From the most modest of beginnings, Audi has become an automotive titan. We remember where, and how quietly, it all began.
If truth is the first casualty of war, then Audi was a close second in 1940. Having been subsumed seven years earlier into the Auto Union combine that also included the DKW, Horch and Wanderer marques, Audi’s presence in Germany withered away to an inconsequential 0.1% market share before the outbreak of hostilities.
Demand for its large if slightly idiosyncratic Front UW 225(1) saloon evaporated as a result of the economic privations of the 1930’s. Auto Union instead concentrated on small and economical two-stroke engined saloons carrying the DKW brand. The Front was succeeded in 1938 by a 3.3 litre six-cylinder RWD model, the 920, which was manufactured at the Horch plant and was an Audi in name only. The 920 was itself discontinued without a replacement in 1940.
When production resumed after the war, the company remained focused on building small cars under the Auto Union and DKW brands. Mercedes-Benz acquired a controlling stake in Auto Union in 1958, but failed to Continue reading “The Future Started Here”
Circumstances prevented Mercedes-Benz from entering the compact saloon market on two previous occasions, but the company nailed it with the hugely impressive 1982 W201.
The 1982 Mercedes-Benz W201, better known to most as the 190E, was the company’s first foray into what is now called the compact executive market. However, almost two decades earlier, Mercedes-Benz came close to launching a similarly positioned but more radically engineered front-wheel-drive model, codenamed the W118/119(1). This followed an earlier proposal for a conventional small saloon, the W122, which was approved for development in 1953, but cancelled in 1958.
2004’s (B7) Audi A4 was a highly significant (re)design, if not entirely for the right reasons.
The four rings of Ingolstadt were a long time in the ascendant, frequently taking one step forward and several backwards, before hitting a more assured stride. Indeed, according to former design director, Peter Schreyer, it was at one time considered an embarrassment to Continue reading “Under the Knife – No Advance”
How swiftly time passes – one moment you’re the talk of the town, the next, tomorrow’s chip paper.
Recently, a more mature Audi A3 in black arrived in our vicinity. Hardly worthy of a fanfare, especially as my initial introduction to this car was as follows; bonnet up, engine internals strewn roadside, stationary. Owner holding aloft the camshaft, almost trophy-like as I drove by. This did not bode well for such a car. If the old girl posses life, ’tis but a glimmer.
For this version of the PQ34 is now a late teenager – and whilst aged is far from long in the tooth, but now appears to follow a darker path. This new to my locale version of the A3 (Type 8L for you nomenclature completists out there) was manufactured sometime in the latter part of 2001, first registered in January of 2002, denoting this model to be post-facelift version.
With the original only being available as a three door, this five door (Sportback) variant has that cleaned up frontal version of Dirk van Braekel’s urban runabout. The headlight treatment still looks fresh, even when most examples have now taken on that milky effect when plastic ages. Can much light emit from lenses so? The car does have a current MOT pass, an effective guarantee for all matters mechanical… and I Continue reading “Pumpe Düse”
A late evening encounter with a synthesized Audi crossover got our Sheffield operative thinking about additives.
Mono Sodium Glutamate, or MSG was invented back in 1908 by a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda who was searching for a food additive he named umami which is given as “neither sweet, nor salty, bitter or sour” and was marketed by the fledgling Suzuki company, though under the brand name Aji-no-moto, itself a part of Suzuki pharmaceuticals. Its European name is E-621. Do Suzuki make a car with that code name in Japan?
In the halcyon pre-Covid past, a night out at a local Latin American restaurant, where the tapas was tasty, the cigars and rum both plentiful and expensive (neither sampled) and the beats both seductive and loud, led to a rather unexpected (and frustrating) conversation regarding car design with my better half. Well kind of. The rum and ‘gars must Continue reading “Bland Recipe? Add E-621”
The sunlight really helped in this instance. The car shone out. Modern vehicles mostly don’t come in colours like this. So even from 800 metres I could tell this was very likely worth a closer inspection.
The Audi is parked so close to the wall that you can’t see the badges – or, you couldn’t if they were there. By the time I got back with my camera the light had changed so I could not snap the car from the best view with the best light. However, art is often about rules and what are rules but limitations. It makes things interesting when you have requirements to satisfy. Such binding of the hands actually really helps one Continue reading “After The Middle The Pace Speeds Up”
From humble and unlikely beginnings, the Audi Quattro would permanently redefine its maker’s image. Daniel O’Callaghan looks back on the development and influence of this seminal model in the company’s history.
The Audi Quattro owes its existence to the German Army’s urgent need in the late-1970’s to replace its aged DKW Munga four-wheel-drive light utility vehicles with a more modern successor. The Munga had ceased production in 1968 and its outdated two-stroke engined design was overdue for replacement. Its intended successor was the Europa Jeep, a joint-venture project involving a number of European governments that had been in development for a decade before finally collapsing acrimoniously in 1979.
Anticipating this outcome, the German Army instead invited domestic automobile manufacturers to design a replacement for the Munga. Volkswagen passed the project to Audi, who had access to the Munga’s technology and patents via the Auto Union partnership, so was able quickly to Continue reading “Game Changer”
Ingolstadt presents ‘the off-roader of the future’. What fresh hell is this?
There has been, I’m reliably informed, a discernible atmosphere of fin de siècle about this year’s Frankfurt motor show; in the curiously underpopulated halls, the appearance of evident cost-cutting amongst some of the larger OEMs, not to mention a marked bi-polarity in the semantics being proffered, particularly by the home team.
But while the metaphorical (and to some eyes, actual) barbarians mass outside the gates, inside the bacchanal continues unabated – at least in some quarters. Volkswagen came to Continue reading “Infra Dignitatem”
Ingolstadt’s smallest crossover is very much a ‘statement design’ – it just so happens that the statement isn’t very clear.
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. Continue reading “AUTOpsy: Audi Q2 (2018)”
A giant of the automotive world has departed. His like will not be seen again.
Ferdinand Piëch was not easily satisfied. Anything less than the relentless shedding of blood, sweat and tears he considered insufficient initiative – an approach many found misanthropic, yet from Piëch’s perspective, it was a mere matter of applying a categorical imperative. He would never expect more from anybody else than from himself. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch”
Outside of the Driven To Write bubble, a number of new cars were launched over the past few weeks. Time to do a bit of catching up.
The Audi Q3 Sportback is Ingolstadt’s take on the BMW X4. It features all the overwrought details that can be expected from a Marc Lichte-era Audi, including the token overly accentuated ‘shoulders’ above the wheels. Continue reading “The Beat Goes On”
Audi’s A2 confounded the buying public and lost its maker billions, but it was a stellar achievement nonetheless.
Carmakers are for the most part, pathologically averse to matters of risk – and for good reason. The costs of failure can be ruinous. For instance, a cogent argument could be made that Fiat Auto never recovered from the commercial failure of their 2003 Stilo programme, precipitating a decline from which they have never recovered.
Not so Audi, nestled safely within the VW Group mothership, and for decades now, a significant profit centre within the vast German multi-brand automotive titan. Nevertheless, the luxury carmaker is no stranger to the bitter tang of failure, or its financial cost.
Twenty years ago Audi announced the A2, a revolutionary and futuristically styled monopod aimed at elevating the Ingolstadt carmaker’s perception as technological pioneers. Six years later, it was summarily axed, following losses which amounted to around €1.3 bn*, having failed to Continue reading “Space Oddity”
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.
On the surface of things, the facelifted Audi A4 is an entirely predictable product action, but what it symbolises could be far more momentous.
It’s highly probable that the design director role at any prestigious OEM carmaker comes with a reasonably well-remunerated package of monetary benefits. This being so, we can take a wild guess that Audi’s Marc Lichte is not therefore on tuppence ha’penny wages.
The money must be, one supposes, some consolation, because there certainly cannot be much by way of creative satisfaction Mr Lichte could derive from masterminding Ingolstadt’s current design direction. At this point of course, we really ought to Continue reading “Empty Gesture”
Audi’s concept car for this year’s Shanghai motor show is an autonomous, electric homage to the brand’s legendary A2 model. Or so we’re told.
On the surface at least, there doesn’t appear to be much terribly wrong with Audi’s AI:ME concept car. It’s not an SUV for a start; its autonomous functions aren’t reflected by the lamest concept car trope of the past few years (swivelling seats), and it – supposedly – pays homage to no less than Audi’s bravest failure, the misunderstood A2.
However, as always, a surface is but a thin layer, whereas what lies beneath is an altogether more meaty matter. And the meat of this AI:ME is hardly scrumptious.
Earlier today I presented a little challenge. Here are the answers.
There were quotes under various categories such as roadholding, engineering and ashtray capacity and I asked whether the quotes related to the Ford Capri 3000 Ghia, the Alfa Romeo Alfetta or the Audi 100 S (all 1975 cars). If you want to Continue reading “Today’s Challenge: The Answers”
The fate of Audi’s landmark TT sports car model had been put into question recently. Now the car maker from Ingolstadt responds to the hearsay – with a vengeance!
‘Mediocrity reacts – superiority acts’ is the introductory statement of the press release Audi have published to announce their TT-branded concept car, to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show next month.
The Ingolstadt brand’s TT model, whose first iteration stunned the automotive world back in 1998 with its bold Bauhaus-inspired looks, has become something of a marginal note in recent years, with many commentators suggesting time was up for a model line that has lost impact with each successive generation and is, above all else, part of an automotive niche that’s falling into oblivion anyway: the sports car. Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2019 Preview: Audi TT-TT”
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 Continue reading “Your Gaze Was Like A Solstice Beam Reaching My Darkened Heart”
In 1978 Audi withdrew from the lower end of the market when the daring and distinctive 50 ceased production. While it might have been a landmark for Audi, it was a molehill for everyone else.
The 50 didn’t sell awfully well and Audi felt it ought to focus its efforts on larger cars. However the penny dropped that premium car makers could offer smaller cars as the 90s wore on. BMW chopped up the 3-series to make the Compact (1993) and Mercedes got with the programme in 1997 with the A-class.
Modernity or futurism are not what they used to be. It’s only a little over three years since DTW addressed this subject*. I’ll return to it today with some more focus.
Prompted by a recent discussion of the relative modernity of the Citroen CX and Citroen XM (less modern) I will mentate on the finitude of futurism. The core of this relates to the observation that if one compares a futuristic car (a concept car) from thirty or even twenty years ago with what one is driving today, the older designs are still fresher and more advanced-looking in many large ways. Furthermore even a good number of production cars from the middle-distance past can Continue reading “The Final Wounds Hurt Not At All”
As the Audi TT hits a significant historical milestone, it appears to be on the verge of taking an altogether different kind of hit.
It isn’t every birthday celebration that doubles as a wake, but the times are not what they were. Twenty years after Audi unveiled the production TT sports model, speculation is rife that the current iteration is likely to be its last – at least in the format we have come to know and love.
Indeed, this last component may form part of the problem, since the love affair has, it appears, run its natural course. Certainly, senior Ingolstadt management, when they can Continue reading “Death Disco”
Two significant saloon cars debuted at Palexpo this week, but according to our man pounding the show floor, only one makes the grade.
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.
Scanning through the ANE website I noticed what I thought was a case of mistaken identity.
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.
1997’s A6 saw Audi choosing bravery over stylistic torpidude. A lesson they could do well to re-learn.
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.
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.
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.
So while opinion as to whether the A8 lives up to the stylistic promise of Marc Lichte’s 2014 Prologue concept remains a matter of debate, Audi’s commitment to technology appears to be more solidly grounded. A 48-volt electrical system now supports the potential for what Ingolstadt describes as “highly automated driving”, allowing the car to be autonomous in slow-moving traffic and at speeds up to 31mph under tightly regulated parameters. Adding to the suite of sensors, scanners, radar and cameras, Audi also claims the A8 is also first to Continue reading “Added Suspense”
Quite a few brands have cottoned on to ‘personalisation’ after MINI: Fiat, Opel and Citroen/DS, for example. Now it’s Audi’s turn.
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”
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.
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.
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”
There are some places you simply don’t want to go.
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”
Audi found 800,000 customers for this car over its eight year production run. The first 500,000 customers paid up before 1971.
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”
Roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas gives the new Q2 a visual once-over. He’s moderately impressed.
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”
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.
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”
It’s not really rotten at all, it must be said. Why is it here today?
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”
Audi once understood subtlety. I’m not so sure they do any more.
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.
Audi evidently didn’t want to give anything to the Mercedes E-class in the shutline and craftsmanship battle.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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”
I had reason to be in the back of Audi A6 the other day.
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”
At the end of the 1950s, there was a sizeable group of home-owned players in the German industry, but we shall concentrate initially on three of them – Borgward, NSU and Glas. Only the first few paragraphs of this piece are fact, the rest is entirely speculation as to how things could have worked out quite differently, yet might have ended up much the same.
Borgward had been making cars since the 1920s. They were fast to restart manufacture after the War, being the first German company to put an all new car into production, the Hansa 1500. This was replaced in 1954 by the mid-sized Isabella and that was joined in 1959 by both the larger six-cylinder P100 and the smaller Arabella, featuring a flat 4 boxer that Subaru used as a reference point when developing their own engine. Continue reading “Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry”
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…
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
Ferdi wasn’t always a household name. Here’s where he came in…
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”
Audi’s Preference for Styling Over Design Considered. The 2014 Prologue suggests Ingolstadt is losing its way.
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”
The A2 wasn’t simply the most intelligently wrought Audi ever. It was also their most expensive sales flop. We tell its story.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A chance to look inside Audi’s A3 presented itself. I found what is referred to as a smoker’s pack.
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?
Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.
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”
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 nebulous. Yes, they had launched the trendsetting Quattro coupé and were fast gaining a reputation for unorthodox engineering ideals, but they faced as precipitous an ascent to the summit of the automotive ziggurat as Infiniti does today. Continue reading “Advertising: Speak My Language”