14 June 2004

Audi will treble the number of coupés it sells in the next three years – led by this stunning new TT. It will be joined by a new range of larger two-doors, as part of on-going efforts by the German car maker to project a sportier image.

The coupé expansion, masterminded by Audi chairman Martin Winterkorn, kicks off next year with the second-generation TT – a car described to Autocar as ‘encapsulating all the style and quality of the original, but with the dynamics and space to head its class’.

Joining it in Audi showrooms before long will be production versions of Audi’s well-received Nuvolari and Le Mans concept cars – both of which have now been granted internal codenames, indicating that a business case has been approved and development is underway.

Audi TT: Codename AU353 Audi’s new TT will be unveiled at the September 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show, with UK coupé sales scheduled for April 2006 – the replacement roadster is due around a year later.

As Autocar’s artist’s impressions (above) show, the new model’s appearance remains faithful to the classic Freeman Thomas-penned lines of today’s car, with only mild changes to the detailing and slightly increased dimensions for extra interior room.

‘The TT is a style icon,’ an Ingolstadt source close to Audi design boss Walter de’Silva told Autocar. ‘It is still influencing the design of cars six years after its launch. We don’t see any need to bring radical changes to the car. Future incarnations will retain all the essential ingredients of today’s model.’

Distinguishing the new TT from today’s car will be a fresh front end dominated by Audi’s new shield grille. The rear is likely to receive a retractable spoiler, similar to that used on the Porsche Boxster, to provide added downforce.

The old TT was based around many of the mechanicals of the previous VW Golf, and so the second-generation model borrows the Volkswagen Group’s PQ35 platform – the same structure that’s used by the latest VW Golf, Audi A3, Seat Altea and Skoda Octavia.

An earlier plan was to use a modified Audi A4 platform, according to an Ingolstadt engineer who points to the 3-series-derived BMW Z4 and C-class-based Mercedes SLK as inspiration. However, the idea was scrapped on packaging grounds: the A4’s longitudinal engine layout and Torsen four-wheel-drive system is unsuited to the TT’s compact dimensions and unusual proportions.

As a result, the next TT will benefit from a series of chassis upgrades that should make it a much sharper drive. Chief among them is the switch from torsion beam rear suspension to a more contemporary multi-link arrangement – a luxury previously only afforded on four-wheel-drive versions of the TT. Other changes include a slightly longer wheelbase and wider tracks, an electro-mechanical steering set-up and bigger brakes.

As with today’s TT, the new model will offer a choice of front-wheel drive or quattro four-wheel drive – the latter using a beefed-up version of today’s multi-plate clutch system. Power will come from a range of new transversely mounted in-line four-cylinder and narrow-angle V6 engines. They should include existing 150bhp naturally aspirated and soon-to-be-introduced 200bhp turbocharged versions of Audi’s 2.0-litre FSI unit. A third version, with added turbo boost pressure and up to 230bhp, is said to be under development.

Also expected from the start of sales is a reworked version of Audi’s 3.2-litre V6, with FSI direct injection technology. The engine is claimed to produce around 255bhp in naturally aspirated form, giving the future TT V6 a slight power boost.

It doesn’t end there, however. In a move aimed at matching the Mercedes SLK 55 AMG and a much-rumoured M version of the BMW Z4, Audi is working on a hot TT RS. It runs a twin-turbocharged version of the upgraded 3.2-litre V6 with up to 350bhp – the same engine earmarked to power the forthcoming RS3. Tipped to see the light of day in 2007, the hottest of the new TT models should be good for 0-60mph in less than 5.5sec and a top speed limited to 155mph.

Alongside a standard six-speed manual gearbox, Audi will offer its new six-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) as an option on all but the entry level model. It remains to be seen whether a six-speed torque-converter automatic like that used in the A3 will also be offered, though it seems unlikely given the DSG’s ability to offer both manual and automatic shifting.

Audi Nuvolari: Codename AU564

The last of Audi’s new two-door models to arrive will be a production version of the stunning Nuvolari concept car first shown at last year’s Geneva Motor Show. Expect only detail changes from the show car, as revealed in our gallery.

Targeted directly at the recently introduced BMW 6-series and top-end Merc CLK, Audi’s new four-seater coupé is planned for sale in early 2007 with prices starting below £40,000 in the UK. A soft-top convertible is also planned for the end of 2007.

Eschewing the ASF (Aluminium Space Frame) construction of the concept car, the road-going Nuvolari – not the name it is expected to carry into production – is based around a more cost-effective unitary body construction.

The bodyshell of Audi’s stylish new coupé will be fashioned predominantly from high-tensile steel though, like the new A6, it’s expected to get an aluminium bonnet, bootlid and doors to save weight.

Underneath is what insiders describe as a ‘hybrid’ platform with a mixture of components from the facelifted A4, due later this year, and the new A6. ‘It’s the only way we could make the business case stand up,’ said a source privy to detailed information on Audi’s future model programme.

The new car will use an aluminium intensive four-link (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension, with the possibility of air springs in top-end models if early packaging problems can be solved. Alongside standard front-wheel drive, Audi plans four-wheel-drive versions offering a more rearward-biased drive split than current quattro models.‘There’s a programme underway to ensure future four-wheel-drive models provide a sense of heightened dynamics,’ said our source. ‘We want to imbue our cars with a sportier feel.’

Among the engines Audi has in store for its new coupé are 255bhp 3.2-litre V6 and 380bhp 4.2-litre V8 units – both with FSI direct-injection technology. Also in the pipeline is a storming RS variant of Ingolstadt’s new mid-range coupé – tipped to run a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V10, also with FSI. With a reported 500bhp and four-wheel drive, it should make life hard for the upcoming BMW M6 and Mercedes-Benz CLK 55 AMG.

Audi Le Mans: Codename AU714

At the top of Audi’s coupé pyramid is the spectacular mid-engined Le Mans (see gallery). Revealed in concept form at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the low slung two-seater is scheduled to start production at Audi’s Neckarsulm factory in Germany in late 2006. UK sales get underway six months later.

Echoing the Nuvolari strategy, the Le Mans’ styling will change little from the show car, although the front end will have to be raised to meet future pedestrian safety rules. Being based around Lamborghini’s Gallardo supercar, the Le Mans shares the same aluminium spaceframe and much of its mechanical package, including its four-wheel-drive system. Suspension is via classic double wishbones at each corner, with new electro-magnetic dampers that constantly alter the level of stiffness depending on road conditions.

A pet project of Winterkorn’s, the Le Mans has been conceived to take on no less a car than the iconic Porsche 911. To equip it for the task, Audi will fit its mid-engined flagship with at least two different engines. A 380bhp 4.2-litre V8 and 500bhp 5.0-litre V10 – both with FSI – are anticipated, but not yet officially confirmed. The concept car’s 610bhp twin-turbo 5.0-litre V10 has been ruled out, as it would encroach too much on the Lamborghini donor car.

Autocar understands that the V8 Le Mans will go on sale first, with a V10 range-topper following around 18 months later. As for guide prices, expect a 911-rivalling £58,000 starter cost, stretching up to around £90,000 for the V10.

One reason to stagger the launch is to get the quality right. ‘The Le Mans marks Audi’s first real foray into the supercar ranks, and it is important that the quality lives up to the rest of the range,’ said our source.

Component suppliers point towards an annual run of between 7500 and 10,000 cars. That’s a drop in the ocean by Audi standards, but the real role of the Le Mans is to provide a halo for the rest of the range.

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