While he admits that creating cars that can cut consumption and hit increasingly tough emission standards is at the top of his list of priorities, Audi Sport boss Stephan Winkelmann believes pure-electric RS models are still some way off.
Electric-vehicle development at Audi has been on and off enough times to tempt us into a light-switch metaphor. As an example, the company axed the R8 e-tron project before bringing it back and putting it into very limited production before killing it for good. Winkelmann says that performance EVs will definitely happen and that Audi Sport will be developing them alongside conventional RS models, but that they won’t arrive on the market until they can satisfy the requirements of a typical owner.
“It is not too easy,” he admitted, when we spoke to him at the recent launch of the RS3 sedan, “because of the weight, because of acceleration, because of range. It’s clear we want to be part of it, but it’s also clear we can’t be the first ones inside [Audi] AG, that’s not what we’re aiming for. We are also pretty sure that you cannot compare the best of the combustion engines of today with the first electric cars of tomorrow.”
So it sounds as though Audi will lead and then Audi Sport will follow, with Winkelmann hinting that this holds true for hybrids as well as pure EVs. He said forthcoming European emission standards are going to be extremely tough to beat with conventional cars and described the new RS5’s more efficient V-6 as “a step, but it won’t be sufficient for the cars of the future.”
Whatever the future holds, Winkelmann said, Audi Sport’s lineup will always be the pinnacle of the model range: “Performance is at the heart of everything we do, now and in the future.”