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.
This is the third instalment of this series which definitively ranks the very best European cars of all time.
To make cut the cars have been rigorously assessed for engineering merit, technical competence and design quality. Each parameter was subvivided into its essential elements and assigned a number of points. The total number of points possible is 100. The minumum grade was 79. Today we assay an Alvis, evaluate an Audi, weigh up a Wolseley, over-view an Opel and muse about an MG.
As always, there’s more than just cars to the Geneva International Motor Show.
Geneva: Hotbed of glamorous wealth, elegant refuge of the well-off elite amidst the mountains and Lac Léman. London Mayfair with a Franco-Swiss twist and more of a Continental sense of style.
In truth, the impression the average visitor, let alone motoring correspondent on a budget, gets of Genève is a decidedly different one. First of all, Geneva is far more French in feel. The streets and public transport are far dirtier, the average encounters with locals far less courteous than in German-speaking Switzerland. In large parts, Geneva also feels rather stuck in the 1980s, if it wasn’t for the plethora of oh-so-2018 Bentley Bentaygas and Mercedes-Maybach in the streets. Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Minor Distractions”
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.
The Frankfurt motor show is upon us again. Thoughts?
The official IAA image is frightening, isn’t it?
It seems like only about six months since the last one closed and, dear, oh, dear, here is another one. I went to Autocropley to have a gander at their list of launches and unveilingments. I can’t say much of it tickled my fancy. The Audi A7 is top of the list for alphabetical reasons and, if it is anything like the new A8, it’ll be a bit much on a too small plate.
The A7 is one of the nicest looking cars in production and the new A7 is not going down that path – as with all launches of replacement models and many new ones, the dial is being turned up to 11, especially in the grille department. The A8’s could be from an articulated truck apart from the quite astonishing amount of brightwork. The first A8 set a standard Audi have failed to Continue reading “A Camel Drowns By The Oasis”
1988. Let’s read that back: nineteen eighty eight. Which is half a year short of three decades.
There really is something about the form language of industrial design that is verging on the timeless. Credit for this car goes to one J Mays who penned the Audi 80 in 1983. This one is known as the B3 (35i). While there are a few oddities on the car, they are far below the detection limit of normal humans.
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.
Further to Sean Patrick´s excellent idea about decals to give your boring car a more contemporary, fun and sporting look, I have shown three products in the upcoming range.
The decals make the car more premium, add a touch of dynamic flair and increase the perceived quality by accentuating the maturity of the style. Graphics and sculpting together produce a greater sense of athleticism while underlining the greater modernity of the cars.
The Detroit Auto show is over for another year. What caught our eye? What hurt our eye?
Audi showed the 3.0 TFSI SQ5: a CUV. They also showed the Q8 concept, some kind of crossover but sized extra-large. It’ll be ideal for bringing 17 kg children to kindergarten in Chelmsford. Notably the grille has burst out of its frame and now the silhouette of the lamps is involved in the party, as if the engine and lights are expanding out from under the bonnet like a weird blossoming mechanical monster. At the back the lamps stretch the full width across the car. Continue reading “Armchair Guide to the 2017 Detroit Auto Show”
This isn’t much of a Photo for Saturday** more of blue car by the side of the road. What is it?
It’s a very Was Then sort of car. From 2006 to 2008 BMW made this car in Regensburg. It’s a variant of the E85 Z4 which had a longer life. The Z4M had one engine, a 3.2 litre six cylinder unit and a six speed ‘box. In some ways you could call it an M3 wearing Z4 clothes. If you want a historical reference, it has the same relation to the Z4 as the Triumph GT6 to the mainstream Spitfire. It’s the kind of car that used to be quite common, a pure sports car which is now rather a freak. Continue reading “Automotive Mayfly”
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”
While it might be culturally, and indeed physically a long way from the rest of South-America, the Falklands are part of the continent. What do they drive?
Outside of Port Stanley, the capital, most of the roads are gravelled and are described as tracks. Furthermore, there is not a very large road network (900 km) due to the island’s low population density: 3000 people reside there. It is tempting to say that the most popular vehicles thereabouts are boats since the Falklands are made up of two large islands and about 700 smaller ones. The road network is being upgraded to Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – +(500) Land of Bikes, Quads and Boats”
A while back I alleged that, if nothing else, the mainstream saloon had more visual variety than that found among C-class family hatches.
A recent bit of news concerning Volkswagen’s Phideon saloon led me to put that in with seven other medium sized cars. See how many you can identify. How different are they? And which one stands out? Doesn’t the Phideon look a lot like a BMW 5-series proposal? Can you tell which one is the Phideon?
Today we peer again into the world of marginal car makers. In this instalment we deal gently with Donkervoort.
There are 15 Donkervoort cars advertised at mobile.de and above, a 1981 S8 is the cheapest at €19,950 with a mere 52,000 km up. Next is a similar roadster from 1988 for €24,000. A 1998 2.0 Zetec-powered D8 costs €36,000. From 2001 an Audi-powered D8 costs nearly €50,000. So, who are Donkervoort? Continue reading “Far From the Mainstream: Donkervoort”
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”
Cars start decaying the moment they are built. Some manage to accumulate character while most don’t. What do you do?
One response is obsessive polishing and maintenance. The other is stoic acceptance. For many the response is to oscillate in between the two, starting with careful stewardship of the new possession. Why do people fight physics? And why is it that cars don’t last longer? Continue reading “Theme: Material – Decay”
My casual analysis of the Italian fleet leads me to conclude Fiat, GM, Toyota and VW dominate the low to middle market and thereafter it’s Audi and Mercedes. The losers are Renault and Citroen at one end, Ford in the middle and Lexus and BMW at the top. Subaru, Mazda, Honda and Mitsubishi have no strong presence. Alfa aren’t even all that common. Continue reading “Micropost: The Italian Car Park”
In my survey of the values of the motoring manufacturing nations, we have touched on Italy, Britain and France. Now it is time to look at the nation that helped invent the motor car.
The present gets in the way of the past. Today Germany stands on an equal footing with Japan and the US as a powerhouse of car engineering, design and manufacturing. If we go back a hundred years the story would not have seemed so clear. Each car-building nation had a deluge of manufacturers and a certain sameness attached to all of them as they ploughed a vast array of technical furrows, hopeful minnows. Germany’s clever engineers and industrious entrepreneurs offered a wide range of types of car in the search to find something that matched German values and German conditions. Things became clearer in the 20s as most of the small makers died off. The Second World War acted as another selector. Mercedes managed to Continue reading “Theme: Values – Germany”
This is part of Driven To Write’s unique service. Normally colour analyses are expensive and hard-to-get proprietary information. We give it away for free.
It’s probably not comprehensive. Gizmag kindly put together a slide show of the most important cars and I added to the list with some Google image searches of brands they didn’t cover in their slide show. Did Cadillac really not show anything of note? Hyundai isn’t on my chart. If they were, it would have been another white car. Toyota showed a Continue reading “2016 Detroit Motor Show Colour Analysis”
In December 2014 we ran an item about the changing styles of luxury car interiors.
A year or so later we find someone answering our calls.
In an article about how Lincoln do not want to copy the Germans, there is also discussion of the Lincoln Continental’s blue interior option. Here is a chance then to see if blue interiors are something that appeal to anyone other than automotive design commentators. My impression is that this is a welcome bit of bravery on the part of Lincoln. The all-blue colourway creates a very pleasant atmosphere that manages to Continue reading “Be Careful What You Wish For II”
The linear, full-width grille was a staple of production car design for years. Always incorporating the headlamps, often sidelights and indicators, it was a logical reduction. The idea can be seen appearing in the States at the start of the 60s with the Ford Falcon, but where do we first see it in Europe? I’d propose the Glas 1004, introduced in 1961. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 4”
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.
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.
It’s hard to explain this to people who view cars as polluting, selfish devices, that kill, maim and generally mess up lives. And it’s equally hard to explain it to people who see cars as pure, powerful pieces of engineering, that mainly offer them control and prestige. But the car is a flawed but hugely romantic device, and that has been its true enduring strength.
What defines a car? For some it’s outright speed, or acceleration. For some status. For some it’s sheer practicality, for others it’s individuality. For some it’s handling, steering feel, lightness of touch, whilst others want weight, bling and intimidation. There are so many criteria for what makes a good car and, if you are trying to explain why you like a car to someone else, it’s tricky. Watch their eyes glaze as you lasciviously trace the curve as the C pillar kinks round the inset vent to join the rear wing. See them shuffle with embarrassment as you present one fisherman’s yarn too many about lifting the front wheel in Tesco’s car park. Risk them questioning your manhood as you mime the ingenious folding mechanism of the rear seats in your MPV.
You’ve come a long way, baby. So goes the cliche. How far then?
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”
And What Is Wrong With Putting the Engine in Front of the Wheels?
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?