At last week's tony Design Miami reveal of the 2011 A8 luxury cruiser, we were able to corner Johan de Nysschen, Audi's executive vice president in North America, and ask him for some tasty tibits on the brand's upcoming products, including the A8's sexier derivative, the A7.
In addition to giving us the first official confirmation of the A7's existence, de Nysschen revealed that the four-door coupe model will slot in "a little bit below" the new A8 in terms of pricing, just as we expected. Of course, it's worth noting that the 2011 A8 faces a price bump due to substantial increases in content and technology, so when the A7 finally comes to the States, the average model is likely to sticker at around $82,000-$83,000, which de Nysschen says is about the price for a typically equipped 2010 A8 (pricing starts at $74,550 plus delivery).
Based on Audi's new longitudinal modular platform technology, the A7 will be clearly related to the A8 (and the A6 replacement that will follow it), and de Nysschen says that the 2009 Detroit Auto Show Sportback concept car serves as a "very reliable indicator" of what the production model will look like. Judging by recent spy shots from our friends at KGP, that very much appears to be the case. While parts commonality will be "substantial," de Nysschen says that the A7 will not use the full aluminum spaceframe design of the A8, although it will have aluminum elements.
As expected, the A8 will launch Stateside in both standard and long-wheelbase formats, with the latter predicted to make up the lion's share of the volume (the A8L presently accounts for about 80 percent of the model's sales).
We asked De Nysschen about how the two models will interact in the full-size luxury sedan segment, and he noted that:
"This top end segment is characterized by more conservative people, and we need to clearly take lower levels of risk with a flagship model [the A8]. But we recognize too that there is a sizable enough cluster of customers in that same segment who are ready for a more avant-garde design [the A7]. So we will essentially be positioning two cars into the same segment, which means that independently, the volume each attains is not that significant, but when you put them together, it will mean that our share of that segment will grow quite dramatically."All-in De Nysschen thinks that the A8 will account for about 4,000 to 5,000 sales per year in the U.S., and the less costly A7 could clear 7,000-8,000 additional units.
And what of a high-performance S8 to take on Mercedes-Benz's AMG lineup, or the A5 Sportback? Click through to the jump for more details.
De Nysschen tells us "We haven't announced that yet, but I think it's pretty safe to assume that an S model is in the wings. We always have a high-performance version. And that, of course, will be in the normal wheelbase version." Will it come to America? we asked. "Yes, I think so."
When we asked about the fortunes of the A7's smaller sibling, the A5 Sportback, the Audi VP replied, "We don't yet have the customer footprint – the sheer volume in the U.S. market – to yet be able to afford the luxury of the brand as they do in Europe, where they can begin to break it down into ever smaller niches." For that reason, fans of the Four-Ring brand should not expect to see the comely A5 Sportback in American showrooms any time soon.
U.S. deliveries of the 2011 A8 are slated to begin late in the fourth quarter of 2010, and we don't expect to see the A7 in showrooms until sometime the following year.