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Audi's new model rush revealed

Published: 24 November 2006

Audi has nothing to fear from the appointment of Martin Winterkorn as VW group boss. After all, Winterkorn clinched the job on the strength of his performance at Ingolstadt.

And if Audi continues the stunning growth he led, it's on track to become leader of the luxury pack by 2020. One car that will become more likely with Winterkorn in charge is the A1, a baby Audi to take on the Mini. Former VW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder didn't believe there was room below the A3 for a small hatch, but his departure clears the way for the small shooting brake.

Imagine a shrunken version of the TT show car, running fourpot engines, and you have the most likely concept for the A1. Expect the car around 2009-10. Winterkorn will over-rule those insiders who believe that the A1 will damage Polo sales. After all, the VW competes with Opel and Ford, while Audi battles BMW and Mercedes. That's why Ingolstadt should be free to make any product-related decisions and investments its deems necessary. What else is on the way? 2007 will be a busy year, with the launch of the R8 supercar and V12 diesel Q7.

Also coming is the A5 coupe, which uses the new MLB platform which will underpin all Audi's forthcoming big cars. The A5 will be built at the Ingolstadt factory, alongside another new boy, the Q5. The location is no coincidence, because the Q5 is a crossover SUV spun off the same platform as the A5. The five-seater, due in 2008, will be pitched at the BMW X3 and Mercedes' forthcoming baby ML. The look is much sportier than an X3's – think steeply raked roofline and narrow glasshouse, as is the current crossover craze. The body will be jacked up to boost ground clearance, with air suspension optional. In the nose are 2.0-litre and V6 petrols and diesels, coupled to a quattro drivetrain.

The SUV push might not end there: there's clearly room for a Q3 and a Q1. The A3 range will be bulked out with a soft-top cabriolet and a four-door saloon. The Roadjet concept, which is internally known as elevated sports vehicle (ESV), could mark the starting point for a string of new high-roof/high seat vehicles aimed at affluent middle-aged consumers. But Audi has gone cold on this concept, having seen the lukewarm market reaction to Mercedes' R-class.

Last but certainly not least, Audi is also planning a mid-engined R4 sports car. For exclusive pictures, check out the January 2007 issue of CAR Magazine, out 29 November.

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

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