Snap-On Quality And Self-Adhesive Style

Quite a few brands have cottoned on to ‘personalisation’ after MINI: Fiat, Opel and Citroen/DS, for example. Now it’s Audi’s turn. 

2017 Audi Q2. Agent Eóin spotted this Audi Q2 in the wild in Cork city, Ireland.

It’s not a bad idea, giving customers some more possibilities in how their joy and pride is finished. What is the paint, wheel and upholstery choice but a chance for the producer to find customers with money to match their preferences? Mini make a fine penny with their mirror trim and Union Flag lids. Opel offer the delightful Adam with a range of roof colours as do DS. And the DS also goes in for body strips and mirror trim. What these models have in common is that that they are not particularly expensive and come from mainstream manufacturers. Audi is the odd man out.

2017 Audi Q2 c-pillar trim

Undoubtedly, the customer clinics showed that potential buyers liked this idea and were willing to pony up. That said, thickly padded vinyl roofs were also popular with buyers but are now viewed as emblematic of a distinct lack of good taste. Why is that? What is it that is so objectionable about a decorative addition like this Audi C-pillar panel that makes it different from, say, paint?

1973 Cadillac Eldorado

The critique rests on the concept of appropriateness which is one I have been wrestling with lately. The philosopher Roger Scruton relies upon it for part of his argument for classical architecture. He doesn’t expand on the idea, which is where his argument is rather weak. Is the argument using appropriateness a circular argument? Can we use it here?

One interpretation is that it is about what fits in. In order for this to work one must first identify a collection of related things or themes and determine they are a coherent set. That is potentially subjective. Then one must define why item X is not part of that set. A simple example is a brand new toilet brush standing on a dining table set for dinner. There is no objective reason why a new and clean toilet brush constitutes a problem for the guests. Our feelings are offended though. It is the association of toilet brushes with human waste that marks it out from the tableware and humans keep food and sanitation separate. In this case the toilet brush’s presence offends our sense of hygiene and comes close to a form of disgust. The Audi C-pillar is not disgusting though.

Another approach to appropriateness is rightness. How much is sufficient to do the task determines if a material or design is suitable. Again, we must decide what that right level is and ask if the design’s detail is in keeping with the notion of the function. The gold toilet seat or diamond-encrusted watch strike at our sense of correctness. The Audi’s C-pillar is not an item that affects the performance of the car and nor is it a different material from those usually found in automobiles. If it is not right it is also not wrong.

The sense of appropriateness at play here depends on knowing what Audi design is about, or understanding its principles. That makes this more abstract than the toilet brush or gold toilet seat. It is still not a very strong argument. Audi are allowed to define what they stand for. For fifty years Audi have been about design and engineering being executed in close relation to each other. The aesthetic satisfaction lay in understanding that a pleasing appearance came in tandem with effective engineering solutions.

The C-pillar now redefines Audi’s values in a rather profound way, taking from “mainstream” makers a strategy to winkle money from customers that previously they had eschewed. Now apparently ‘Audiness’ does include superficial decoration (which is not articulation). The design is not appropriate in relation to what Audi stood for. Audi have done very well with their concept of very considered design. This feature comes across as a rather needless and careless addition to Audi’s long-established design rules.

I have to say that the panel isn’t even terribly well executed. They didn’t get good value for their breach of company design etiquette. It’s a plastic panel that stands where a metal panel would have done and this bi-colour effect could have been achieved with paint. In a sense it’s like a gold watch with parts painted to look like silver. The irritating black parts on c-pillars these days are at least doing something that one could not achieve with paint.

So long as Audi expects us to buy into their old notion of calculated good taste, this car is undermining their position. If Audi wants us to see them as mere purveyors of ornament then that’s fine but they should not pretend otherwise.


Author: richard herriott

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

31 thoughts on “Snap-On Quality And Self-Adhesive Style”

  1. “The Audi C-pillar is not disgusting though.”

    I beg to differ. It actually looks for all the world as though the production line robot got confused and welded in a piece destined for, I don’t know, a Seat or something. It also looks stupid. That is quite a rare combination to pull off.

    1. I take your point: the C-pillar is not at all satifactory. However I had in mind the disgust associated with sewage and rot rather than dislike. The panel doesn’t even achieve Honda Odyssey/Pontiac Aztek levels of bad. It is a long way from what Audi achieve which is enough of a measure to condemn this ill-advised schtick. Think of an A3 saloon or a 1988 V8, faultless both and so pleasingly severe. This Q2 is a long way from

    2. I understood what you’re getting at. I just have a MUCH lower opinion of the result than even you do. 🙂

  2. Maybe that panel should be highly reflective mirror like so its owners could look at themselves!

  3. Stradale: we are uninamous in considering it to be very poor work.
    Is it bad like 1998 Buick Signia
    or Pontiac Aztek? Those were failures in a thorough way. This car is geometrically correct. Painting the panel body-colour (is that an option?) fixes it. Paint can’t save the Signia or Aztek.
    I’d put it in a category with the Jaguar XJ’s black c-pillar but worse conceptually and less awful visually.
    I am trying to think of examples of otherwise okay cars spoiled by one precise feature. The Dame Edna chrome on the Saab 9-5 is one. The “tabs” on the Peugeot 308 is another mild case.

  4. It’s naff and not Audi. Nor is the rest of the car, which my son, who is not bothered about car design normally, described as ‘malformed’ (I’m quite proud of that!). Mind you, I find the C pillar of one of the other small cars you list rather less than delightful.

    1. Overall it’s quite ordinary, that car. There was a point in the 80s when GM couldn’t keep their brands distinguished and, worse, mediocrity seeped from studio to studio. This is like that. The car in its entirety is bland and “malformed” and this C-pillar is crass.
      I’m getting over my c-pillar rage on other cars.

  5. It doesn’t look that bad to me. And it’s not exactly new either as the choice of finish echoes what they have been offering for the A1 side roof bars/panels for years.

    1. Of course I would much prefer a glass panel, and the real concern here is the awkward colour combinations that some customers will likely come up with.

  6. The C pillars unfortunately reminds me of the pieces of aluminium that my Dad and I pop riveted over the rusty rear arches of my Bedford Utilabrake in 1974.

    I’ve (probably) said it before (probably) several times, but I’m not a great lover of ‘personalisation’. Sit in any of my cars, past and present, and you’d get no idea at all about who owned them. I like the fact that a mass produced product is one of many. I’m fine with fully customising your own car off your own back, but this tick box customisation doesn’t work for me. I don’t want to have to make these choices at buying time, any more than I want to decide the ending of a film – another of those patronising ways that big industry is going to try to fool us that we have more choice than we do.

  7. I was quite shocked at the poor execution of the Q2. Everything, from proportions to details, is wrong.

    The contrasting C-pillar is outstanding for the wrong reason: it is badly integrated with the rest of the DLO and the material choice is poor. A proper piece of brushed steel or anodised aluminium might (and I mean MIGHT) have helped. But even the demure choice of gloss black plastic sticks out like a sore thumb, indicating the essential wrongness of the execution. To my eyes the problem is that the panel makes no reference to the rest of the DLO: the door frames and planes of the glass are fudged or entirely ignored. The result is discordant to no purpose.

    The same can be said of the rest of the exterior. The face is both shapeless and overaggressive, and the swage graphics are overwrought. All this would be disappointing on a Hyundai, but Audi have made significant hay in recent times by sweating both the big and the small stuff; that is their legacy to car design. An important part of a successful creative process is having the strength to throw away ideas that seem good in isolation but do not fit the whole. Parts of the Q2 might have been interesting in the abstract, but the totality does not work. It worries me that Audi could not see this before everyone else did.

    1. My best explanation for the mess that’s the Q2 is that this is the car that finally got Wolfgang Egger fired. Marc Lichte came aboard, changed the grille – et voilà: a proper dog’s dinner of a car. And simply the worst Audi… maybe ever?

      Mark Lloyd et al must be having quite a laugh though: this Audi makes the Cactus look like a bonafide masterpiece. And even the misbegotten new Mini Countryman’s appearance receives an instant boost in comparison with the Q2.

    2. Kris: you may well be right about Wolfgang Egger. And I have been on here before saying that I really like the Cactus.

  8. I´ve got it: the Q2 is there to appeal to people who want the Audi badge but don´t know what it stands for and who also want faux personalisation. They´ll be happy. Audi connoisseurs won´t be.

  9. Here in Cork, there is a large Audi dealer a short distance from the family home. Over the past couple of months my eye has been drawn to the Q2’s sitting on the forecourt. Drawn largely for the reasons Richard elaborates upon in the well-reasoned text above. But also because I never see any on the roads. By consequence, upon spotting this car in the wild, so to speak, I had to take a closer look, if only to confirm some suspicions.

    Viewed up close those suspicions were confirmed and as RH notes, although the Q2 isn’t necessarily ‘wrong’ it’s miles adrift of right. It’s so un-Audi in style and execution. In fact, the longer one looks at this vehicle the more incoherent it is. While there is no real ‘toilet brush on the dining table’ moment – (although several features come stomach-churningly close) – nothing works visually; merely a collection of unrelated VAG styling features seemingly grafted together with no real care. It screams ‘committee car’ and looks for all the world to have been a rushed job to plug a perceived gap.

    Interestingly, Audi’s ‘Untaggable’ launch strategy has recently received a ‘prestigious’ Red Dot award in Germany for creativity. It’s a fine state of affairs if that’s the only positive anyone has to say about the thing.

    A quick look on reveals it’s hardly setting the sales charts alight in Europe so far. Good. It deserves to fail.

  10. To my eyes the Audi Q2 is the most ugly car of the whole Audi model range. And that is not so easy – thinking of the Q7. A car that looks like a SUV, but with a ridiculous ground clearance. And with ridiculous price tags (this little ugly car is more expensive than a better equipped Peugeot 3008).

    BUT – this blade (Audi terminus) ist the only part i like on this car. It reminds me to the Citroen DS (the first car with this detail ?).
    And without this alternatively painted part, the Q2 manages to look even more dull…

    1. Markus: the body-coloured panel makes the car nearly alright. If the rest of the Audi was utterly severe it might be an interesting counterpoint.

  11. Are we sure that’s a factory feature?

    And while bad, it isn’t fake convertible roof on a Lexus ES bad. Let this eat at your soul.

  12. I deplore the absence of non-functional ‘hood irons’ on that Lexus, they would have set the car off nicely.

    The metallic blue / white vinyl combination works well. Likewise the metallic pea-green / white vinyl combination used by Chrysler Europe in the ’70s, seen on the Avenger GLS, Humber Sceptre, and Chrysler 2 Litre.

  13. Rumour has it that the Q2 was in fact going to be a VW’s crossover and that changes were made, late into the development stages, to make it an Audi instead. For some reason VW’s board thought a four-ringed compact suv was more urgently needed than a VW one. I think it shows in the final design and I wouldn’t be surprised if that panel wasn’t added hastily to “hide” the Golf-esque C-pillar.

  14. Also I think the Q2 ressemble more a VW than an Audi, which would give that last minute badge-switch rumour some credibility. I see similarities between Audi’s Q2 and VW’s Cross Coupe Concept from 2012, especially the work done around the C pillar and the “wavy” shoulder line on both the VW and the Audi.

    1. I’m not so sure about that, given that both it and the frightful T-Roc were very likely to have been co-developed on similar body architecture. Mind you, it’s possible that in haste to get the Audi version to market, corners were cut and dodgy stylistic decisions were the order of the day. It certainly bears all the hallmarks.

      One could suggest the resultant car resembles a VW, but given Volkswagen’s current lurch into Heidedesign 2.0, any resemblance is moot. The only meaningful debate at this stage can be over which of the pair is worse, which then becomes a question of what degree of awful you’re prepared to accept.

  15. I’am not sure how true that rumour is although the acquaintance who told me is usually well informed and works in the auto industry.

    It’s the same guy who told me the dashboard of the Citroen C4 Cactus is pretty basic beneath the surface because that dashboard was originally intended for a new breed of low-cost Citroën ( the now-famous ID line that Citroen intended to sell alongside the premium DS range before the idea was canned) and that the DS5 was a design rescued from what was intended to be the production version of the Citroen C Airlounge Concept before the idea of a luxurious MPV was alloted to the (then) DS sub brand.

  16. And I agree that it’s often difficult to differentiate between a VW and an Audi product but to me the Q2 really comes across as what was intended to be VW’s T Roc at the time.

  17. Oops sorry, I meant to saya production-version of Citroën Sportlounge Concept and not the Airlounge Concept as the basis for the DS5.

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