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Audi and Mercedes plot X4 and X6 rivals – but which niches are next?

By Georg Kacher (artist's impressions by Christian Schulte

Spy shots

15 April 2013 12:30

Audi and Mercedes are plotting coupe-SUVs to rival the next-generation BMW X6, as all three German brands gear up for huge range expansion due by 2020. Plus, while BMW has stolen a march on its rivals with the new X4 (the downsized X6-style model revealed this month), rivals are being readied by Audi and Mercedes, as the relentless chase to open up new niches gathers pace. Read on for the CAR scoop on what niches are next – and which are so obscure they’ve scared rival brands away.

Audi and Mercedes catch up to the BMW X6

While BMW beavers away on the 2014 X5 (which will underpin the sporty new X6), Audi is planning a similarly stylish Q6 model. We saw Audi’s idea of an SUV-cum-coupe at the 2012 Paris motor show with the Crosslane concept, but the high-riding production Q6 won’t actually arrive until 2016. The delay is due to the VW Group’s part-sharing philosophy: the Q6 will be based on the next-gen Q5 platform, due in 2015. The small-SUV architecture will also form the basis for the sub-Cayenne Porsche Macan, arriving in late 2014. It’ll use four- and six-pot powertrains, mated to either manual or seven-speed S-tronic/PDK twin-clutch gearboxes. Here's the expected engine range...

Diesels:

• 2.0 TDI 4-cyl, 187bhp/258lb ft
• 3.0 TDI V6, 261bhp/369lb ft

Petrols:

• 2.0 TFSI 4-cyl, 237bhp/258lb ft
• 3.0 TFSI V6, 288bhp/295lb ft

Can the Mercedes MLC beat Audi’s Q6 to the market? We’ve been promised ten new Merc models by 2020 by Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche – and the coupe ML-class is one of the irons in the fire. Reckon on a 2015 debut for the MLC.

What are Audi and Mercedes going to do about the new BMW X4?

Mercedes is going for the jugular, by planning to offer a GLC. That’s Merc-speak for a sporty GLK-based crossover. Mercedes doesn’t currently offer the GLK in the UK, but that could change for the next-gen version. Meanwhile, Audi is ignoring this segment. Why? Company bosses simply don’t think there’s enough room in the range between the dinky Q3 and mid-sized Q5 to squeeze a sporty ‘Q4’ into the mix. So there you have it – there are niches that even Audi won’t touch!

Is Audi ceasing its push for every new car niche?

No, don’t be silly. Audi is thinking small again – no bad thing, since its A1 city car has proved a runaway sales hit, with production upped during 2012 to meet demand. A taller compact crossover, called – you guessed it – Q2, is slated for a 2015 launch, using the next-gen VW Polo platform. And of course, BMW will be waiting with a rival: an MPV-style front-drive 1-series variant, as previewed by the 2012 Concept Activity Tourer concept. Mercedes too is ready, prepping a baby crossover that’s due in 2015.

Wow, that’s a lot of niches! Is there anything the Germans won’t try?

Actually, yes. Audi has binned plans for a Q9 super-crossover, due to a lack of ‘headroom’ in the range above the next Q7. BMW has no plans for an entry-level BMW X2 thus far, and then there’s the conspicuous absence of any swoopy estate models from Audi or BMW. Audi’s A7 and BMW’s 6-series Gran Coupe offer four-door coupe rivals to the Mercedes CLS, but neither brand plans to follow Mercedes into the Shooting Brake arena. That might change before 2020, as Mercedes plans to offer a CLA Shooting Brake as a junior alternative to the C-class estate.

>> Are we buyers better or worse off for all this choice? Which new niche models are you most excited about? Click ‘Add your comment’ below to leave your thoughts.