Audi has hinted at plans to take its acclaimed five-cylinder petrol engine to new heights before it switches focus wholesale to electrification, and a substantially upgraded Audi RS3 hot hatch is on the cards.
The raucous inline five-pot is currently used by the Audi RS Q3, Audi RS3 and Audi TT RS and is the only motor of this configuration in series production.
Audi has offered a straight-five engine since 1976, when the 100 saloon launched with 101bhp, and some of the brand's most revered models – Sport Quattro, S2 and RS2 – have helped the motor become an icon in its own right.
Speaking at a celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of Audi Sport, division boss Sebastian Grams gave an intriguing hint at plans to take the engine to new heights before it is retired in line with Audi's wider electrification strategy. The brand will launch its final combustion car by 2026 and will sell only pure-EVs from 2033.
"We have a perfect five-cylinder engine which is very unique in the market. We have a six-cylinder engine, and we will improve these technologies into the next step. I do not see a need to completely change the engines," said Grams.
Asked if the five-cylinder can be improved without the introduction of a hybrid unit, Grams would only say: "Yes."
Referencing the brand's recent decision to take the RS3 off sale to cope with overwhelming demand, he added: "Honestly, we are really happy that the customers are jumping on that car like hell and we are not, let's say, finished with the car… We have the five-cylinder and we will definitely increase the five-cylinder for the next step. We will improve that.
"There's still a way to go. We have done the RS3 Performance edition, which is faster, which has more performance, which has bucket seats and another calibration. You can see that we will really sharpen our products in the future."
The latest iteration of the engine has already been tweaked to give 493bhp in Dutch brand Donkervoort's outlandish D8 GTO F22 open-wheeler – said to be the world's lightest two-seat supercar, with a power-to-weight ratio of 657bhp per tonne.
It is unclear whether Audi aims to achieve this same lofty output for its five-pot swansong, but a tangible boost for the 394bhp RS3 could make it the most powerful hot hatch on sale, eclipsing the 416bhp Mercedes-AMG A45.
It is less likely that there will be any new variants of the TT, given the two-seater is bowing out in 2023 – its 25th year – with the £87,650 Iconic Edition.