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Audi RS: we won’t do a hybrid hypercar

Not yet, anyway. Audi Sport boss Stephan Winkelmann talks hybrids and ‘Ring laps

Published: 17 Mar 2017

“A hybrid hypercar would be a perfect thing.” So says Stephan Winkelmann, former Lamborghini boss, and now chief of Audi Sport. AKA the brand that makes the R8 and anything with an RS badge.

“If it's about ideas, we are full of them. If it's about money, then we have to think twice. So I think the priority for us is to have a very good line-up. If we do it, we have to do it right. And if we have nothing new to say, then we will see. Maybe we will skip it.”

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So a rival for the Mercedes-AMG hypercar isn’t something we’ll see from Audi any time soon, sadly. In fact, Winkelmann is taking his time at introducing hybrid tech to RS models altogether, even if it’s an inevitability for larger performance cars in the coming years. Just ask Porsche.

“The legislator is pushing us into a direction,” he acknowledges. “We are in the middle of a revolution, and at the time being, whatever we do, we jump short. Today, hybrid cars are not giving you this range I might want, and they are limiting the performance of the car if you're not putting a booster in. But the booster is not going to help you on the CO2 emissions. We have to see what is the right thing to do. I would love to have a light hybridisation, light in terms of weight.”

He says it was a daily headache at Lamborghini, and is a bigger deal yet at Audi, a much larger carmaker. He also likens the shift from petrol-only to hybrid models to the shift from naturally aspirated to turbocharged engines, a transition which took longer in Audi RS cars than in BMW M or Mercedes AMG models.

Meanwhile, a big RS model push is coming, with eight new cars in the next two years, including more R8 derivatives. Expect an R8 V10 Plus Spyder among them, but Winkelmann won’t be drawn on anything else. Other than more SUVs, with an RS Q8 seemingly most likely.

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“We will have more SUVs, for sure. But we might stop doing some other things, because being a small brand, it's about giving the investors what they need, they have to be always thought about. And every euro or pound invested should be put in the right car.”

So more SUVs might spell the end of other RS models, though Winkelmann won’t be drawn on which. A new RS5 has been revealed and the RS4 and RS6 are core models, so we’d suspect more niche stuff like the RS7 may be vulnerable. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, Winkelmann’s former employer has been making headlines with a new Nürburgring lap record. “I was very proud of the people, I was very proud," he grins. "A 6:51 is really something!”

Any inter-brand rivalry that might see him take an RS model to the Green Hell? Um, nope. “The positioning of the RS brand is to have a great performing car, but predominately, it's a car which goes from A to B on a daily basis. So it has to be a very comfortable car, a daily usable car, and not just one to hit one lap time.”

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So, no hypercar and no ‘Ring records. But rest assured, Audi RS models aren’t boring as a result. See the new Audi RS3 for details. Mind, Winkelmann also confirmed that it’s as small as RSs will get for the foreseeable future. So there’ll be no Audi RS1, we’re afraid…

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