The future of Audi Sport – RS6, RS3 and electrification
As the launch of its final internal combustion engine nears, we discuss Audi Sport’s electrified future with MD Sebastian Grams
During the last forty years there is very little Audi Sport hasn’t achieved. World Rally Champions? Big tick. Dominated at Le Mans? Huge tick. Massive. Touring cars? That too comes with a sizable swoosh. IMSA, Rallycross, the N24… you name it and if there’s a stage to compete on or a lap to run Audi Sport has been there. And with this success has come a consistent stream of performance road cars to wave the flag and justify the racing bills.
However, in 2026 Audi will have developed its last internal combustion engine and Audi Sport will be well on the way to producing more all-electric RS models of the company’s new portfolio of EVs. This starts with a Q6 e-tron RS, the junior SUV that shares Porsche’s Performance Premium Electric (PPE) platform that will debut with the next Macan before underpinning a range of larger premium Audi and Porsche models.
This doesn’t mean the end of the RS petrol models just yet, with Audi Sport’s MD Sebastian Grams as enthusiastic about these as he is with the potential of his EV fleet of RS models. Grams is talking to evo on the eve of the Nürburgring 24-hour, although not in a steak house within earshot of Adenau Forest, but in central London where he has flown in for less than 24 hours to talk about all things Audi RS. The UK is a not inconsiderable market for Audi’s S and RS models, accounting for around 6000 examples of the 45,000 sold globally in 2022.
‘We will have ten new Audi RS models on sale by 2026’ explains Grams. ‘But not all of them will be fully electric - although many will be electrified - because we still have unfinished business with a few favourites, like the RS3 and the RS6.’ Grams considers the RS6 as the defining model of Audi Sport, a halo model that complements the R8. But while the R8 nears the end of its farewell tour before it is replaced by an all-electric successor, the RS6 has time on its side. Although how much, Grams wouldn’t let on.
‘We have some headroom with the RS6. There is more to give and customers are asking us to go more extreme with the car. You have seen what we have done with the RS4 Competition by fitting adjustable coil over suspension, while we might not go in this direction with a more extreme RS6 I think it shows that we are not afraid to push the boundaries of what is expected of this kind of car.’
In terms of performance from the 4-litre twin-turbo V8 it shares with Porsche’s Panamera, the RS6’s 620bhp is currently surpassed by the plug-in hybrid powertrain put to use by Turbo S E-hybrid, where it produces 700bhp. As good as the RS6’s chassis is, with that level of power and nearly 738lb ft of torque it’s going to need Competition levels of dynamic upgrades, too.
At the other end of the spectrum is the RS3, which is currently sold out having established itself as a bit of modern day RS2. Something Grams and his team have identified as an opportunity to push it further. It started with the more powerful Performance model launched last year but Audi Sport wants to go further. ‘The engine can provide more performance without much additional work and this engine isn’t very old and could be used for some time to come with an electrified element.’
Which sounds great, but currently the RS3 is - relatively - affordable and anything with a performance powertrain that requires a plug isn’t. ‘We know this is the biggest challenge, to make an electrified RS3 to be as obtainable as its ICE equivalent’ explains Grams. It’s a challenge facing everyone, not only Audi Sport: how do you make electrified performance affordable? Answers on a Snapchat, please.
Ultimately Audi Sport’s future model portfolio is predominantly an electrified one. The Q6 RS e-tron will be followed by an RS model of the forthcoming A6 e-tron (yes, a fast electric estate car) although not everything Audi delivers with a sled of batteries bolted to its Porsche developed chassis will be available with an RS badge. And what of the TT? The sports car that a quarter of a century ago made Audis cool to people who considered them German Volvos in the past? Consider that Porsche’s 718 GT4 ePerformance concept was built on the PPE platform, as will the new electric Boxster and Cayman, don’t bet against a four-ringed version arriving soon after.