That’s What Audi Is Missing

Autocar have published a list of the new cars expected in the near future.  Under “Audi” we find grounds to hope that Audi’s much-criticised, characterless design can be saved.

2015 Audi A6 - as unstylish as a car can be: nextcarreviews.com
2015 Audi A6 – as unstylish as a car can be: nextcarreviews.com

Well, I am being ironic of course.

This is what Autocar says about the 2017 Audi A6 “A more stylish look is promised for Audi’s next BMW 5-series competitor, designed under Marc Lichte”. You really have to wonder about the man who is heir to a long tradition of studiously composed designs from the Ingolstadt firm. What is he thinking? Remember Walter da Silva who was charged with adding faszination to VAG’s cars. He tentatively added a ‘Tornado Line’ to some Audi models which seemed as breathtakingly out of place as putting a clown nose on Heidi Klum’s face.

One wonders what Mr Lichte is planning and what that will look like. Audi’s are stylish in the sense of having a clear, defined and consistent appearance. It’s eye-catchingly restrained.

What we have here, in addition to the usual dreary imperative of design spokespeople to talk up forthcoming cars, is an inherent tension in modernism with or without a capital M. You see, the idea with modernism (and Audi demonstrates some form of this mentality) is that by eschewing decorative flourishes one can produce a shape that is close to the Platonic ideal of the object in question. And somehow Audi has actually managed to change its cars from generation to generation without simply

2005 Audi A6 - still correct in every detail: productioncars.com
2005 Audi A6 – still correct in every detail: productioncars.com

caking on empty styling details as other makers are wont to do while staying close to a functionalist ideal. The storm line didn’t add anything to the cars it graced but was modest enough to be ignored. With Lichte’s proposal we must assume that he is veering more sharply away from a four decade theme which, let’s be honest, really appeals to a lot of people and which, as a quondam designer of some type, I have to respect.

Getting back to that tension in Modernism, we find that adhering to the design minimum (see: Rams, Dieter) makes things look rather the same and eventually becomes a tradition of its own. Is it oxymoronic to talk of a tradition of modernism? Tradition and modernism are opposed, I contend. And if you change for change’s sake then that departs from the modernist idea of trying to find the essential form. It’s hard to pretend the purpose of the car changes so much that the principles of finding its ‘correct’ shape must change in the manner suggested by Marc Lichte.

So, paradox: change the design to be new and different and the car won’t adhere to Modernism’s pursuit of objective form; stay essentially the same and the design becomes traditional which is to depart from Modernism’s search for the new. Catch 22, eh?

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

3 thoughts on “That’s What Audi Is Missing”

  1. Well, I find the current A6 the most handsome car in Audi’s range right now, so I obviously wouldn’t pick it as a negative example. Yet it isn’t the only car in the range, regrettably, and there are other cases which not only hint at, but actually scream out a glaring need for change: take the Q7, which is misguided in an astonishing number of ways. Or the TT, or the R8. And the new A4, to a lesser extent, too. Those cars make it very clear indeed why Wolfgang Egger was given the boot (albeit far too late in the process, in my opinion).

  2. I do not eypect too much – and especially i do not expect big glasshouses from Audi….

    Erhard Schnell, designer of the Opel GT, Manta and Calibra names a good reason why so many new cars do not only look like its predecessor, they also look like their opponents.
    The reason is: Most of the current chief designers were studying car design at the same schools with the same professors. So they all learned the same way of creating cars.

    For example – Mark Lichte and Volvo´s Chief Designer Thomas Ingenlath, both were studying in Pforzheim. And i can see a lot of parallels in the car design of Audi and Volvo.

  3. Audi’s visual restraint hasn’t exactly hurt their sales over recent years. If anything, the strong family look has served to cement Audi’s image in the minds of customers. Nothing I’ve yet seen from Mark Lichte suggests to me that Audi will divert radically from their well travelled formula. There appears to be no need at the current moment.

    This may change however if the new A4 fails to resonate with customers. Already analysts are suggesting its appearance may prove too tentative and could prevent buyers from trading up for the new model. We’ll see…

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