Audi gets first crack at new engine

words - Michael Taylor
High-output four will be launched in S3 Plus model slotting in just below RS3
Audi has created a gap between the S3 and the RS3 to house a crunching new four-cylinder turbo engine being developed by Volkswagen Group engine maestro, Friedrich Eichler.

Said to be dubbed S3 Plus, the new model will be shown by the end of the year, complete with around 280kW of power, sources revealed yesterday. The engine is also being lined up to give an extra kick to the all-new 2015 Audi TT.

While the S3 will keep its current positioning and its 221kW motor and the upcoming RS3 will have a Euro VI-compliant evolution of its signature five-cylinder, senior Audi engineering sources insist there is space for a step between them.

The engine for the S3 Plus will be the new development of the EA888 which is set to overtake the Mercedes-Benz AMG 2.0-litre A 45 and CLA 45 motor as the most powerful 2.0-litre, four-cylinder motor in the world.

As revealed by motoring.com.au a week ago, the Volkswagen Group is already bench testing its four-cylinder world production-car record contender, which it is hoping to reveal on its own late this year or early next year in anticipation of a market launch in 2015.

It was confirmed yesterday by senior Audi engineering sources that the first home for the engine will not be the next Scirocco, but the S3 Plus and in a faster version of the all-new TT coupe and convertible.

The arrival of such an engine, with a target output of around 280kW of power and nearly 500Nm of torque, will create engineering headaches upstream, but highlights the ferocity of the battle heating up in small premium sports sedans and hatches.

With the S3 only just on the streets with 221kW of power (already 33kW more than its predecessor) and a 50Nm jump to 380Nm of torque, the arrival of the S3 Plus puts pressure on the engineering team for the 2.5-litre, five-cylinder RS3, which has 265kW and 465Nm of torque in its most powerful existing format inside the TT RS Plus.

If the TT RS Plus can hit 100km/h in 4.2 seconds – faster than the V8 version of the R8 – insiders are already smiling and salivating when they talk of the all-wheel drive punch offered up by the S3 Plus.

“There will be no overlap because there is a lot of development available to the five-cylinder engine,” a senior Audi engineering source insisted.

“But we are all very enthusiastic about the four-cylinder. Audi has taken the lead on the development of this engine, because it’s an EA888 engine and that’s an Audi engine.

“It’s faster and stronger than what we already have, but it won’t replace what we have. It will be in addition to what we have. There is enough space for all three of the engines at the top.”

However, Audi’s technical boss, Ulrich Hackenberg, recently filled the same position in Volkswagen and is insisting any such high performance engine would be more suited to the Audi brand.

Sources at the Volkswagen Group last week revealed that the engine had already surpassed the output of the AMG 2.0-litre turbo motor on the test bench and a prototype of it was being rushed through in an attempt to wow the faithful at the annual Volkswagen GTI festival at Lake Wörthesee, Austria, in late May. 

While an engine alone may feature, a running prototype or concept car won’t make it to the church on time. Instead, the revised target for its first public showing in a concept car is the Paris Motor Show in September or the LA Motor Show in November.

One wrinkle could be that the engine has become the centre of a power struggle inside the Volkswagen Group, with one faction insisting it should be seen first in a Volkswagen, with an Über Golf concept being touted as a possibility, especially if it’s shown at a motor show in China later in the year.

Based on the existing block, crankcase, crankshaft and conrods of the existing 2.0-litre EA888 motor from the TT S, the new engine will receive a custom-built cylinder head, a new ECU, a larger turbocharger and a different exhaust system to develop its astonishing power.

Its cooling demands will dictate a more aggressive front end compared to the existing S3, and it will be mated only to a Haldex all-wheel-drive system and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Sources insist the transmission is strong enough to accept all of the engine’s torque in its first gears, unlike the AMG system.

The Volkswagen Group last year poached AMG’s head of engine development, Friedrich Eichler, to manage its engine, transmission and hybrid development. Sources insist Eichler, who developed the 265kW, 450Nm A 45 engine for AMG, has been tasked with delivering a four-cylinder engine that will put his own AMG powerplant in the shade.

“It’s going to be a very fast car,” one source insisted. “Because it will be able to use all of its torque in first gear, it’s going to get to 100km/h in the very low four-second bracket.

“The beauty of it is that it fits the MQB architecture, so it can go in any small car from all the brands,” a source insisted.

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Published : Wednesday, 22 January 2014
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