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Audi’s current focus on luxury cars and EVs isn’t much of a surprise. After all, that’s where all the hype (and profit) is these days. But with the Audi R8 out after this year, does Audi make a sports car anymore? Well, that all depends on how you define the term “sports car”. To me, the answer is no, but that doesn’t mean there are no fun cars in the new Audi lineup.

Audi doesn’t have many true sports cars in its history

A green 2023 Audi RS 3 blasts through a canyon.
Audi RS 3 | Volkswagen Group

If you’re a traditionalist, a sports car must be a rear-wheel drive car. And if you’re a purist, that rear-wheel drive setup must also include a manual transmission. While Audi has a long history of good manual transmissions, its lineup of rear-wheel drive cars is microscopically short.

In fact, only two vehicles in the current Audi lineup come with rear-wheel drive as an option. The aforementioned Audi R8, and the Audi Q4 e-tron electric crossover. The R8 is, without a doubt, a true sports car. That electric Q4? Not so much.

Audi sports cars focus on all-weather performance

A Nardo Gray 2023 Audi RS4 Avant driving on a track
2023 Audi RS4 Avant | Audi

Since its inception, Audi performance has been about rally rather than hardcore track work. That means almost all Audi Sports Cars come with all-wheel drive rather than rear-wheel drive. But it’s more than that. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system keeps its sporting credentials with a rear-biased setup.

Audi, however, has a front-wheel drive-focused setup So much so that even with the advent of torque vectoring and four-wheel control, the current Audi RS3 can send no more than 50% of its torque to the rear wheels.

The front-heavy nature of Audi’s current lineup means balanced handling for daily driving. But when pushed to the limit, even Audi’s best suspension tuning leads to understeer at the limits of adhesion. Now, Audi’s latest differential sends all of the rear-driven power to one wheel at a time, helping duck the chronic understeer problem that has long plagued Audi’s S and RS models. But does that make it a sports car? While it isn’t BMW nimble, it feels much more engaging than any previous RS3.

Audi makes fast cars, not sports cars

The 2023 Audi RS 3 on a desert road
Meet the 2023 Audi RS 3

Without a doubt, the Audi sports car lineup is packed with fast cars. The Audi RS6 chucks out 651 horsepower from a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. The RS3 uses a stunning inline-five cylinder to throw 401 horsepower through that Quattro all-wheel drive system. And in the RS5 packs a twin-turbo V6 churning out 444 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque.

All of these are giggle-inducing when you put the power down. And all feel front-heavy, even under power, thanks to that front-biased all-wheel drive system. Even further, the Audi RS3 uses a wider front tire than the rear to further mitigate its chronic understeer. Combined with the new differential, it does deliver more fizz.

Will Audi make another rear-wheel-drive sports car?

Audi’s history offers no hint that a rear-wheel drive sports car is on the cards. While many EVs are utilizing rear drive for their single-motor variants, Audi has, thus far, stuck to its Quattro formula even in the e-tron GT. None of these things, by the way, are legitimate complaints. Audi’s modern Sport lineup does deliver plenty of smiles. But are they sports cars in the truest sense? The answer, unfortunately, is no.

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