The Italian Junkyard

Thoughts, ideas, criticism about cars. Interesting news and facts from the world of the automobile. Events in Italy and Modena. What you can find elsewhere, filtered through the eyes of a discerning enthusiast. Design, style, everything on the chopping block. Nobody is safe anymore.

Monday, March 23, 2009

1.2 Audi's only ring

As far as it is Audi implementing the same style on all of their models, it seems to be fine, but I actually disagree.
I had some hard times recognizing A6s (C6) from A8s (D3) after the first restyling of the frontal part, and that's not a good thing. Transforming the new A4 B8, especially the wagon, in a smaller A6 C6 Avant wasn't the solution either. Perhaps the customer of the cheaper car will be happy to have the same look of the more expensive one, but I doubt the contrary is working.
It's what happens when the family feeling is taken a step too far, but that's from the point of view of the pure style, because actually it's working excellently for Audi, with excellent selling numbers and indeed it absolutely respects the image of the brand too.

Among the German Three, Mercedes-Benz was the luxury brand, and BMW the sporty one. Audi lacked of a proper definition, it tried even successfully to affirm its position in motorsports, with rally cars, touring cars and lately prototypes. But even after the unveiling of the R8 road going model, recognized as an excellent performing car, Audi isn't the first sporty manufacturer that comes to mind, even among the German ones. And it isn't for the lack of rear wheel drive cars in its line-up, because finally, both with the R8 and the RS4 B7, they found a way to tune adequately their awd systems, and even enthusiasts and journalists agreed on that.
Simply, the whole brand doesn't look sporty. The R8 is simply not enough to change the brand's image. They chose to play the understatement card, and even if proving to be the right choice from a market share point of view, it's definitely boring when it comes to, well, emotions. It reached such a level that they managed to kill the attendance for a new model, being quite sure it will just look a little bigger than the previous model, a little rounder, and nothing else, apart from the growing grille.
Not saying the style of the other German brands is better, but while BMW is continuously unveiling cars we never asked and even not very pretty, you are still wondering, looking at those spy shots, if they went completely out of their minds, or if perhaps that's a work of pure genius. Mercedes-Benz on the other hand is heavily changing the look of the whole brand moving forward from the soft and rounded style started with the now two generations old E-Klasse W210.
So you look at those brands waiting for something. Eventually you'll be disappointed at the end, but that's still something. Audi isn't capable to raise a direct judgment because it became predictable, expected, and you can't be really disappointed, because you are already used to that. It could be quite a clever move, but being an enthusiast, being avid of innovation, changes and revolutions, it's exactly what makes me dislike Audi.

Now, as an enthusiast, I'm actually doing something wrong. That's to say, I just judged a whole brand just from the point of view of the style, and that's exactly the point I wanted to face. Audi is actually going trough a revolution under its skin, exactly as it did at the beginning of the nineties introducing the aluminum chassis with their Avus Concept back in 1991. Now, after converting their flagship A8 to this metal, after converting all of us, especially European people, to the diesel engine, together with parent company Volkswagen, they are going trough a new approach of doing cars: sharing, not only components and minor parts, not only engines, but the element that more than everything else identifies a car, the chassis. To be honest, it isn't the first time considerably different cars are made using modular elements to create basically different versions of the same chassis. Aston Martin is doing it since the V12 Vanquish and the DB9 were introduced, Lotus is working on it with the Elise family and the Evora, and, as far as I know, even Ferrari did it with the whole line-up, being possible to find parts of the F430 even on the front engined California, which in turn should give the basis for the next front engined cars, as the 612 Scaglietti replacement. All these cars are based on the same aluminum modular elements, among their respective companies, created with various techniques.
But as you probably noticed, they aren't your first choice when it comes to daily commuting. Maybe even an A8 isn't, but the idea the next one will be based on the present A4 B8 platform, is quite something.
How is it working? Well, if the first reviews on the first car based on this new platform, the A5, weren't very promising, with the A4, Audi adjusted its aim.
So the car is completely new under the skin, and looks very similar to the previous model and the first A4 too. In a couple of year, we will have almost all the line-up based on its chassis, and probably with a very similar look too. I don't see Audi's selling figures in jeopardy though, so probably I'm the only one who minds this homogeneity of looks. Don't get me wrong, I'm pro this technical achievement, but if it's application has to be just the standardization of the whole final product even on the external side, I guess I'll say no, thank you.
photos sources: A6, A8

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