We're roughly half-way into the 2010 calendar year, but automakers are already starting to release information on their 2011 models to dealers across the country. Luckily, that gives us a sneak peek of what's to come. In Audi's case, the future seems to lie with eight-speed automatics -- no fewer than five model lines will offer the eight-cog gearbox in 2011.
The first number to jump out at us was this figure: 70 percent. That's the projected sales volume of the new eight-speed automatic in the U.S. That means the other 30 percent of Audi's sales here in the colonies will be split between dual-clutch, CVT and six-speed manual transmissions. American luxury buyers have priorities, and rowing their own apparently isn't high on the list. For what it's worth, Audi touts the eight-speed as smoother and more precise than the outgoing six-speed auto while returning better fuel economy and without a weight penalty thanks to its compact design.
Interestingly enough, the list of cars not receiving the eight-speed is actually longer than the list of vehicles getting it. What's more, four of the vehicles getting the new auto-shifter are carrying all-new powertrain options, all of which should tell you a thing or two about where Audi's volume lies. Cars getting the new eight-speed are the A4 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder sedan and wagon with Quattro, the A5 coupe and convertible with the same drivetrain, and the all-new A8 with its 4.2-liter V-8 and W-12 engines.
Also getting the new auto box are three new variants of Audi's SUVs, the Q5 and Q7. The smaller Q5 now offers the 211-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 258 pound-feet as a base engine that's matched to the new automatic and Quattro AWD. The larger Q7, meanwhile, ditches the old 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 in its base model in favor of Audi's slick supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. In base trim, the supercharged six will put out 272 horsepower while a new mid-range model will use the same engine tuned to 333 horsepower as in the S4. The top-end V-8 model is unchanged, but the 225-horsepower diesel variant also gets the new eight-speed transmission.
All of these new eight-speed models will go on sale in the fall and may see some changes in pricing, though we weren't yet able to procure that information. For now, Audi's remaining automatic models keep their six-speed automatics, but it's likely only a matter of time before they're upgraded as well.