Last year, Audi changed the name of its performance subdivision from “Quattro GmbH” to “Audi Sport”. The reason for the change was simple — branding. “Quattro Gmbh was never really intended as a consumer-facing name. It really made sense for us to look for an opportunity for us to look at Audi Sport being recognized in the area of motorsports,” said Audi’s Vice President of Product Management Filip Brabec during a recent interview with Motor Authority. Part of that was to compete with BMW’s famous M Division and Mercedes’ AMG, two names highly associated with rich motorsport histories.
Audi Sport has been relatively small, at least in the United States, where hot Audis are far less popular than their competitors from BMW M and Mercedes-AMG. In fact, I’d wager that none other than absolute car enthusiasts even know what Audi Sport is and I’d bet that even then, it’s a small portion of the enthusiast world that knows. Not only is it relatively new but Audi simply never marketed its performance cars as part of a subdivision, like BMW and Mercedes-Benz have. Now, though, Audi Sport is planning on developing eight new cars in the next 24 months here in the ‘States.
If you didn’t already know, Audi Sport is the subdivision dedicated to developing R, RS and some S models. The highest performing Audis are developed at Audi Sport, which runs and acts as an independent company, much like BMW M. “We are just like a little, small car manufacturing company. We have the full range. We have a financial department, we have development, production, quality. We are completely responsible for our business. We are responsible for the business case of the car. Of course, our only owner is Audi AG, so at the end of the year we donate our profit,” said Stephan Reil, head of Audi Sport Product Development.
So in the coming months, we’re going to continue to see more RS models to hit the US market. We’ve already seen three of them at this past New York Auto Show. The Audi RS3, TT RS and RS5 all made their debuts in New York and will be the first three of eight RS models to hit US shores within the next two years. The former two will launch this Summer while the latter will launch sometime early 2018.
We could certainly see at least one RS-branded Audi SUV or crossover in the near future, something like an RS Q3 or RS Q5 .”From a segment standpoint, it [an RS-branded crossover] is a natural choice, because these are growing segments for us, absolutely. But then, we have to have a discussion with Audi Sport about what may or may not fit. And this is again where it is important to keep the authenticity of the RS concept,” said Brabec.
Some of the other models we could see in the future are cars like the upcoming Audi RS4 (which is certainly coming in Europe), RS6 (again, definitely a Euro-market car) and TT RS Roadster. It’s doubtful we’ll see any RS Avants in the future, though it is possible now, thanks to the success of the Allroad. With those three and the three Audi’s already announced, that makes six Audi RS models to come with two others to come. So it’s certainly possible that two of them could be the aforementioned crossovers.
However, just because there will only be eight RS-branded models, that doesn’t mean there won’t be more Audi Sort models. Not all Audi Sport vehicles are branded with the “RS” moniker, as cars that are very fast but not true performance cars don’t get the name. Cars like the Audi S8 Plus, despite not wearing an “R” in their names are developed by Audi Sport.
“There we had the discussion. Is it an RS 8 or is it an S8 Plus?” said Reil. “On straight performance, no question. 605 horses. It’s good for straight performance to label it an RS. But to reach the other goals we have for an RS the car would have been much more aggressive from the design side. In order to reach our driving dynamic goals, the ride would have been much more uncomfortable than it is now. Our marketing people said the customer wants outstanding performance straight, good cornering—but not outstanding. Not racetrack because you don’t use an S8 for racetracks. There are other track tools that are suited better on the track. So the decision was made that it’s not an RS 8. It will be an S8 Plus.”
That same philosophy can work for something like an Audi Q7 or Q8. So it’s possible that we could see eight new Audi RS models but also a few new S Plus models from Audi Sport. While there’s no certainty that Audi Sport could get as big or as popular as BMW’s M Division or Mercedes’ AMG, as those two have been around for decades now, if it doesn’t it won’t be for Audi’s lack of trying.