What about an RS based on a crossover SUV? The RS Q3 is available overseas. An RS Q5 could make sense based on the new Q5 that's small enough to handle well, and an SQ5 will arrive soon.
"From a segment standpoint, it (a crossover-based RS) 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," Audi's Vice President of Product Management Filip Brabec said.
Could Audi go even larger than that?
Perhaps for an Audi Sport product, but not as an RS model. Reil gave the example of the Q7 V12 TDI that was offered from 2008 to 2012, but not in the U.S. This SUV had a 500-hp V-12 diesel engine that ground out 770 pound-feet of torque, but it didn't have what it took to qualify as an RS. "We have a clear catalog of characteristics of what RS stands for and, of course, when you are in a 2.7-ton SUV, it is quite hard to reach these goals," Reil said.
To prepare for this product onslaught, Audi has signed on more than half of its dealers to have a dedicated Audi Sport salesperson tasked with knowing the cars inside and out.
Those dealers should see a strong business case to make the needed investment. Audi Sport models cost 60 percent more than regular models, and Audi says business is brisk. In the last five years, it has doubled sales of Audi Sport models, and sales were up 18 percent in 2016.
A business within a business
What is now Audi Sport was formerly Quattro. The change occurred last November, but why? "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," Brabec said.
Audi Sport independently operates within Audi. "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," Reil quipped.
The cars are even labeled as Audi Sport Gmbh creations.
Reil and his team are involved with product development at the start of each project. "Right at the beginning when our colleagues from Audi AG think of the new car, the new platform, right at that moment we are sitting with them at the table and discussing our concepts, our solutions," Reil said.
Audi Sport vehicles need packaging considerations such as more space in the engine compartment, more room for cooling, larger wheels and brakes, wider tracks, and different suspensions. Even the structures need to make room for thicker exhaust pipes and larger transmissions. "The best thing, of course, is when our parts are part of the compromise. If that is not possible because it would have an influence on the part cost of the base model, then we are looking for modular solutions that we can open that door later on with the smallest amount of money," Reil said.
2018 Audi R8 LMS GT4 race carEnlarge Photo
The Audi Sport brand also covers corporate motorsports, customer racing, Audi Sport merchandise, and performance parts. To that end, Audi Sport just introduced the R8 LMS GT4 customer race car in New York, joining the R8 LMS GT3 and RS 3 LMS as turn-key race cars for customers.
It's the cars, however, that American buyers will be interested in, especially those RS models that we've missed out on for all those years.
Look out, AMG and M, Audi Sport is coming for you. That's a good thing for U.S. enthusiasts.