Tuesday, October 26, 2010



Audi’s sports car concepts have dominated auto show news for most of 2010, and now projections of a mid-engine Audi slotted below the R8 are fueling the gossipsphere like a splash of petrol doused on a hot exhaust. With all the conjecture in the media, we figured we could offer some analysis based on our own inside knowledge. What follows is a comprehensive breakdown of what we know as well as some educated guesses for the future of mid-engine cars at the Volkswagen Group and specifically Audi.

With Porsche now firmly under the Volkswagen Group umbrella, there’s finally a potential business case for a mid- or rear-engine sports car platform to be shared across the group. Top management at VAG wants to see Porsche grow its aims to achieve this in part through shared platforms with other group brands. As far as we know there are at least two main platforms or component sets at play here and they may possibly underpin nearly every sports car the company builds once the next generation 911, Cayman and Boxster run their course.

Below is a breakdown. Let’s start on the low end.

Transverse Mid-Engine, aka: MQB Mid
MQB is VAG’s upcoming modular architecture that will feature transversely mounted engines in the front of the chassis, following in the vein of Audi’s longitudinal engine MLB setup pioneered under Martin Winterkorn’s tenure at Audi. In MLB, key points are shared underneath everything from the A4 to the A8. MQB is apparently just as flexible as MLB and key components from this upcoming set were used to underpin Volkswagen’s mid-engine Bluesport Concept in 2009.We don’t yet know an official designation for this component set, but for now we’re dubbing it ‘MQB Mid’.

Since the debut of Bluesport, the group has been evaluating use of this cost-effective and likely rear-drive-only chassis for small Porsche and Audi sportscars and also for Volkswagen, maybe even for a third-generation modern Volkswagen Beetle. Its combination of lower cost and compatibility also make it a potential for a Seat like the Tango concept that appeared several years ago, though no reliable source has ever mentioned this possibility.

While Audi executives refused to get specific at the Detroit Auto Show last January, we were able to learn that the blue e-tron concept shown in Motown was, in fact, a mid-engine configuration, despite its almost Aston Martin-like proportions. Audi group design boss Wolfgang Egger also confirmed that the Detroit e-tron was roughly the same footprint as an Audi A1, so it’s easy to infer this car was Audi’s take on the MQB Mid chassis set. All rumors from informed corners of the press suggest the Audi, Porsche and VW have been evaluating whether or not to put this architecture into production, and the continued onslaught of concept cars suggest the future looks bright.

Possible VAG Cars That Could Make Use of MQB Mid
• Audi R4, R3 or TT Successor
• Porsche 914 or 356 Successor
• Volkswagen Bluesport or Beetle

At Audi this vehicle would most likely establish the smallest R-car, expanding from the lone R8 into a full line of sports cars. An R4 seems to be the most likely designation for the car, according to the rumor mill, but a transverse engine configuration and small size makes us wonder how likely this is. Based on the fact the A4 uses a longitudinal engine and is a much bigger car, we suspect it may bear an R3 designation. Discussion of a possible TT model on this platform seem unlikely, as our sources tell us the TT is set to remain front engined. Regardless of name, electric e-tron versions are likely.

Since the engine is transverse we can make a few more assumptions. Audi will be limited to use of its inline or narrow angle VR engines such as the V6 recently removed from the TT and A3 lineups. More than likely the largest and most powerful Audi engines in the car would be the 2.0T or the 350 hp 2.5T from the TT RS.

We have no direct intel from inside Porsche, but other news sources have suggested Stuttgart is working on a spiritual successor to the 914 or maybe even the 356 as an entry-level sports car slotted below the Boxster/Cayman. Trusted news sources seem to think the current Cayman/Boxster chassis is getting an overhaul with some added length in part to help make room for this new Porsche model below them. CAR magazine also hinted that Porsche might be considering a new turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine for the car.

If a new boxer is developed, it could also see duty in a Volkswagen iteration. Still unclear about the name, it is likely that VW would go for a roadster similar to the original Bluesport concept. Add to that unconfirmed rumors of a New Beetle successor and the boxer engine makes even more sense from a heritage standpoint.



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