VW, Audi Mull Low-Cost, Mid-Engine Sports Cars

The Automobile Magazine staff

Masterminded by Ulrich Hackenberg (R&D) and Marc Lichte (design), the sporty concept is compact, minimalist, and light. Since custom multilink axles are very expensive, we're likely to see a strut-based suspension; steering, brakes, dual-clutch transmission, and electronic systems would be sourced from the corporate parts bin. To steer clear of the Boxster, only four-cylinder engines would be used. VW would probably offer turbocharged 1.2- and 1.4-liter units good for between 105 hp and 160 hp. Audi would obviously go more upmarket and install a 180-hp, 1.8-liter turbocharged engine, a 2.0-liter version rated at 220 hp, and a 280-hp unit for an S-line model. Diesels are also a possibility. While Quattro four-wheel drive may be a useful marketing tool, it adds weight and incurs friction losses, and in this case, it's hardly a necessity in terms of vehicle dynamics.

"Sometimes, Porsche is too stupid to recognize an opportunity when we see one," states a critical voice from Stuttgart. "The Cayenne and the pending diesel/hybrid engine deals prove the value of cooperation. So why shouldn't Porsche use this opportunity to revive the 356? The most frequently voiced argument cites high production volumes, which would allegedly devalue the brand and overstretch our sales network. But who says that high volumes are a must? Isn't it time to create a car that is by definition in short supply, that is so desirable it will automatically build up its own hype, and that follows an innovative boutique approach in appearance and configuration?" A new 356 could almost revolutionize the segment below the Boxster by realizing a new level of performance, handling, style, and, yes, social acceptance - after all, we're not talking about a new 914 or a 924 here. But to make it work, the generals in charge must move from confrontation to cooperation. Says a senior manager from Porsche headquarters: "From now on, the sole deciders are pride, prejudice, and politics."

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