Rear-wheel drive is considered by most enthusiasts (including this one!) to be a prerequisite for true luxury competition. Infiniti found success switching to it with the G and M, and Cadillac only experienced a bump in sales with the RWD CTS. If there is one brand that is forgiven for lack of an RWD lineup though, it would be Audi. That’s because the brand’s heritage has primarily been centered around its quattro all-wheel drive system.
Deeper than that, platforms have engines longitudinally set back in the chassis A large majority of the brand’s vehicles are sold with AWD, and it is often tuned for a RWD bias. There are disadvantages though; for instance on the top-level A8. It is a stylish vehicle, but it doesn’t quite have the same stance and presence (it’s that front overhang) as a RWD-based vehicle.
Car and Driver reports that for the next-generation A8 due in 2017, that could change. If it did happen, Porsche would be to thank. The company is currently developing the Volkswagen Group’s “MSB” (Modularer Standardantrieb-Baukasten in German) rear-wheel drive platform. MSB will underpin the high-profit next-generation Panamera as well as Bentley sedans. Audi’s new Research and Development chief is Wolfgang Dürheimer, who formerly worked at Porsche. He has an affinity for the platform that could see Audi tapping it for the next-generation A8’s use.
Also in the article is news that Audi could ditch the current car’s all-aluminum body for an “aluminum hybrid one” that would include high-strength steel and composite materials. This combination would reduce weight even further. Without Porsche’s development of MSB, a RWD A8 wouldn’t bee a big consideration.
If given the green light, the MSB-based A8 would be the first RWD Audi since World War II. It would be a big change – but a welcomed one that would enable Audi to push the styling envelope. The A7 Sportback and A8 are hampered by constraints with their current platforms, and MSB would change all that. Hopefully Durheimer pulls the trigger on it.