Audi RS range to go hybrid

Legislation will force future Audi performance cars into using hybrid power

Audi RS6 Avant side view

Low-emission legislation changes will force almost all of Audi’s fastest models into hybrid power within a generation, the head of quattro has admitted.

Managing director of quattro, Heinz Hollerweger, has said the entire family of Audi RS models will need some level of electric power to get down to the EU’s sub-100g/km CO2 target by 2021.

But Hollerweger has confidently said no model in the RS range would struggle to meet the 65mpg target.

“I don’t think it will be difficult,” he told Auto Express. “But when we reduce below 100g/km, we have to add some form of electrification. The question is, in which way?”

The timing of the Audi model rollouts means that some of the RS models might sneak in a full life cycle before 2020, but others will need to be pre-engineered to accommodate hybrid power in their facelifts. These include the next full generations of the Audi Q5, the Q7, the A3, the A4, the A6, the A7 and the TT. The R8 will continue as a V10.

Yet there are more practical financial considerations at play than just adding the cost of hybrid power, with Audi still to give the green light to the next RS3 family.

Hollerweger has confirmed that the car’s fate will be decided at a board meeting early next month. The five-door Audi RS3 Sportback is locked in, but Hollerweger is pushing for a saloon version – based on the well-received S3 – to give the junior RS a toehold in the US and China. Hollerweger is also asking for a (less likely) convertible, to follow in the footsteps of the popular RS5.

Any production RS3 will receive a detuned, production version of the absurdly potent 518bhp, five-cylinder turbo engine from the Audi A3 Clubsport quattro concept Audi showed at Worthersee earlier this year.

“We tried to expand the five-cylinder power to what is technically possible, but this is a bit too much for series production. A production version would be more than 260kW (349bhp), though.”

He also confirmed the production five-cylinder turbo motor would be pre-engineered to be compatible with hybrid power.

“There are no technical reasons why there couldn’t be a five-cylinder hybrid,” he said.

Audi RS4 Avant front tracking

Other steps in reducing the environmental footprint of Audi’s top-spec models include changing the next RS4 from a naturally aspirated V8 to a twin-turbo V6, although the next-generation RS6 and RS7 will retain V8 power.

The biggest questions around quattro’s powertrain electrification hinge around cost and weight, with Hollerweger implying different types of electric enhancement are being considered for different models.

“Superconductors could be an interesting alternative for us because the weight is much lower, but the costs are much higher,” he said.

More likely is the widespread adoption of electric “turbochargers”, which Audi has demonstrated in the A6 TDI Concept this year. A production version is expected by 2016.

“This could be one form of electrification,” he said. “You get high torque at low revs and blow up the mechanical turbo more. It’s a logical development.”

Is a hybrid Audi RS model something you'd be interested in? Let us know in the comments below.

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