Where Are Audi’s Super Sedans?
Recently, first drives of the all-new Mercedes-AMG C63 and its slightly more bonkers version, the 503 horsepower C63S, have been coming out. Despite Mercedes’s decision to drop its famous 6.2 liter, naturally aspirated V8 from the C63 and instead use a smaller, twin-turbo 4.0 liter V8, by all accounts, the latest C63 is absolutely brilliant to drive. It’s not only incredibly powerful, but unlike previous iterations of the C63, it’s somewhat civilized as well. No, it’s not available with a manual transmission, but it’s still the kind of car that you look at and just want.
The Mercedes-AMG C63 isn’t the only car of its kind though. BMW will sell you an M3 with a twin-turbo inline six that makes 425 horsepower and is still properly quick. If you want the M3 as a coupe and not a sedan, that’s now called the M4, but it still looks wicked. If you prefer something more American, Cadillac is about to join the party with the much anticipated ATS-V, packing a 455 horsepower twin-turbo V6. There are even rumors that Jaguar is on its way over with a performance version of its XE sedan. Curiously absent from this segment though is Audi.
It’s not like Audi has never competed in this segment before. It actually has, and to great acclaim. From 2006 to 2008, Audi sold the RS4, a high performance of its popular A4 sedan, this time with a 4.2 liter V8 under the hood that made 420 horsepower. It was fast, it was brawny, and it was also likely one of the reasons that BMW changed the M3 from an inline six to a V8. Sadly, as quickly as it appeared, the RS4 rode off into the sunset, never to return to America’s shores again.
Audi will still sell you the S4, which is also a faster, sportier version of the A4. It only makes 333 horsepower though, coming up way short if you want to put it up against cars like the C63, M3, and ATS-V. Then again, the S4 was never intended to compete against those cars. The S4 is instead aimed at cars like the BMW 335i, Mercedes C400, Cadillac ATS V6, and Lexus IS350. Considering that those cars all pack right around 300 horsepower, the S4 starts to look a lot more competitive.
If so many other manufacturers think it’s worth building faster sedans though, why doesn’t Audi bring an RS4 to the States? The obvious answer is sales. While the average price of a new car is close to $30,000, most BMW M3s sell for closer to $75,000. Finding people who are interested in spending two and a half times the average cost of a car on a hardcore sports sedan is difficult, and as a result, sales are low. It’s easy to see how Audi would look at selling 5000 RS4s a year in the U.S. and not think it’s worth the development cost.
I’m not so sure that’s the case though. After all, it’s not like Audi doesn’t sell any RS models in the States. If you’d like, you can purchase either an RS5 or an RS7. The RS5 is based on the A5 and is a coupe that fits between model sizes, like a somewhat smaller M6 or somewhat larger M4. Meanwhile the RS7 is the go-fast version of Audi’s beautiful and stylish A7 sedan. My suspicion is that the reason Audi doesn’t offer an RS4 right now is not that the small number of potential sales wouldn’t make it worthwhile. I think Audi realized that the RS4 and RS5 would both attract very similar buyers, and the number of people who would buy an RS4 but who wouldn’t buy an RS5 was fairly small. In that case, why bother selling both?
The current generation A4 has also been around since 2008. It received a refresh in 2012, but much more recent complete redesigns of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, and Lexus IS, as well as the introduction of the Cadillac ATS make the refreshed A4 feel a bit dated. The next generation A4 is coming though. It’ll most likely be officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show this year with a look that draws heavily on the Prologue concept. Audi’s moving to a completely different platform for the upcoming A4, which will be both more advanced and more flexible, likely allowing for easier development of a much higher performance model.
Does that mean that there’s a new, fire-breathing RS4 that’s finally returning to the U.S.? Not necessarily. Audi has been upfront about the fact that the new A4 will go on sale towards the end of 2015, and Europe will likely get an RS4, but no promises have been made about whether or not it will come to the U.S. My suspicion though is that Audi fully intends to develop the RS4 for North America. Assuming it does, BMW and Mercedes better watch their backs. The C63 is on top now, but it might not be for long.
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