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4T : Miscellaneous Features

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30 March 2012


Yesterday our first Intel Report on the A3 touched on Audi of America’s current thinking in regards to the A3 Sportback and the proposed scenario by Audi’s American management that the Sportback come over as an alternative fuel only drivetrain. Efficiency is important to Audi and this scenario would help use a different body style to help make more of a point. Fortunately for driving enthusiasts, performance is also important to Audi and today’s report focuses more on the company’s vaunted S and RS models.

During our conversation in Geneva, Audi of America boss Johan de Nysschen wouldn’t outright confirm the S3 and RS 3 for America, but he did reveal that he and his product management team are in favor of both models and actively working on both projects. And though he didn’t say it outright, the focus here is the sedan.

Why sedan? We hear from sources at Audi other than the man himself that de Nysschen was the catalyst for this project. He lobbied hard for it because he saw it as the spiritual successor to the very winning size, price and performance combination offered with the B5 generation of A4, S4 and RS 4. Since that era the A4-based models have grown to roughly the size of a C5 A6 and have left room for the A3 to reclaim the niche.

The challenge for Audi was that of volume. de Nysschen sees aggressive growth potential at some 30,000 units for the A3 in America with most of that being sedans, but the small sedan market isn’t exactly robust in the European market and America’s peak performance on A3 was 10,000 annual sales… not exactly a sure thing when talking dedicated body style. Fortunately for proponents of the 4-door, China is also a great market for such a project and Audi’s Chinese management eagerly threw their chips behind the idea.

RS 3 Rendering
Since sedan is the obvious body style for an American RS 3 and since we’re an American-based site, we’ve based our render of an RS 3 (above) on the sedan body style. The formula for making the render was simple. We’ve taken the A3 (sedan) concept and added production details like door handles and rearview mirrors. On top of that we’ve added the latest RS styling cues seen on the RS 4 Avant (also revealed in Geneva). The final product, I’m sure you’ll agree, is very compelling and we suspect more than a worthy successor for B5 enthusiasts.

Of note, we skipped the blister fenders on our render. Why? As we understand it the A3 Concept was very much RS badge worthy with 2.5 TFSI engine and carbon fiber elements on the grille and mirrors that Audi Design boss Wolfgang Egger says he wants to implement eventually into the RS design language. An RS 3 sedan might predate such liberal use of carbon fiber but given the style of the sedan and the fact that the current RS 3 skips the blisters also in favor of subtle yet light carbon fiber front fender panels, this was reason enough for us.

We’ve shown the render to a few sources at Audi and, inside these offices, it’s been met with smiles. One source even suggested energy created by such renders only helps the cause for such products (take note photoshoppers). That said, we hear the taillights may change a bit from our concept-based conversion.

Technical Details of S3 and RS 3
Audi of America’s management did not confirm technical details about these two cars, but recent MQB chassis TechDay intel has begun to fill in some of the S-car gaps while the RS 3 configuration seems obvious.

We hear the S3 will be powered by a new and more highly tuned variant of the EA 888 2.0 TFSI that is currently used in much of the Audi range. The high capacity 2.0T in the TTS and current S3 is an older generation engine and as such the Volkswagen Group will be phasing it out by the end of this production cycle of A3, TTS and Volkswagen Golf R.

Few details are known about the new S-spec 2.0 TFSI other than power. We’ve heard an estimate of about 260-hp through sources at Volkswagen though any other changes were not outlined as our source indicated that Ingolstadt is handling all of the development of that engine just as Audi did last time around. Looking at that past generation though, we wouldn’t be surprised to see strengthened intnernals and a larger turbo, while valvelift and less frictional loss should make for a more robust torque curve and better fuel efficiency. Who knows, maybe the new engine will even include cylinder deactivation as we’ve now seen in the 4.0 TFSI and 1.4 TFSI.

As for the RS 3, there’s little doubt it will use a version of the current RS 3’s 2.5 TFSI. That said, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Audi up the power just a bit for the new generation.

There’s one last detail we’ve pushed with sources as it pertains to the S3 or RS 3, and that is the question of Sport Differential. Audi’s rear-mounted wunder-diff has transformed the handling dynamics, stability and even willingness to throttle-on-oversteer for longitudinal cars where it is used and such a piece of kit in the S3 or RS 3 seems like it would have similar effect. I questioned Audi’s board member in charge of development Michael Dick and quattro GmbH product boss Stefan Reil about this very subject and came up negative.

Neither suggested something like this is in the cards for MQB and another industry source explained to us that this is more a limit in packaging. With the Haldex differential located more in the rear, there’s not the sort of space for something like the Sport Differential in the longitudinal cars.

Michael Dick did also confirm the existence of a similar configuration for front-wheel drive cars that we’d heard about from our sources at Volkswagen. Dick confirmed that the setup was used in the front-wheel drive TT RS racers at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. Essentially a torque vectoring Sport Differential in the front, the right-to-left torque vectoring rules also apply very effectively here, but with no power to the rear wheels.

Front-wheel drive isn’t really Audi’s emphasis and a front-wheel drive S3 or RS 3 would likely be met by plenty of skepticism by Audi enthusiasts so it remains to be seen whether there’s much potential for this new Haldex-sourced front-mounted hydraulic plate clutch with torque vectoring. Still, the system was run at the Nurburgring in front-wheel drive entrants like the TT RS and the factory-backed Volkswagen Sciroccos and it cut several seconds off a lap. Also, we wonder if there’s any value to adding front torque vectoring to a car with Haldex all-wheel drive.

Final Details
Given the typical model rollout that’s usually the practice if not the rule, we’d expect to see S-car variants about a year after the A-chassis derivatives hit the market. RS versions usually come along a year after that. That said, the US market won’t see the new A3 until 2014 according to what we were told in Geneva by Audi AG board member Peter Schwarzenbauer. If that’s the case, then we’d expect a more rapid rollout of S and RS models.

If it’s not obvious yet, these cars will arrive as sedans if and when they’re finally approved. All of that being said, wagon fans should still not lose hope. If an alternative fuel Sportback does manifest itself for US sale and A3 sales go as briskly as de Nysschen hopes, then this could open doors. We’d guess there won’t be any potential before the A3’s mid-lifecycle product improvement, but after that with an A3 e-tron or hybrid entrenched in the market, Audi would have the opportunity to branch S and RS into the Sportback. That’s not saying they will, but we’re hoping those brisk sales and an eager group of social media responders will lobby for the Sportback since its possible presence in the market already would make federalization of an RS 3 Sportback more affordable for Audi.

 

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