The recently-improved Audi A4 has barely hit dealers and already rumors around its replacement are circulating. We’ve caught a detailed report and have paired that intel with what we already know. As with any of our intel reports, this is all future-looking and as such may be rumor. We do our best to qualify what we hear or what we read, but please know that this is subject to change either due to incorrect intel or a change in direction by Audi management even if the intel was correct at the time of acquisition.
Following the usual model cycle, we expect this car will bow at a European auto show in 2014. In CAR Magazine, the often reliable Georg Kacher revealed what he has heard about the B9, including that it will like like a “baby A6/junior A8”. That sounds conservative, but movement to Audi’s next-generation longitudinal architecture dubbed MLB-evo means that there are significant changes under the skin and namely to save weight.
About a year ago we were invited behind closed doors at Audi’s lightweight development center in Neckarsulm to take a look at future technologies and were surprised when a mostly shrouded chassis was shown to us and confirmed as an early example of MLB-evo. Experimenting with many light weight materials such as carbon fiber and magnesium, Audi intends to lighten its next-generation offerings substantially. Engineers in Neckarsulm confirmed that every millimeter of a car’s chassis is being evaluated for structural needs and materials specifically matching those qualities are used in each space thanks to new joining technologies being pioneered by Audi. You can’t just weld carbon fiber or magnesium to aluminum or steal. This approved photo (above) shows exactly what they mean. As you can see, the structure almost looks like a patchwork of materials.
Kacher suggests Audi will launch a new plug-in hybrid drivetrain with the new B9 A4. A new e-quattro system is also expected – one that trades its mechanical differentials and drive shafts and substitutes them for an electrically driven rear axle delivering 136 hp. Audi has shown experimental versions of this in an A5 prototype. It offers greater drive flexibility and also greater efficiency. It is also expected to provide up to 20 miles of full-electric mobility at sub Autobahn speeds.
As for performance versions, rumors we’re hearing suggest these will also see gains. In addition to the lighter chassis, expect a new S4 to go up in horsepower. We’re hearing a drivetrain rumor about the 3.0 TFSI as over 350 hp, and we’re wondering if this is done through augmentation of the current supercharged version or perhaps an Audi tuned take on the 3.0 Biturbo expected to launch in the upcoming MLB-based Porsche Macan crossover.
How about RS 4? We’re nearly certain that the high-rev 4.2 FSI will be done after this generation. Emissions laws will likely work in the favor of those hoping for turbos. So if the S4 goes 3.0 TFSI, we’re hoping the next-generation RS 4 (and RS 5) make use of the 4.0 TFSI biturbo used in the S6, S7 and S8.
As for quattro in S and RS offerings, it remains unclear whether differentials and driveshafts will remain or whether electrically driven rear wheels will manage the tail end with these higher performance engines. Still, it is interesting to consider as this would suggest greater flexibility in rear-wheel power delivery.