Audi V-10 Diesel Engine Remains in Plans For U.S. Market
April 10, 2009
The diesels are coming, the diesels are coming! Slowly but surely, Audi is stepping into the diesel market in the U.S., first with the Q7 and later this year with the A3, and if we're lucky, more to follow.
Audi has not been totally convinced in the past that diesels are a good business proposition in the U.S., but the German luxury car-maker is ready to take a chance now. The much-anticipated Q7 diesel is just starting to hit dealers and Audi is getting ready to follow it up with an A3 diesel, the brand's way of testing the waters. If all goes well when the A3 diesel hits our shores late this year, there's a possibility Audi may follow that up with a BMW 335d-fighting A4 diesel. The R8 diesel remains a concept, as Audi cannot make a business case for another R8 model given the current state of the economy.
For now, you'll have to get started with the big Q7, whose 3.0L turbodiesel returns 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway and rings in at $51,725. Audi says all Q7 TDIs are likely to carry an S Line badge for that little bit of extra. Alternatively, you can wait for the A3 diesel, which will carry a version of the 2.0L turbodiesel found in the Volkswagen Jetta. So far, we know that in the Jetta, that engine puts down 140 hp and 236 lb-ft and has been impressing folks around our office. We've also heard that the S Line package will be optional on the A3, but that's about all Audi will say about the car for now.
While the 3.0L TDI in the Q7 qualifies for a $1150 tax credit, Audi isn't putting all its eggs in the green basket. The V-10 engine found in the R8 and S8 aren't going anywhere, says Wolfgang Hatz, Volkswagen Group's head of engine and powertrain. Unfortunately, a V-10-powered RS6 still isn't coming to the U.S., for much the same reason that the R8 diesel remains on the drawing boards -- it's not a bread winner. Thankfully, the RS5 is still on, as Audi says that response to the new A5 has been overwhelmingly positive.
When the RS5 does come, it will likely carry Audi's DSG dual-clutch gearbox. Should there be an S4 variant in the future, it will too. In fact, DSGs figure pretty big in Audi's future, as the company is finding that many buyers appreciate the best-of-both-worlds nature of the gearbox. DSGs do have their limit, though, and Hatz says that the Q7 likely won't ever get one as it's simply too big for the gearbox to handle reliably. The new Q5, though, falls in below the limits of the transmission and will carry one.
For those not looking for maximum performance, Audi is also putting a lot of work into its automatic transmissions. While six-speeds are the rage now, Audi already has an eight-speed together that they promise will be silky smooth for luxury car buyers, but still sporty in the right setting. Audi is also working on Continuously Variable Transmissions in house and exploring the potential of that technology, but Hatz says that despite their efficiency advantages, CVTs won't replace regular automatics any time soon.
Just as Audi continues to commit to sporty cars on the street, they're also remaining committed to motorsports. Audi, like other manufacturers, had to scale back its factory racing program as finances dwindled, but the success of the new R15 LMP1 racecar at Sebring has helped bolster the case for the motorsports program.
Audi has high hopes for continuing its dominance at Le Mans this summer and is working to get the car to as many U.S. races as possible, though the schedule is in a constant state of flux at the moment. Meanwhile, Audi is also working on developing its R8 GT3 racecar in Europe. The company is preparing to release the first few cars to private teams and expects to see the cars at the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring, which Audi hopes will showcase the car's abilities and attract more interest in the program. For now, Audi is moving cautiously with the program, but expects to stay with it for the long haul.