AUTOpsy: Audi Q2 (2018)

Ingolstadt’s smallest crossover is very much a ‘statement design’ – it just so happens that the statement isn’t very clear. 

All images attributed to the author – unless where otherwise stated.

There’s two angles from which to approach the Audi Q2’s appearance: As the final straw of Wolfgang Egger’s ultimately lacklustre tenure as the brand’s chief designer, or as the first dawn of a new era of ‘assertive’ design from Ingolstadt.

The cabin is quite obviously ‘old school Audi’, in that most of the materials used are of above-average quality, with switchgear, displays et al laid out rather diligently. Or, in other words: There isn’t much wrong with the Q2’s interior.

The exterior, however, is terribly confusing. The graphics manage the rare feat of being bold and convoluted at once. The car’s overall stance aims to be far more imposing than the its dimensions would suggest – yet the meek track widths (incidentally, and most intriguingly, shared with a great many recent German ‘premium’ models) make this attempt appear rather futile.

Most striking about the Q2 (whose exterior was credited to Matthias Fink) is its graphics. Particular attention has been paid to lending the haunches above the wheels extremely defined ‘shoulders’ – a trait that has since been adopted by all Audi models styled under current head of design, Marc Lichte.

In the Q2’s case, an execution aimed at lending the sheetmetal an air of proper toughness results in particularly blunt forms. A hexagonal pressing underneath the DLO is by far the most outstanding (literally speaking) feature among the very many ornate creases, seams, swages found on the car. Incidentally, this ‘ostentatiously squared off haunches’ theme was explored by both Lada and Ssangyong before Ingolstadt’s designers developed it for the Q2. It’s due to appear soon, in even more extreme form, in the second-generation Peugeot 2008.

The Audi’s haphazard flair extends beyond these graphics though. The grille boasts not only a semi-octagonal outline, but also a rather busy pattern, studded with trapezium-shape accents. Hexagonal ‘mesh’ (most of which is just a pattern on plastic lids) can be seen as an extension of the theme, although any true coherence is lost amid the sheer mass of graphics and patterns.

A customisable cover on the c-pilar further reinforces the impression that the Q2 marks no less than a true break with a great many past virtues of Audi design. For the way it is embedded into the car suggests levels of carelessness unheard of in Ingolstadt before.

The use of shiny and frosted silver plastics only underlines that not merely Bauhaus virtues, but also Audi’s former leadership in terms of perceived quality have either been lost or deliberately cast aside in recent years.

The Audi Q2 was the first model to make this changing ethos abundantly clear. The more recent models – what with their overly aggressive appearance and levels of interior quality so low, even the mainstream press couldn’t help but notice have since continued this process. Which makes the Q2 a statement car indeed.

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

9 thoughts on “AUTOpsy: Audi Q2 (2018)”

  1. The point that your making about incoherent design is a valid one, however that’s true for most cars on sale today, I reckon. The article about the DS3 crossback was a rare breath of fresh air on this site, which impact was sadly mitigated by a follow-up article. Old habits die hard.

    1. Apologies for boring you, meneer de Ruiter.

      I’ll reimburse the time wasted, at some point, somehow.

    2. The question really is why? As a company, it spends all those years painstakingly building a brand image aspiring to quality, solidity and technological advancements, and then someone decides that a new look is needed. A new look which – intensionally? – adds layers of detail and creases to the surfacing, frippery to the details, and non-functioning plastic cladding to various corners of the body. For what purpose? What is the overall impression for which the design leader is aspiring? Why so comprehensively ditch a thus far winning approach?

      Audi is not alone. BMW is going a similar route. Porsche looks positively restrained in comparison, although I think the latest 911 looks overly large and heavy. Mercedes is at least moving towards simpler (purer?) surfacing, but some of its latest creations (especially the large SUVs) are very heavy-handed. Why have they all, in their own ways, lost so much simply functional and elegant elements to their styling? It’s important we understand – but the babblings of most designers these days is impenetrable (I’d call our a notable exception in Russell Carr, whose pronouncings on his latest design are simple and common sense. Answers anyone?

    1. I came across one of these over the weekend. It was in a similar spec, but in black. My initial thought was that some n’eer do well had been at it with a hammer. But apparently they all leave the factory that way. Perhaps they employ someone for that express purpose, which I suppose if nothing else, would be a social service on Audi’s part which we could all applaud.

  2. The high-gloss black cover on the C-pillar on the Q2 in the photos is by far the least worst option, as it visually extends the glasshouse and gives the appearance of a floating roof, somewhat like the Evoque. Other colours and finishes leave the car looking rather dumpy.

    That said, the hexagon motif is terribly contrived and overdone. The Q2 stands apart from earlier and more recent Audis as something of a one-off with this design theme.

  3. Most interesting to students of design lies in the reasoning that led Audi to change their direction to this direction. I admit that design is pushed along by various commercial needs. That doesn´t justify choosing this path to signal new products. Audi have been terribly good at retaining fundamental characteristics while changing the expression of it for fifty years. One reason for the drift away from their fundamental design values must have been that Audi collectively forgot. What I mean by that is that Audi hired people who were not interested in the task of juggling change and continuity and hired people who let design managers try on approaches that were not consistent with Audi of old. Nowhere inside Audi did anyone care enough to preserve the values that had served so well. Or put another way all of this applied to the main decision makers. There probably are still people in Audi who are revolved by the Q2 and the current A4 – they aren´t in charge.

    The facetted aspect of the car´s surfacing is semantically inappropapriate as it does not signal strength. And it is discordant with the sculpting and modelling of Audis going back at least 50 years. I am not blaming the Chinese market for this. This is a result managers who are not interested in design continuity being given a job where design continuity was called for.

    1. What does this mean?
      That Audi is in the same situation as BMW was twenty years ago, when blindfolded managers let a moron of a chief designer loose on their brand heritage.
      It’s the mangers, not the designers, that ruin a brand.
      When we accept that Gorden Wagener is no better but no worse than Marc Lichte who in turn is no better but no worse than Chris Bangle then it boils down to the question of management.
      Was Fugen Ferdl better because he didn’t hire such designers in the first place or was Wolfgang Reitzle better because he managed to reign in even an oversized ego like Bangle’s? Is Mercedes’ Grand Moustache worse than the guys at Petuelring who signed off E60?
      I keep up my mantra that it all started at Munich twenty years ago.
      It’s just the corporate lease contract market that has such a long hysteresis.

  4. Interesting, this vehicle is not sold in North America, although I don’t think styling is a factor in that decision (although the cheap interior might be).

    Transmission choices are a more likely limitation: DSG or manual only, which for this segment is a non-starter on this side of the Atlantic.

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