Everybody needs a hobby.
To the casual viewer, it’s probably fair to say that the DTW offices are a rather sparse affair, lacking as they do much in the way of space, comfort or ambience – especially since our Editor-At-Large accidentally set the place alight a few months back. However, there is one item which not only survived the conflagration, but remains hard-won and much fought over. The Driven to Write hobby horse.
Earlier in the week, one of our readers appeared to take exception to our coverage of the newly refreshed Audi A4. I assume the individual in question perceived an element of prejudice on our part, a certain doing-down of the Teutonic big-three, or perhaps a labouring of a point previously made. But in the absence of clarification, one cannot be certain.
I’m perhaps not the best-placed individual to ascertain whether today’s offering sees me climbing astride or dismounting the DTW hobby horse, that is for others to judge. What I can say with more clarity however is what today’s article relates to – the outgoing B9-series Audi A4, first introduced back in 2015. I was interested to re-establish how DTW first received this car, and delving into the archive produced this, from July of that year.
The eternally youthful R. Herriott reported upon the freshly-minted midliner from the shores of the Danube, his report focusing upon the similarities between it and its B8 predecessor. “I really don’t think the underlying architecture has changed and some panels seem identical. If they are not, it’s very a close similarity”, he posited at the time.
If within the article as a whole, one might detect a slight damning with faint praise, the overall tone of the piece was broadly favourable, the author stating; “As far as I can see, this car is still in the standard Audi line of modest, incremental changes from model to model. Some will write it off as being boring but unlike the new BMW 7 it is not change for change’s sake”.
Of course, while acknowledging the fact that Mr. Herriott spoke in a positive fashion regarding the Audi, he did by the same token manage to take a swipe at BMW, suggesting said hobby-horse might have been in his possession. (It was a good three years ago, so none of us can be certain at this point).
Nevertheless, it’s beyond debate that the B9-series A4 was a reskin of its predecessor, with the modest changes to its length (21mm allegedly) most likely being accounted for forward of the front wheels. To be frank, the 2015 B9 body alterations, while perhaps more visually differentiated from its immediate predecessor than that of the just-announced B9 facelift, are in reality just as comprehensive.
The outgoing A4 was a model line which sold well in the neck of woods where your correspondent is currently holed up. Always a visually restrained motor car, it does appear in retrospect that its restraint was a subject for criticism. To my eyes however, it was not its rectitude which sat ill, it was a matter of detailing.
For some time, I could not determine why it was that I found the B9-series a vaguely unsatisfying thing to behold, especially in light of its more visually assured predecessor. But I think I have established where my dissatisfaction lies. On the previous B8 (silver car below), the bodyside swage was a sharply defined reverse-fold, in Audi-speak, a ‘tornado line’. On the lower flanks, a wedge-shaped light-catching crease harmonised with this to lend the car an element of visual dynamism.
The B9 (yellow car) however substituted this lower crease for a sizeable wedge-shaped indent, while the upper ‘tornado line’ became a deep, horizontal groove. Neither feature added much of note – merely change for the sake of change. The result being that the B9, while remaining a broadly handsome, well proportioned shape, appeared merely a less confident variation of its predecessor’s more cohesive theme, so it’s not altogether surprising that it since became written-off as dull.
Moving our attention to the recent B9 facelift, we observe that the B8’s lower wedge-shaped crease has made a return, but while the unsatisfying waistline groove has been excised, it has been replaced by an arrangement where the wheelarch blisters form two futile, unresolved body creases, while a half-hearted swage bisects the door handles before it too fades out inconsequentially.
It does illustrate however, that inconsistent body graphics seem to have become something of a ‘German premium’ leitmotif nowadays, so there is somewhat ironically, a quantum of consistency to its inconsistency. And while these changes do address the less visually successful areas of the pre-facelift car, it remains to these eyes a series of alterations almost entirely without merit.
But if there is a point to today’s article it has been to ascertain whether we have in this case been consistent in our reporting. On the basis of the above, I might go so far as to suggest that we have. On the other hand, being consistently critical of the German prestige trio does lend itself to allegations of bias, but on the (now rare) occasions that Audi, BMW or Mercedes produce good work, we are always happy to acknowledge it.
However in future it might prove germane, for the sake of clarity, to preface any report of a new German prestige model, making clear that in four-to-six years time, we’ll be contractually obliged to lament the fact that it’s being superseded by something even less visually accomplished, in spite of whatever horrid things we’ve said about it at launch. Yes folks, it’s all just another part of the invaluable DTW service, free at the point of entry.
That ought to be sufficient to clear up any ambiguity. Now, what did I do with that horse?