Audi’s Q family of crossovers began with the Q7, reached new highs with the Q5, and is about to go to the next round with the smaller Q3 (at least in Europe — its U.S. prospects remain unclear). But that is only the beginning. As many as three more Q ships are being planned: a coupe-like four-door Q6, the two-door Q4, and the subcompact Q1.
Although its sales have fallen off in the United States, worldwide, Q7 production in 2010 increased by 37 percent to 47,700 units. The Q5, which is assembled in Germany, China, India, and Malaysia, climbed 32 percent to 155,000 vehicles, and has become Audi’s second most popular U.S. model. When you add the 100,000 Q3s that will be built in Marorell, Spain, from 2012 onwards, the Q-tally quickly approaches the quarter-million-unit mark. Going forward, those numbers will surely grow.
Q3: The Q3 is still not guaranteed for the U.S. market, but privately, Audi’s U.S. executives tell us they do expect it to come, probably not before 2014. This compact crossover, which is just now going on sale in Europe, will offer a trio of 2.0-liter engines — gasoline versions making 170 and 211 hp, with a 140-hp TDI to follow.
Q6: The Q6 obviously follows in the tracks of the BMW X6, but Audi expects to eclipse its rival by offering a prettier shape, a more spacious rear passenger compartment, better visibility, easier entry and exit, a bigger cargo compartment with a lower loading height, and an optional full-length glass roof. The Q6 is based on the Q5, and in an ideal world, the bean counters will okay a completely new body in white complete with a more steeply raked windshield, a lower roofline, and a broader stance. Under the hood it will offer a revised 3.0-liter TFSI V-6, which drops the supercharger in favor of a single turbo. It churns out 300 hp and 400Nm while consuming up to 20 percent less fuel. The base unit is an upgraded 2.0-liter TFSI four, which musters 220 hp and 350Nm. A third engine is the 3.0-litre V-6 TDI, good for 252 hp and 550Nm. Also in the cards is a plug-in hybrid, combining the four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 100-hp electric motor. Theoretically, the Q6 could go on sale in 2013, when the Q5 is due to undergo a minor facelift. More realistic, however, is a launch in 2016, dovetailing nicely with the second-generation Q5, which is said to be some 200 pounds lighter than today’s version.
Q4: Audi is currently evaluating three different approaches to the Q4 theme: an elegant premium two-door crossover; an overtly sporty model complete with flared fenders, extended sills, and various drag-cutting addenda; and a more overt off-roader with butch body kit and, probably, with height-adjustable air suspension as part of the Drive Select menu. Engine offerings would mirror those of the Q6. Timing is early 2017.
Q1: For the smallest Q, planners from Ingolstadt again are evaluating three options. The quickest course of again would be to put a taller, crossover body on the four-door A1 Sportback Quattro. This could be rushed into production by 2013. Alternately, Audi could develop an all-new compact crossover that would use the advanced modular MQB architecture pioneered by the next A3. Using the MQB architecture would mean waiting until 2015. A third possibility is to use the revived Audi A2, due in 2016, which would pave the way for an uncommonly light, aluminum-intensive high-roof model. At the moment, the second or third options appear to have the edge.
The Porsche connection
Another factor driving Audi’s Q models is their importance to Porsche. The one-time sports-car-maker plans a mushrooming lineup of high-roof activity vehicles. You already know that the Cayenne and the Q7 are related. Next comes the Cajun (Cayenne junior), which shares the greenhouse and the body structure of the current Q5 but gets its own body panels. The Cajun goes on sale in 2013, at a planned 35,000 units per year. The two-door Audi Q4 will share its DNA with the door-door shooting brake version of the Porsche Cajun.