Once Audi's new Q crossover range strategy is in place, the brand will offer no fewer than seven different Q models. The idea is to tweak the odd-numbered models more toward a SUV DNA by adding more ground clearance, all-season tires, go-anywhere body cladding, bespoke bumpers, and adventure-oriented trim levels. The next Q3, Q5, and Q7 will therefore display an "allroad-plus" theme with a higher-roof stance, more rugged make-up, and an outdoor-focused appeal. But quite different in character and appearance, the Q2, Q4, Q6, and Q8 are currently being designed from scratch.
In Paris, Audi showed the Crosslane Coupe Concept – which is, in essence, a two-door targa version of the proposed Q2. Inspired by the targa roof concept pioneered in the 1960's by Porsche (who still owns the name), the Q2-to-be features a removable lightweight roof panel and a sturdy rollover bar, which straddles the two strong C-pillars. Unlike any Porsche targa, the Q2 stows its lid in the trunk, where it also acts as a parcel shelf.
Although the sporty open-top version is a real eye catcher, product planning prefers a four-door hardtop, according to sources. It is roomier, more practical, and easier to sell in high volume than the pricier two-door edition, which could end up following at a later stage anyway.
The concept was fitted with a three-cylinder hybrid powertrain – a system that is slated for production, although the product is still in its infancy. The new super-frugal drivetrain is said to return an amazing 280 mpg on the European cycle, and this range-extender package will render the charming but expensive Wankel e-tron superfluous.
The Q2 could be based on the platform of the upcoming A1 quattro, in which case the Q2 could go on sale in late 2014. However, it could also be derived from the more efficient MQB matrix, partnering with the Volkswagen Polo crossover due in 2016. No matter the platform, expect said plug-in hybrid plus five different conventional engines: a 125-hp 1.4-liter TFSI I-4, a 184-hp 1.4 TFSI, a 115-hp 2.0-liter TDI I-4, a 177-hp 2.0-liter TDI, and the 220-hp S Q2.
The Q4 is a five-door coupe derivative of the Q3. It is A3/Golf-size, it shares its componentry with the next-generation Tiguan, and it thus relies on the soon omnipresent MQB underpinnings. Like all even-numbered Q vehicles, this one gets a brand new body: lower, sleeker, sexier, more dynamic, and more prestigious than the Q3. In addition to the low-roof variant, we may also end up seeing a racy Q4 Speedster. This model only has two doors, its roof concept is remarkably similar to the Crosslane Coupe, and it is expected to boast an electric rear window, fully retractable frameless side windows, and seats with integrated seatbelts.
In addition to the familiar Q3 engines, Audi research and development is reportedly preparing a plug-in hybrid borrowed from the A3, as well as a high-performance RS Q4 rated at 310 hp. Also potentially in the cards is an even hotter variant that would use the latest iteration of the turbocharged five-cylinder found in the TT RS, an improved lightweight low-friction all-wheel drive system, and a faster-shifting seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission. This variant may not necessarily be a high-roof vehicle, but taller than a conventional coupe. Now that the projected mid-engine R5 is no more, there should be plenty of room to move between the high-end TT and the base R8.
With approval from Wolfsburg, Porsche has tapped the gene reservoir of the Q5 crossover to create the Macan. While the Audi crossover will be replaced in 2016, the Macan must soldier on a little longer, sitting on an older platform that was first introduced in 2008. Although Audi is cooperating with Porsche and Volkswagen as far as full-size SUVs are concerned, the brand with the four rings intends to strengthen the position of the smaller Q5 with a stylish and sporty coupe.
The new low-roof model will tap the MLBevo architecture (shared with the next-generation A4), which offers a plug-in hybrid, a high-end 313-hp V-6 bi-turbo diesel, and an RS version good for 350 hp. Like all MLBevo offspring, the Q6 will be lighter, stiffer, and more aerodynamic than the Q5 on which it's based. Thanks to an advanced material mix known as WWK70 – which indicates a steel content of only 70 percent – and to a new generation of more efficient four- and six-cylinder engines, handling, performance, and fuel economy should improve significantly, too.
Although Porsche, too, is keen on adding a Macan coupe, the Q6 will definitely be out first, and it may not remain Audi's sole contender in this segment. In order not to overstress the classic coupe formula, there is talk of an alternative bodystyle that would blend shooting brake, Avant (wagon), and Sportback (hatch) themes.
Only six months ago, Audi was secretly planning to throw a wrench in the works of a new Mercedes-Benz S-Class by showing off a rivaling high-tech four-seat A9 coupe concept at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show. Not so anymore. The A9 has been put on ice, and although marketing is still very keen on an image-boosting flagship product, the full-size alloy-bodied coupe and the cabriolet derived from it may rest in peace. Audi could easily obtain a version of the MSB architecture developed by Porsche for the next Panamera and for the next Bentley Continental family; such a move would weaken Ingolstadt's political position in the Volkswagen Group.
Losing the A8 is a worst-case scenario for the Bavarians who are determined to keep this prestigious project under their own wings for as long as possible. Although luxury sedans are still doing alright in some markets, luxury crossovers are perceived by some analysts as a safer long-term bet. That's why the Audi bigwigs have recently zoomed in on the Q8. Competing head-on against the new Range Rover, the tentative top-of-the-line model would be based on the long-wheelbase version of the next-generation corporate SUV platform. That means the Q8 will share its basic structure with the Q7 and with the still-unnamed Bentley SUV. New engines include two 3.0-liter V-6 TFSI units listed at 230 and 300 hp, a 3.0-liter V-6 TDI good for 250 hp, and a 4.2-liter V-8 TDI rated at 400 hp. Not clean enough? There will also be a V-6 plug-in hybrid on offer – diesel for Europe, gas for the rest of the world. Not potent enough? Then stand by for the 550-hp RS Q8. Release date? Early 2017, assuming it gets confirmed.
Renderings courtesy AUTOBILD/LARSON