Auto enthusiasts -- including the ones at this magazine -- have been known to wonder why automakers continue to pour money into all manner of crossovers. Wouldn't they be better off investing that cash in small fuel-savers or, better yet, high-performance station wagons? For Audi, at least, there's a logical answer: an eye-popping 155,000 Q5s sold globally last year to go along with 47,700 Q7s.
"There is no doubt...that crossovers are still selling like hotcakes even though the trend seems to be shifting toward more compact models," says Audi chairman Rupert Stadler.
It's no surprise, then, that another round of hard-to-classify crossovers is on the way. The luxury brand is readying a swoopy Q6, a two-door Q4, and an entry-level Q1 (imagined by our illustrator here). The Q6, expected for 2016, will be paired with the next-generation Q5 and, eventually, the Porsche Cajun. But whereas the Cajun and the Q5 will share a greenhouse, the Q6 may receive a steeply raked windshield and a lower roofline. The not-so-secret inspiration is the BMW X6 (which is selling well in China and Russia). Just as Audi has managed to crash the four-door-coupe party with the beautiful new A7, it hopes to top the X6 by offering a prettier shape, a more spacious rear passenger compartment, better visibility, easier entry and exit, more cargo space, a lower loading lip, and an optional full-length glass roof.
The smaller Q4 may take one of three directions: a line-topping coupelike luxury crossover not unlike the Acura ZDX, a dedicated off-roader, or a high-performance model. For the baby Q1, Audi seems to favor using the underpinnings of the upcoming A2 but is also considering using A1 or A3 components.
If all this crossing over seems antithetical to the E-tron zeitgeist, not to mention upcoming regulatory requirements, note that none of these vehicles are all that large. Audi has considered supersize soft-roaders -- a Q9 to be precise -- but the company is leaning away from them.
"We looked at this segment long and hard. Right now, I am inclined to ignore it," says Stadler.
Additionally, Audi is putting its crossovers on serious diets. The next Q5 will weigh some 220 pounds less than the current model, and the Q7, thanks to an aluminum body, should shed 650 pounds.
There will also be relative restraint on the powertrain front. A 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 will serve as primary motivation for the Q4, Q5, and Q6 and should burn twenty percent less fuel than the current supercharged version of that engine. More efficient powertrains include a 250-hp turbo-diesel V-6 and a plug-in hybrid that combines that ubiquitous 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine with a 100-hp electric motor.