In amongst the regular saloons and hatchbacks, and the more obscure 'coupaloons' and crossovers, there’s still one glaring omission in the niche-plugging Audi range: a versatile family MPV.
That could be about to change though, as CAR’s sources tell us Ingolstadt is once again weighing up the introduction of a family-carrier to its books. A canny sales sure-fire success, or premium brand dilution gone mad? Read on for all the details on the muted Audi Vario.
Where exactly would this 'Vario' sit in the massive Audi range?
About six months ago, CAR reported on Audi’s ‘SuperAvant’ project: an idea to create a large family car between the A4 and A6 Avant. However, Audi has since been rattled by fears that its sales would cannibalise the highly profitable A6 Avant. Plus, Audi wants to avoid BMW and Mercedes’s respective burnt fingers suffered thanks to their own large, pricey MPVs – the unloved 5GT and R-class.
So, while the SuperAvant project has been mothballed, the idea behind it has been reborn lower down the range, as an A3-based machine with a taller roofline and more interior space than an A4 Avant. CAR’s insiders tell us that the Vario would retail for around £2000 more than a regular A3 Sportback, but still have a smaller on-road footprint than the estate A4.
What’s the basis for Audi’s Vario MPV?
Naturally, as a new VW Group project, it’ll use the latest MQB platform, that sits in the new A3, Golf, Seat Leon and umpteen more cars for eons to come. Information gathered inside Audi suggests a length of 4500mm, which seems about right, since the current VW Touran is 4400mm long, and it’s MQB-based successor will share parts with the Audi Vario. It ties another link between VW and Audi: the A3 has always been twinned with the Golf, the A1 shares its DNA with the Polo, and underneath the Q3 lurks a Tiguan.
As you’d expect with the four rings affixed up front, the Audi version will reportedly be more expensive and a bit bigger than its counterpart from Wolfsburg, but will aim for a sportier stance thanks to a 1550mm height – that’s 120mm lower than its VW cousin.
Luggage capacity is said to be 650 litres – more than any current Audi Avant model – and a longer wheelbase and rear overhang than those cars will free up space for a third row of seats. Looks-wise, those who have seen early drawings predict a mildly flared wheelarches, a visor-shaped wraparound glasshouse, sporty roofline and a less upright tailgate than the Touran.
And the engines? Audi parts-bin, no doubt?
Correct. If the Vario does indeed get the final go-ahead, it’ll raid the A3 parts cupboard, offer quattro all-wheel-drive and even a high-performance S3 trim. New engines include a 211bhp 2.0-litre TSI unit, an uprated 2.0-litre diesel good for 180bhp and 258lb ft, and the aforementioned S3 turbocharged mill, which churns out 280bhp and 280 lb ft.
Word is that more eco-minded customers can choose between a 110bhp 1.4-litre engine and a plug-in hybrid with a zero-emission driving range of up to 30 miles. The hybrid’s 150bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit and the 108bhp electric motor are said to combine strong performance with exceptional fuel economy, but it will of course will live and die by the sword of its price – expect diesels to be Europe’s penchant.
Hang on, doesn’t Audi have previous with MPV plans?
You may remember back in 2006, Audi’s then-R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg presided over the Roadjet concept. Described as a feasible evolution of the Avant and Sportback, the Roadjet was later ditched in favour of the 70mm shorter and 100mm taller Q5 crossover.