian media that his growth plans for the brand included incorporating ever more popular SUVs into the model mix, trading on the popularity of such vehicles in markets like Australia, China and the USA.
"One of the things that I am looking into is that when we expand the portfolio that we have to go into more segments that are saleable worldwide, and for sure the SUV is the shift we need to do," he said.
"Today we do one and we will do more than one [SUV]. The plan is there to do as many as we can."
The move to SUVs not only follows buyer trends, but also allows Audi to claim tenuous heritage links, with Audi Sport’s first models (under its previous Quattro name) derived from station wagons.
Currently the RS Q3 is Audi Sport’s sole high-performance SUV, and has been criticised for being more of a cynical marketing effort rather than a full-blooded RS model.
Winkelman wouldn’t reveal which of Audi’s future models were in line for an RS makeover, but it is expected that of the six future Audi Sport models to come, at least half will be based on SUVs.
The first of those performance SUVs seems most likely to be the new Q5, mainstream models of which are set to go on sale from next month, with the previous generation SQ5 becoming that model line’s strongest seller locally, and the new Q5 closely related to the just-launched RS 5 coupe.
Beyond that, Audi’s new Q4 and Q8 (top of page) sporty SUVs will also get RS models, while Audi also has an RS 4 Avant in the pipeline and plans to introduce RS versions of Audi’s coming range of e-tron electric vehicles.
But not every Audi model is considered suitable for an Audi Sport makeover, with Winkelman hesitant about the performance potential of cars like the A8 limo range beyond the sporty S8.
"This is not decided yet, even if it would be nice to do a lot," he said. "One of the things we said was to make sure we expand into new segments but also protect the icons, which is the Avants, the R8 and RS 5. For us, exclusivity is just as important as having a full line up so we will not enter into every piece of the picture."
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