Sunday, October 31, 2010

Audi R5: New mid-engine sportscar confirmed!


Volkswagen's new 'MiMo' sports car architecture has been approved at last - paving the way for a trio of sports cars from Audi, Porsche and VW.

The project had been up in the air while the engineers pondered the layout and the bean counters counted, well, beans. It is understood that the project has now been given the green light.

Mimo stands for Mittelmotor, hinting at its mid-engined roots. Porsche will lead much of the platform development, with its experience in mid- and rear-engined applications. And that means - for the first time in years - a rear-engined Audi is on the cards.

Audi R5: the lowdown
Our artist's impression (red car, above) shows how the E-tron concept car is likely to translate to the production R5. Both a coupe and open-top roadster models are expected (the E-tron Spyder concept car previewed the convertible).

Underpinning the business case is careful positioning of the Audi R5. This is no sub-TT cheapling; instead the R5 will be positioned above the TT and below the R8 supercar.

How the R5 measures up
That's a brave move by Audi, since the R5 has a compact footprint. At just 3933mm long, it's supermini short, a simple two-seater just a centimetre-and-a-bit longer than a Lotus Exige. But in this age of downsizing, people will pay a premium for a quality, compact sports car. It seems an apposite model for our times.

Although Audi has shown the E-tron concept car powered by electric motors - and a production EV is in the pipeline - the majority of R5 models will in fact feature conventional combustion engines. Word is the top motor will be the five-cylinder 2.5-litre turbo from the TT RS, enough for some 350bhp; but sub 2.0-litre engines are a certainty.

When will the Audi R5 be launched?
Now that the program has received the first stage official go-ahead, the Audi R5 is tentatively pencilled in for a 2014 launch. Audi's already shown two concept cars - the E-tron coupe and Spider - and we can expect further hints over the coming years.

Porsche is investigating its own version, dubbed 356, to slot beneath the Boxster, while VW plans to spin off a cheaper model based on the Bluesport concept. It's like the Q7-Cayenne-Touareg off-roader trio all over again.

Volkswagen's sports car will be built at the Karmann factory in Osnabrück, Austria. It's unclear at this stage where the other derivatives will be built.

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