It’s a typical Audi, graced by a purity of design which somehow destroys any chances of passionate engagement**. Guten Tag, Herr Hundert.
The Audi 100 affirmed its maker’s commitment to design which tightly fused the requirements of engineering and the stringencies of high aesthetic standards. Despite all that focused effort expended on visual refinement, nobody loves these cars, do they? You can say the same about Renault’s equally well-considered 25 of 1983. The 1982 Opel Rekord got caught in the middle of the aero-rationalist phase and so shows traces of its 1977 sharp edges intermixed with a smoother frontal aspect. Unloved also. We are forced to consider Dieter Rams’ words of wisdom again. The Audi 100 checks all the boxes.
Rams’ principles should lead to a product which not only looks good and works well but which also endures. In one way this is true because it is hard to take issue with the individual, local results of Audi’s design decisions.
Study the photos and you will not see much demanding revision. Fashion’s whims more than function’s demands mean the car looks 1982. If you were to take the quantitative requirements of 2019 and combine them with the aesthetic principles of the 100 you’d end up with an excellent car (but not, alas, a 2019 Audi A6).
So, yes, the Audi 100 is enduring in a Platonic way. It’s not enduring in a not-being-scrapped way though. First, the anecdotal evidence points towards rarity. I nearly fell out of my shoes when I saw this example on a recent trip to central Dublin, Ireland.
Second, a look at a car sales website such as Mobile.de shows about 130 examples for sale. If I search for 5ers from from the same period I find 160 for sale. The two figures reside in the same order of magnitude but isn’t it peculiar the car designed to endure is the more scarce?
In the spirit of JS Mill, I need to mention the possibility that Audi 100 owners might be keeping their cars rather than selling them. So, we must look to the price assigned by the market. If people really like them they should cost more. Do they? The 1985 models with the 2.2 litre engine and average odo figure cost around €2000. Looking at the 5er I notice that the price rises in accordance with the likelihood it’s a 1981-1988 E28 (which is less innovative than the 100). And the prices (estimated by eyeball, sorry) seem much higher than the 100s generally.
If you start on page 1 of the searches, from lower to higher, the prices for the E28 rise faster than the C3 100 do. That more or less irons out all the differences in mileage and whatnot, I would say.
So, there are fewer Audi 100s on sale than comparable 5ers. The Audi 100 tends to cost less than the 5er. The other aero-ulm car of the day, the R25, is so scarce that there is just one for sale on mobile.de, for the price of a mediocre 5 or 100 (and the example in question is a good one).
Well, as Oscar Wilde says, cynicism is to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. We must overlook the market’s rejection of the 100’s design principles, mustn’t we? How exactly do we rationalise the fact that Dieter Rams’ rationalism does not win over the collective wisdom of the car buying public?
** I happen to like it a lot, by the way. The factors explaining the BMW 5’s relative popularity may have nothing at all to do with the appearance (probably a FWD/RWD thing). That still should depress we disciples of design because it means design matters less than we would like it to.