March 24, 2007
By: Jason Teller
When Audi of America invited us to spend the weekend as its guest at the 2007 12 Hours of Sebring race we of course jumped at the chance. Some readers will remember we were also at Sebring in 2006 when Audi made history by winning the race in its diesel-powered R10 TDI (the R10 is in fact undefeated, and remains so after winning at Sebring again this year). The history, the tradition and the experience at Sebring is simply outstanding and we continue to maintain that all sports fan ought to make the trip to Central Florida at least once.
Over a two day span we spent a good deal of time with representatives from Audi of America Public Relations, Marketing, Product Development, Quality Control and of course the boss, Executive Vice President Johan de Nysschen. We also got an early opportunity for time behind the wheel of the upcoming next generation TT coupe but more on that in a future article. When not out photographing the race, hanging in the Audi Corral or just enjoying the event we took the opportunity to gather as much information as possible from the assembled brain trust.
Audi A5 / S5
Readers asked us to inquire about the target demographic for the A5. This question elicited a wry smile from de Nysschen in that Audi officials had been very recently debating this very question via an internal e-mail chain. If only we could be put on the distribution list for that e-mail!
The marketing approved response is that the A5 will be targeted to sophisticated urbanites. In reality Audi seems to have a great problem on its hands in that the A5 can (and certainly will) appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. The vehicle, with its moderate to high performance and phenomenal styling, is somewhat hard to put into a specific slot. Audi intends to keep it exclusive (read as: not too far from its current demographic), but is thrilled to have a big coupe to market to new potential buyer.
Interestingly, while European and American buyers typically differ in terms of what they want from a particular vehicle segment, Audi believes that they are actually quite similar when it comes to coupes. In fact they think the buyer is exactly the same. To that end Audi has emphasized design, design and design for the A5 and seeks to indulge the senses with this vehicle. It is clearly a conquest vehicle for Audi since it is the brands first entry for some time in the full-sized coupe market.
Audi will be offering only quattro equipped A5s and S5s in the US no front wheel drive vehicles. We can expect to see some brand new, highly unique colors for the upcoming A5 / S5. We confirmed that both a Cinnamon and a Brown interior will be offered, as well as the ultra-hot red leather interior for the S5.
Audi A3 / S3
One the best tidbits we picked up at Sebring was confirmation that Audi will eventually be offering an A3 2.0T quattro in the US. With its sporty turbo powerplant the A3 2.0T is not only easily modified for even more owner fun, but the aforementioned powerplant is well suited for the A3s size and market segment. That said some buyers have either opted for the A3 3.2 just to get sought-after quattro all-wheel drive or have failed to purchase altogether perhaps looking to the Japanese competition instead.
Audi of America recognizes this gap and will address the issue, although timing is still uncertain.
The subject of a US model S3 inevitably comes up. Audi has officially not ruled this variant out, although in our mind it appears to be a remote possibility. A more realistic prospect is a very-well sorted A3 2.0T quattro with special engine tuning, exhaust tuning and body / interior treatments. This so called A3 Sport could produce the type of performance and features that these owners seek at a better price point and without causing Audi to have to Federalize the 3-door A3 for the US.
On the topic of that particular Federalization we were actually told for the first time anybody here can remember that it is a little closer to reality. It still feels like a long shot, however.
Audi of America is highly supportive of offering an RS4 Cabriolet in the US market; however feasibility is still being studied.
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