Among The Humans The Lichen Stands Tall

This week Volvo showed off its new S60 saloon. We liked it. In 1997 Volvo put its S70 into the fray, up against the 528i SE and the Audi 2.8 3.0V.

1997 Volvo S70: source

Car magazine ran a giant test. Let’s  take a look back and see what’s the same and what’s different and see if we can Continue reading “Among The Humans The Lichen Stands Tall”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – The Lion the Cross and the Curve

Two significant saloon cars debuted at Palexpo this week, but according to our man pounding the show floor, only one makes the grade.

Auto-Didakt

As any traveller will tell you, getting upgraded from economy is much easier said than done. Indeed, the more habituated one is to travel economy, the key to that threshold appears even more arbitrary and capricious. PSA knows all about this. Having squandered brand-Peugeot’s upmarket credentials during the 1980s and having got their creepy ‘drive-sexy’ phase out of the way latterly, the Lion of Belfort has been painfully clawing its way back to some semblance of stylistic and reputational credibility.

Last year’s EcotY-winning 3008 crossover marked a turning point for Peugeot, being perhaps the first Sochaux product to Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – The Lion the Cross and the Curve”

Insignia – A Poor Man’s Audi A7?

Scanning through the ANE website I noticed what I thought was a case of mistaken identity.

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The title of an article was about the incoming Audi A7, but, in my haste, my brain registered that the accompanying photo was of a Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport. Closer inspection revealed that my mind was playing tricks on me, but looking at photos of each car from the front three quarters made me feel better that it was a (fairly) easy mistake to make.

A longer look makes the distinction a lot more obvious, and the Insignia looks more Continue reading “Insignia – A Poor Man’s Audi A7?”

Four Ring Cycle

1997’s A6 saw Audi choosing bravery over stylistic torpidude. A lesson they could do well to re-learn.

Was this the earliest application of the lower-door-mounted rub-strip? Image: autowp-ru

By the early 1990s, Audi appeared to have run out of steam as the successes of the previous decade began to fade. Having lit up the automotive firmament with technological marvels such as the Ursprünglich Quattro coupe and the aero-influenced C3 100 / 200 series, the early ’90s saw the four rings of Ingolstadt comparatively becalmed.

Consolidation was the operative word, the feeling along the Danube being that enough had been done to Continue reading “Four Ring Cycle”

Adding Suspense – Audi A8

The new Audi starship has landed and while most commentators have chosen to fixate on its style, we’ve elected to crawl underneath, pretending to understand what we find there.

Well, it’s an Audi – what were you expecting? Image: autoblog

Audi’s new flagship saloon is a technological marvel, possibly the most advanced luxury car it is possible to pre-order for Autumn delivery right now – or at least until the next one comes along anyway. Not content busying themselves with a power race as fervid as that pursued by the Detroit big three fifty years ago, the German luxury brands are now shifting their battleground into hitherto unrealised realms of electronic wizardry and fearsome complexity. Continue reading “Adding Suspense – Audi A8”

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 Continue reading “Snap-On Quality And Self-Adhesive Style”

Geneva 2017 Reflections: Audi Q8

Pun-tastic name aside, the new monster from Ingolstadt mainly serves to expose the car industry’s ignorance towards the social properties of the automobile.

audi-q8-sport-concept-2017-alle-infos-1200x800-70e47f444a3cb836
Photo (c) autobild.de

It’s difficult to determine where to start with the Audi Q8. How about the name? Yes, there may be a ton of planet-saving batteries hidden underneath its gargantuan sheetmetal somewhere, but still: just the car’s appearance and its onomatopoeic, mineral oil-related name set a rather strange tone.

Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections: Audi Q8”

The Accountant and the Pimp

Who says all cars are the same these days? Two so-called premium manufacturers come to very different answers to the same question. 

photo-1

One car is the epitome of crass, gimmicky style over substance. The other one is a sober piece of design that adds just the right amount of adornment for it not to appear dreary. Continue reading “The Accountant and the Pimp”

Theme: Compromise – Second Best

Wish fulfilment takes many forms…

Image: Kris Kubrick
Image: Kris Kubrick

Life isn’t fair. By rights we’d have our needs and wants fulfilled but circumstances, finances and events conspire to deny us our true heart’s desire. Take the owner of this perfectly innocuous Audi TT. A first generation model; the nicest looking of the series, if not the most dynamically adept. ‘A Golf in a party dress’, sniffed the more snobbish automotive commentators, but nevertheless a perfectly nice and still quite stylish way to get around on a moderate budget. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Second Best”

Theme: Places – Scene of the Accident

There are some places you simply don’t want to go.

Image: Motorauthority
Image: Motorauthority

In his transgressive 1973 novel, ‘Crash’, novelist JG Ballard explored a netherworld where a group of symphorophiliasts play out their fetishes of eroticism and death amid the carnage of motor accidents. But while most of us might find ourselves staring luridly against our better instincts at some roadside crumplezone, we recoil in dread from the blood and the bone. It could after all so easily be ourselves trapped and lifeless inside some shattered hatchback. Continue reading “Theme: Places – Scene of the Accident”

A Photo for Sunday: 1968-1976 Audi 100

Audi found 800,000 customers for this car over its eight year production run. The first 500,000 customers paid up before 1971.

1968-1976 Audi 100
1968-1976 Audi 100

That means that for the next five years the Audi 100 trailed in the sales stakes. Audi attempted to keep it competitive by raising the power output of the engine and some modest restyling efforts. That it didn’t work is indicated by the 50,000 units sold per year between 71 and 76. The car had a lot of competition at that time which might go some way to explaining the later half of its sales career. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1968-1976 Audi 100”

Geneva Bites – Audi Q2

Roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas gives the new Q2 a visual once-over. He’s moderately impressed. 

Audi Q2 Image autovia-media (4)
2017 Audi Q2 at the 2016 Geneva Motor show.

There was a time when I hoped that the premium German carmakers’ foray into SUVs would pass by like a bad dream, but with their sales of products categorised as crossovers sitting at over 50% of production, and sometimes more, we have to accept the current orthodoxy, and take an interest. The Q2 is intriguing on several counts. It’s scarcely smaller than the Q3, but cheaper and lighter. Up front there’s a bit of a rethink of Audi’s “big face”, but it’s still strong on Autobahn presence. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Audi Q2”

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. Continue reading “That’s What Audi Is Missing”

Something rotten in […] Denmark: 1989 Audi 80

It’s not really rotten at all, it must be said. Why is it here today?

1989 Audi 80 1.8
1989 Audi 80 1.8: bilbasen.dk

Walter de Silva is retiring from his position as head of VAG design. This made me wonder a bit about his time there and then the time before his time. That made me think of Audi which led me to this. J Mays is credited with this car, I was surprised to learn. And to be frank, like the 100 of the same period, it doesn’t look like it’s a mid-80s design or it’s distinctly different. I suppose to anyone under 30 it looks ancient but to me it looks timeless and yet also rather aloof and glacially cool. Walter de Silva jumped ship from Alfa, recruited to VAG to Continue reading “Something rotten in […] Denmark: 1989 Audi 80”

Theme : Shutlines – Care and Discretion

Audi once understood subtlety. I’m not so sure they do any more.

Audi A2 Side View

Once upon a time, whilst Mercedes and BMW were attracting critical scorn for their new styling directions (some deserved, some not) over at Audi they couldn’t put a foot wrong. See how they treated the rear side shutlines on the A2. The front wheelarch blister is defined by an inset crease. The rear blister appears the same but, so as not to spoil the balance, the rear door shutline is continued all the way round the arch – the blister is a separate panel. See also how the A pillar flows all the way round to the rear without any door cutouts in it. All the side glasses have the same size border trims.

Continue reading “Theme : Shutlines – Care and Discretion”

Theme: Shutlines – The Tab

Audi evidently didn’t want to give anything to the Mercedes E-class in the shutline and craftsmanship battle.

1994-1997 Audi A6. This is the V8.
1994-1997 Audi A6. This is the V8.

The W-126 had a visible weld crease under its rear lamp. So Audi spent a bit extra to avoid it. 20 years later the C4 Audi A6 is still an object lesson in the pursuit of orderly detailing. The only line visible is one related to the boot aperture.

[Editor’s note: Text altered to correct the A6’s model designation – see comments below]

Quick Design Analysis

Here is this revised or updated Audi A4 for your consideration. I have marked in red all the areas that look identical with the outgoing car.

2016 Audi A4 yellow front marked up

I conclude the glasshouse is the same and the bodysides to halfway down the doors are the same geometry. They have replaced the pronounced upward curving swoosh groove with a scalloped indent and the lower bumpers have been tweaked. There’s nothing wrong with this as such. It is however what looks incredibly like a mild facelift. It is not a new car.

The 2016 Audi A4 Revealed

Here is the new (or revised?) Audi A4. Audi stresses the car’s athletic proportions which you’ll need a measuring tape to determine for yourselves.

2016 Audi A4: Audi
2016 Audi A4: Audi

The Avant is keeping its raked D-pillars to deter Volvo customers (or Skoda Superb customers). The vehicle is 4.73 metres long and has a 2.82 metre wheelbase. I will have to do a comparison later. The vehicle is a modest 15 kilos lighter, or about as much as a person can carry home by hand from the supermarket. Not much at all. Audi claim a cd of 0.23 which is the best in the class, with knock on benefits for interior peace. Continue reading “The 2016 Audi A4 Revealed”

Ashtrays: 2014 Audi A6

I had reason to be in the back of Audi A6 the other day.

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They have rather swish taxis in Denmark, I would say. Seeing a fully functional ashtray in the door of the A6 made me raise my eyebrows and I had the time to take two slightly blurred shots of the design. I don’t much care for door mounted ashtrays. They are positioned so that you must Continue reading “Ashtrays: 2014 Audi A6”

Something Rotten In Denmark: 1976 Audi 80 Two Door

This is a good one: cherishably bad photos from the school of Douglas Land-Windermere. The car itself is going for 40,000 kr or about €5400 and seems to be in good condition. The question is…

1976 Audi 80
1976 Audi 80

why the oddly cropped photos? You don’t see very many of these ’70s Audis and the price being asked is on the high side for what is a quite uninteresting car. You’d think they would do more to sell its limited charms.

The Audi 80 existed as a competitor for the Opel Ascona and Ford Taunus. While it seems visually innocuous and rather unexciting technically, it managed to gain the European Car of the Year award in 1973. That was the same year Alfa Romeo offered the technically advanced Alfetta which had legendary handling to

Continue reading “Something Rotten In Denmark: 1976 Audi 80 Two Door”

Rearview: An early Piëch at an Audi

Ferdi wasn’t always a household name. Here’s where he came in…

Ferdi 006
With reports earlier this week suggesting Ferdinand Piëch has threatened to resign over his failed attempt to oust VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, it’s as good a time as any to look at possibly his earliest appearance in the UK press. Continue reading “Rearview: An early Piëch at an Audi”

Adding Something, Losing a Lot

 Audi’s Preference for Styling Over Design Considered. The 2014 Prologue suggests Ingolstadt is losing its way.

2014 Audi Prologue. Pure styling. Image: boldrides.com
2014 Audi Prologue. Pure styling. Image: boldrides.com

One of the most satisfying aspects of Mercedes’ design for many decades was that styling served to make engineering and production needs aesthetically acceptable. This meant the vehicles had an inherent correctness that makes their 60s to 80s cars look good today. Audi also cleaved to this formula though you’d have to Continue reading “Adding Something, Losing a Lot”

Benchmarks: Audi’s Monospace Capsule

The A2 wasn’t simply the most intelligently wrought Audi ever. It was also their most expensive sales flop. We tell its story.

Audi A2. Image via nordschleifeautoblahg
Image (c) nordschleifeautoblahg

History marks the Audi A2 as a failure, and with vast commercial losses incurred during a six year lifespan, it’s a simple and convenient dismissal. Since its 2005 demise, the party line has been that Audi took a brave, risky and ultimately doomed gamble into the unknown, one which was studiously ignored by the buying public. But is it as simple as that?

It had been an open secret since the late-1980s that Daimler-Benz had a compact hatchback in development. Such an incursion into the VW Group’s orbit was viewed by Chairman, Dr. Ferdinand Piëch as a gross betrayal, precipitating amongst other things, this overt cost-no-object rival.

Schemed on the basis of an ultra-economical VW concept, Piëch tasked Audi engineers to create a technological statement with the avowed intention of putting his detested rivals in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim firmly in their place.

Ingolstadt’s engineers had one pronounced ace in their pocket – material technology, in the form of aluminium spaceframe construction pioneered in the range-topping A8. However when Audi displayed the Al2 concept as a spoiler to the Mercedes A-Class’ 1997 debut, few saw it as anything more than simply another fit of Piëch. Two years later, both press and public realised just how serious he was.

Image via bilmodel
Image (c) bilmodel

An engineer’s car from its rounded nose to the tip of its aerodynamically shaped tail-lights, the A2 appeared to have been milled from a solid billet of aluminium. Luc Donckerwolke’s styling scheme was a masterpiece of form and structural function. Its design detail was a delight and with a exquisitely streamlined teardrop shape the A2 was a pared-back study in visual and material purity.

Beautifully finished and assembled to similar standards of care as larger Audi models, the A2 became an object of desire for design aficionados from Dingolfing to Dungeness. Ingolstadt would never be this clever again.

Image via audiworld
The level of investment in the A2’s aluminium spaceframe construction was huge. Image (c) audiworld

But this level of integrity costs. Priced above a well-specified Golf, prospective customers really had to make a case for the Audi. Combine this with small-capacity carry-over VAG engines (with a commensurate lack of performance – a function of its efficiency brief), and the A2’s fate was sealed.

Because while the market was perplexed by Mercedes’ A-Class, it was utterly confounded by the A2. Was it a compact luxury saloon or an economy trailblazer – could it be both? The motoring public are notoriously both fickle and inherently conservative and therefore by nature abhor a smart-Alec.

As a result, buyers cleaved to the safety of convention, so A2 never troubled the sales charts. After six slow years Audi pulled the plug, replacing it with the screamingly conventional, and considerably more market-friendly Polo-based A1.

Image via picgifs
Image (c) picgifs

VW ultimately lost €1.3bn on the A2 programme, although one suspects its costs were written off before the first production car rolled down the lines. The A2 did its job for Dr. Piëch, proving Audi could out-engineer their bitter Stuttgart rivals.

Yet the A2 proved a more durable design amidst enlightened autophiles – held in genuine affection by owners and those (like this author) who still quietly covet one. While sales success eluded the A2 during its life, it has become a sought after secondhand buy, holding significantly more residual value than its considerably less well wrought A-Class rival.

Late era A2's were available in these cheerful Colourstorm liveries - image via A2oc
Late model A2’s were also available in these cheerful Colourstorm liveries – image (c) A2oc via fourtitude

Today, an A2 arguably makes even more sense – its alloy body impervious to rust, and with commendably low running costs – especially in three-cylinder TDi form. While Audi have abandoned the A2 concept, recently stating they have no intention of producing a similar monospace vehicle, the concept has taken on new life at Munich’s Petuelring, with BMW’s i3 vividly illustrating the A2’s prescience.

What’s the Difference Between an Audi A3 Saloon and an Audi A4 Saloon?

Calendula Yellow.

2013 Audi A3 saloon: measurably different.
2013 Audi A3 saloon: measurably different.

Introduction

Recently I noticed a nice looking Audi saloon outside a super-market near where I live. That A4 looks pleasing, I thought. Except it was no A4 at all but the A3 saloon, on sale since early last year. In what way does the A3 differ from its bigger sibling? The A3 saloon’s price list begins at £23,295 and for that you get a neatly styled boot holding 425 litres of air along with a rather handsome exterior.

For an extra £1390 you can get the “entry-level” A4 and 480 litres of space in the equally nicely shaped trunk. That’s £25.77 per extra litre of luggage carrying capacity which is a lot less per litre than Mercedes asks for when you Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between an Audi A3 Saloon and an Audi A4 Saloon?”

2014 Audi A3 Smoker’s Pack and Other Details

A chance to look inside Audi’s A3 presented itself. I found what is referred to as a smoker’s pack.

image

These are to ashtrays what “cotton rich” is to shirts. For a costly motor car such as the A3, the quality of the plastic is far below the expectations of this writer. Audi must have saved a lot of money by deleting the standard ashtray and replacing it with a cupholder and a fireproof mug. At least a few extra euros could have been spent to design something more convincing than the Hasbro-level of moulding shown above. Does Audi really think their customers will overlook a lame effort such as this?

Continue reading “2014 Audi A3 Smoker’s Pack and Other Details”

Drawing Restraint

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.

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Image credit: car revs daily

Based on the cumulative reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to Continue reading “Drawing Restraint”

Advertising: Speak My Language

Vorsprung durch… advertising.

audi-logoamsmdb261408

When Sir John Hegarty; doyen of UK advertising (and co-founder of renowned ad-agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty) took on the Audi creative account back in 1982 the Ingolstadt marque’s image was somewhat woolly.

Continue reading “Advertising: Speak My Language”

Something Rotten in Denmark : 1962 DKW Junior

You’ve come a long way, baby. So goes the cliche. How far then?

1962 DKW

Glostrup Cars in Denmark are selling this two-stroke body-on-frame fossil for just under €10,000. Introduced in 1959, the Juniors (renamed F11 or F12) were discontinued in 1965 when VW bought the firm, ending DKW’s post-war association with Mercedes*. These diminutive DKWs were built in Ingolstadt, at a new factory. The car’s run ended when it became clear that it was just not up to facing the competition presented by VW’s Beetle and Opel’s smaller cars (possibly the 1962 Kadett). Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark : 1962 DKW Junior”

Audi – Always the Pretender?

And What Is Wrong With Putting the Engine in Front of the Wheels?Auto Union Type C

Audi are in danger of becoming the Phil Collins of the petrolhead world, an act that even people who know little about music like to cite as being a bit off. Speaking as someone who can, hand on heart, swear that he has no murky Genesis related skeletons in his youthful musical vinyl rack and hopes he’ll never hear Against All Odds on the radio again, I’d judge that Mr Collins is no worse than many, and better than scores. Changing fashion means that he has just become a lazy symbol for bad comedians and the generally undiscerning to latch on to in order to suggest, quite undeservedly, their musical connoisseurship. Likewise Audi. In bars and on motoring websites everywhere, you will hear the drone of “overrated and overpriced …. style over content …. they’re all designed on a photocopier …. no driver involvement ….. they’ll never really be premier league until they go rear drive”. Is any of this justified?

Continue reading “Audi – Always the Pretender?”

Decoding Audi’s TT Press Release…

…so you don’t have to.

audi-tt-2014-front-quarter-static


A wise man once said that you can prove anything with facts. He was right – you can. However, float above the narrow prism of the factual and reality becomes a more nebulous concept. For it is within this white space the automotive press-release copywriter dwells. A land of fairies and elves, where steaming troughs of hyperbole appear as tureens of nourishing broth.

Illustrating that despite the nature of the current motoring landscape, car manufacturers appear to Continue reading “Decoding Audi’s TT Press Release…”