Audi is pursuing ambitious plans for a technologically advanced, luxuriously equipped coupé-like saloon called the A9.
It’s conceived to sit at the very top of Audi’s line-up as a high-priced rival to the Mercedes-Benz CL and Porsche Panamera, as well as a forthcoming production version of the BMW GranCoupé concept, due in early 2012.
The new four-door forms the centrepiece of a new model programme that aims to provide Audi with an overtly sporting sister model to the third-generation A8 — a move the German car maker has already mirrored lower down in its line-up with the four-door A7 and seventh-generation A6.
“The project isn’t officially confirmed for production, but work is progressing on the business case, both at an accountancy and engineering level,” an Audi insider revealed.
Adding further intrigue to the new car is news that Audi bosses are considering an aluminium spaceframe structure and key components of the MLB (Modularen Längsbaukasten, modular longitudinal architecture) driveline architecture earmarked for the A9 to provide a suitable basis for a production version of Lamborghini’s spectacular Estoque concept car.
The lightweight structure and the air-sprung chassis it supports are based on those already used by high-end A8s, which is assembled on its own dedicated production line at Audi’s Neckarsulm factory. By using a common platform architecture for all three cars, Audi hopes to reap added synergies — both in purchasing and production activities.
In a move similar to that undertaken with the R8 and Gallardo, Audi and Lamborghini are looking towards the A9 and Estoque to provide sufficient production commonality and economies of scale to make both cars a viable production proposition.
In an interview with Autocar, Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann said, “We couldn’t approach a thought like this [production of the Estoque] without the VW Group. It’d be very difficult to do something. The investments are so high that if you don’t have synergies, it’s financially impossible.”
Although the two cars will share a common structure and chassis, Autocar understands the A9 and Estoque will use different engines in a bid to give them unique characters. The former appears likely to run a newly developed 4.0-litre V8 and possibly a 6.3-litre W12 in top-of-the-line form, together with V6 and V8 diesel units, while the latter is set to receive Lamborghini’s 5.2-litre V10, as used by the Gallardo.
“It [a third model] would need to have the core values of Lamborghini; the touch, feel and sound would all have to be consistent with Lamborghini,” said Winkelmann.
While the A9 is planned to compete alongside the CL and Panamera, the Estoque will be priced further upmarket, where it is set to square up against the Bentley Continental GT, Aston Martin Rapide and a successor to the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.
With Audi looking to use the A8 as the donor for the new A9, Ingolstadt’s new range-topping model is clearly set to be among its most imposing, with dimensions tipped to mirror those of the company’s flagship saloon, which measures 5140mm in length and 1950mm in width and rides on a 2990mm wheelbase.
By comparison, the Estoque concept, which is said to closely resemble the new production version of the four-door Lambo, stretches to 5148mm in length and 1991mm in width, and uses a 2997mm wheelbase.
It is not known yet what form the new Audi is planned to take. The earlier A5 and A7 use fastback designs, with a large tailgate providing access to the boot. A similar layout would be possible with an aluminium spaceframe structure, although it remains to be seen whether a fastback design would receive customer acceptance.
By contrast, the Estoque is expected to stick with the classic three-box design first previewed by the concept at the 2008 Paris motor show.