Car launches aren’t just a chance to give a new model a once-over ahead of its official on-sale date, they also give grubby hacks like me a chance to get close to the guys who actually make the big decisions.
I’m just back from the Audi RS3 launch, where after a hard day spent flinging Audi’s megahatch around the twistiest roads the south of France could offer, I found myself sitting next to Quattro GMBH’s development boss Stephan Reil at dinner - which turned out to be almost as amusing an experience as hooning the car had been.
Reil definitely isn’t from the ‘know everything but say nothing’ school of automotive bosses, being more than happy to chat about the refreshingly no-nonsense way Audi’s performance sub-division does its thing.
He admitted that the RS3 itself was a very late addition to the current A3 model cycle – “it seemed like a good idea. It was relatively simple to do and so we did it”, confirmed that we’re not going to see any RS-badged diesels in the foreseeable future - “you need revs to make excitement” - and regaled us with tales from his frequent trips to the Nurburgring, where every ‘RS’ prototype covers at least 8000km of flat-out testing.
Only when the conversation turned to the production likelihood (or otherwise) of the stunning Quattro Concept from last year’s Paris Show – and which was built around the same five-cylinder turbo engine that powers the RS3 – did he turn more reticent.
“All I can tell you is that we want to make it and that we’ve presented a case for it. It’s up to the board now. A decision will be made in either the first or second quarter this year.”
Leading to the obvious supplementary question: could Reil think of a ‘viable’ concept that’s engendered such a positive response and not made it to production?
With a big grin, he admitted that he couldn’t. Let’s cross our fingers.