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Audi RS-branded SUV range to expand


Global Audi Sport managing director Stephan Winkelmann has confirmed the German brand's range of RS-badged SUVs will expand beyond its current sole RS Q3 model.

Audi's SUV range already offers two S-branded variants for the Q5 and Q7 models, but the RS treatment is yet to be applied to anything larger than the Q3.

Mr Winkelmann said the popularity of the SUV segment was responsible for the increased demand for high-performance variants, which has motivated Audi to broaden its RS SUV model range.

As the leader of the Audi Sport division, Mr Winkelmann is responsible for the global development team for all RS models plus the R8 sports coupe hero model, while less-manic S-badged vehicles are produced by Audi's overarching engineering and development team.

While he did not reveal which exact models will be elevated to RS status, Mr Winkelmann suggested that as many as 10 new projects are currently being developed by his team.

Of these 10 new RS models, not all will be SUVs as some will be replacements for existing variants, including the top-of-the-wish-list RS4.

Geneva could see the debut of the first-ever RS Q5 as a follow up to the already-potent SQ5 mid-size SUV.

Despite quickly dashing any hopes of a March debut for the new RS4 at the Geneva motor show, when questioned, Mr Winkelmann revealed that another model from Audi Sport was instead scheduled for reveal.

“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.

The A-segment usually refers to the smallest compact vehicles, but Mr Winkelmann placed all A3 and Q3 models under the same classification, attributing the A4, A5 and Q5 to the B-segment.

RS-branded B-segment sedans and coupes are currently not expected, meaning Geneva could see the debut of the first-ever RS Q5 as a follow up to the already-potent SQ5 mid-size SUV.

The recently revealed SQ5 – which will be released in Australia later in the year – will forgo its former diesel engine for petrol-only power, despite suggestions from Audi at the second-generation Q5's launch in Mexico last year that a high-performance diesel version of the SUV was in the works.

This may suggest the monstrous 320kW/900Nm 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 diesel from the just-launched SQ7 might be transplanted into the Q5's body, which could create the debuting RS Q5.

Electrification is another possibility for the “new era”, meaning hybrid technology or an electric vehicle (EV) may be introduced to the RS line-up.

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

Audi is also trying to maintain the high-performance brand's exclusivity alongside its growth in volume.

The recently revealed all-new version of Audi's bespoke five-cylinder turbo-petrol engine – which features exclusively in the TT RS and forthcoming RS3 Sedan – could populate across the German brand's smaller SUV line-up.

Mr Winkelmann said that despite the 294kW alloy engine's versatility, it will remain the enterprise of the A-segment, which signals that the debuting Q2 compact SUV could receive the RS once-over sometime in the future.

He said that while a new generation of buyers will join the RS family via the smaller end of the range, Audi is also trying to maintain the high-performance brand's exclusivity alongside its growth in volume.

Would you like to see a more performance-focused Audi SUVs like the RS Q3 on the market? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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