Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.

audi-prologue-25-970x646-c

Judging from the cumulative audience reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to become viewed as creatively becalmed. Now of course the massed ranks of self appointed website and social media commentators are hardly an infallible guide to taste or informed criticism, but when a massed chorus of uninformed opinion suggests that its merely the same wine in a slightly re-profiled bottle, it doesn’t really matter how much you point out the devil in the detail. Nobody’s listening.

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The problem Lichte faces is that restraint simply doesn’t wash with the social media generation. Emotion is their currency, and the more emotive the better. So while many enthusiasts regard the current fad of expressive styling something of a vulgar fad, the public think otherwise and they my friends, are trending. Their gravitational centre now pivots upon Mercedes Benz of all people.

Because in spite of the questionable aesthetics emanating from Gorden Wegener’s dream factory, the collective automotive fan base are as one in their admiration and outright lust. The current S-Class, its new coupé sibling and the AMG-GT – each have been lauded as the acme of autoerotica – despite their overwrought and wilfully baroque appearance – inside and out. Say what you like about our Gorden, he’s very successful with the Car-Chat crowd.

Mercedes-S-Class-Coupe-new

Gorden’s emo-cars are selling like gang-busters too, which is another reason why Audi designers may find themselves tasked with ladling a little more expression into the A9’s styling before a production version sees the Lichte of day.

prologue rear
It’s so quiet…

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. [Dis]content Provider.

8 thoughts on “Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint”

  1. It’s a bit of a shame, really. I appreciated Audi’s PR effort leading up to the Prologue’s unveiling, which included this video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPn0ql1MPW4 ), a rather refreshing change from the usual designer vapourware in that Mark Lichte isn’t philosophising about purities of lines or cars being art. He even dares not to call the Ur-Quattro one of his main inspirations.
    This, coupled with my understanding that Mr Lichte has been one of the main architects behind the styling of VW’s current model line-up, has certainly managed to enthuse me somewhat.

    The Prologue itself I wouldn’t call a masterpiece, bit it’s obviously an attempt to get back to the design spirit that had made Audi the styling powerhouse it was a decade ago. That grille is obviously still huge and the eyes squintier than ever, but by today’s standards it’s quite a calm, reserved piece of styling. And its interior I’d consider even more successful.

    With the public yawning and professionals nodding appreciatively, rather than throwing their hands up in outright excitement, it remains to be seen whether Mark Lichte will be granted the chance to shape Audi’s future in his image (which is what Gorden Wagener has done to such great (sales) success). I certainly wish him well.

  2. The article seems to imply that M-B’s current styling is universally acclaimed but it’s also proving quite divisive in certain quarters. Meanwhile Audis are selling better than ever despite or thanks to its more restrained styling. As for BMW, they have gone from slightly whacky back to more conservative but all the while playing the emotional card.
    Truth is, they each have their fans and their detractors, but also sell on their own strength, so hopefully we won’t be seeing too much cross-pollination between the ‘big 3’.

  3. I’m one of the masses that moaned about this same old same old Audi on the blogs too. So yes it’s fine to make this Saab 95 coupe as it stands. Would have been no problem if they hadn’t gone into PR overdrive before to promise “a new direction for Audi”. They set themselves up for that fall very nicely indeed and no amount of PR spin will get past the fact that this is just another S, M and L version of the Audi cookie cutter Russian Doll.

    “The new direction for Audi” will only manifest itself once they have launched the new A4, A6 and A8 and they do not all look the same. Then we can talk again about this new direction.

    1. Was it really PR overdrive or just the standard spiel that comes with any concept presentation? At least you know that in VAG-talk ‘new direction’ means ‘evolution phase [x]’, so you can’t have been surprised that much.
      The cookie-cutter question is another issue altogether, though I’m not sure why it bothers people that much either.

    2. Part of the PR spin with this concept was that they will differentiate more between models – and move away from the cookie cutter syndrome. So it is totally linked with this car (according to them).

    3. Well it will be a couple of years before we see the end result, so not much to fret about at this stage.

  4. Of all the bad TV I have watched, there is currently one particularly distinctive show called ‘Scandal’. Billed as a ‘political thriller’, it is an unrelenting mass of ludicrous plotlines, shameless clichés and hammy acting. Apparently it is very popular, and I can sort of see why. It’s as though there is a credibility barrier. Whilst you remain inside it, you can be accused of incompetence and stupidity, but really push things and break through and you can do as you please, and they keep coming back for more. You don’t need to see Scandal to get my point, try ‘Dallas’ or any other of the many baroque supersoaps of the past that make a virtue of their unbelievability, offering pre-packaged emotions and vicarious outrage for those who can’t really handle them in their real-world lives

    My point? Oh yes I remember. What I’m trying to say is that MB appear to have broken through that credibility barrier. I still moan about them, as I have done for years but, for at least a year now, I have realised that there will be no return to tastefulness for them, nor need for it. I’m almost beginning to look forward to greeting the next completely spurious crease and gurning shiny grille with a contrived shriek of “‘Oh….My…God! I can’t believe they could have ….”.

    Most ‘emotive’ design is cynical and bogus, but it does its job and I can see why it has scared Audi. But the Prologue is a bit of an uncomfortable hybrid, still keeping within that credibility barrier. Personally, I’d like to see Audi stay within it, first because that’s where my aesthetic preferences (usually) lie and, less personally, because I’m not sure their heart is in it to mix it with the established barons of baroque – that grille just doesn’t convince.

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