Although recognised internationally for its high-performance stable of vehicles, Audi Sport has embraced change since the very beginning, which makes for an interesting future ahead.

18 September, 2023

When Audi Sport started operations 40 years ago – called quattro GmbH at the time – its output was confined to producing premium accessories to support the Audi brand. It wasn’t until 1996 that it became a vehicle manufacturer with the release of the Audi S6 plus and that high-performance focus was confirmed beyond any doubt three years later with the arrival of the RS4 Avant. The rest as they say is history.

The company’s history is very much one of constant change and refinement. Performance remains at the heart of everything Audi Sport does, but with an increasing focus on electrification, the future looks set to continue the trend of change.

“The first Audi RS4 Avant, which we presented in 1999, was in the strict sense the first genuine RS model from quattro GmbH,” says Stephan Reil who has been Head of Technical Development at the Neckarsulm site since July 2020.

“Not only did it lay the foundation for everything that still characterises our vehicles today. With the 280kW V6 twin turbo unit, we also created something completely new at the time – back then, there was nothing in this vehicle segment that could match the performance of our Audi RS4 Avant.

“This gave rise to the guiding principle ‘generate demand’, and our aspiration to create surprise moments with our vehicles time and time again still clearly resonates as part of our DNA today,” says Reil who has worked with AUDI AG since 1990, holding various management positions at quattro and Audi Sport GmbH respectively between 1996 and 2017.

Today that extraordinary performance is present in all of the 16 models produced by Audi Sport, yet nowhere is the diversity better illustrated than with the mid-engined R8 supercar and the new all-electric RS e-tron GT – the first all-electric RS model from the brand.

“Production of the Audi R8 GT takes place at the Böllinger Höfe together with the Audi e-tron GT. It’s a unique combination of craftsmanship and smart factory,” says Dr Sebastian Grams has been with Audi for 20 years and currently holds the position of Managing Director at Audi Sport.

During his time with the brand he developed high-performance engines and electric drives and founded the SEAT:CODE software factory.

“As a young engineer, I had the chance to help develop the engine of the first Audi R8. When I started the engine on the test bench for the first time, I got goose bumps,” he remembers fondly.

“The enhancements in the second-generation Audi R8 GT with its 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 and the new Torque Rear driving mode, which enables controlled yet precise oversteer: that’s progress you can feel!”

In design too, the Audi Sport brand has pushed the boundaries and created a visual identity to match the performance characteristics of its vehicles.

“Exterior design is extremely important to our RS customers in particular,” says Markus Eberle, Product Manager responsible for RS vehicles for the past six years.

“The wide body is a fundamental part of the Audi Sport DNA. It gives an RS model its overall appearance. The current Audi RS 6 Avant performance is up to 80 millimetres wider than the normal Audi A6 Avant, but it is not just a matter of extending the wheel arches. The car is practically completely redesigned around the wide body. The Audi RS 6 Avant only shares the roof, front doors and tailgate with the Audi A6 series. The rest is exclusively designed. So you can feel the emotion and performance of our RS models long before you get in.”

And of course Audi Sport’s focus is not confined to the road, drawing, as the name suggests, on motorsport both for inspiration and for future development.

“It’s part of our DNA to develop and test new technologies for production vehicles in motorsport for the first time,” says Rolf Michl, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi.

“In our production portfolio, the Audi RS e-tron GT – as the first all-electric RS model – stands for our fascinating, emotional and consistent progress. At the Dakar Rally, the Audi RS Q e-tron has proven for two years now that an electrified drive concept can perform under the toughest conditions.”

In addition to the Dakar Rally, preparations are well underway for the brand’s entry into the FIA Formula 1 World Championship in 2026, where new regulations coming into effect from that year will focus on greater electrification. As in the past, this cauldron of motorsport will continue to push development to the limits, and those developments will ultimately find their way to varying degrees into the brand’s road going vehicles.

Predicting the future then is a tricky proposition, but it’s fair to say that it will not be dull. It’s also fair to say that where Audi Sport is concerned, performance will remain at the heart of the matter.