I spent two days crisscrossing the massive Frankfurt auto show, and the focus on reducing emissions and improving fuel economy and “green” solutions could not be missed. Very few manufacturers were not talking about fuel economy gains in their powertrain lineup and many announced hybrid plans or showed hybrid concepts. What we’re seeing here is the culmination of years of research, rather than fiberglass what-if models. Many of these hybrids or other technology-based solutions will be on the roads later this decade.
Mercedes-Benz will, during the 2009CY, offer a hybrid powertrain in the S-Class and the M-Class, while a smart fortwo mild hybrid system goes on sale in October. Porsche gave updated the Cayenne’s diesel for more power but also promises a parallel series hybrid using the existing 3.6L V6 by the end of 2010CY. General Motors took the system shown under the Chevrolet Volt in January, replaced the gasoline engine with a diesel one, and created the Opel Flextreme as well as showing off an Opel Corsa Hybrid. Volvo put a plug-in hybrid into the C30 to create the Recharge concept. Land Rover is adding stop-start systems in 2009CY, and Audi will bring a hybrid to the Q7.
Small cars are more prevalent on international roads and therefore more prevalent at auto shows outside the United States. Toyota brought us the iQ, Volkswagen the up!, and Ford the Verve. Renault’s latest Twingo was on the show floor as well, though this was not its debut.
Notable exceptions to the small and green game were Ferrari and the 430 Scuderia (introduced by Michael Schumacher himself), the Aston Martin DBS (officially introduced at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance), the Bentley Continental GTS Speed, the Lamborghini Reventon (of which only twenty will be made, with a price tag around $1.4 million), and Maserati.
Day two of Frankfurt’s show holds most of the supplier press conferences, leaving us a chance to take photos and see some general reaction. Frankfurt’s convention center has 10 halls, with at least seven of them holding the major manufacturers and others holding aftermarket and supplier stands. Walking the full show requires much time and comfortable shows and several hours. Interest was strong in the Mercedes-Benz F700 Concept (previewing the next S-Class), the Audi A4, Opel’s Flextreme, Ford’s Verve and Kuga, and Jaguar’s XF. Peugeot and Citroen concepts, the 308RCZ and the Airscape, saw plenty of attention, as did Nissan’s very odd-looking Mixim.
The Volkswagen Tiguan stand was flocked with people getting a chance to get in and crawl around the new model, with plenty also checking out the up! city car. Interestingly, every time I went through hall 6, home to Italian makes Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, Ferrari, and Maserati as well as Porsche and Hyundai it was completely mobbed. On the other hand, Kia’s Kee coupe concept and BMW’s X6 concepts didn’t seem to grab attendees as much.
While going green may be good for us, hybrid systems and new engine developments don’t make for great pictures or put the enthusiasm into driving that a great-looking design can. Over the coming weeks, we’ll bring you more detailed coverage of many of these. Stay tuned.
Image compact cars are products where style, presence and image count more than absolute function. In the case of the Audi A3, winner of both AutoPacific awards for 2007 – the Vehicle Satisfaction Award and the Most Ideal Image Compact Car Award, A3 combines both emotional excellence with functional excellence. Owner preferences for power and acceleration, exterior styling and exterior size drove the new A3 to a class win, in a segment including such tough competitors as the Toyota Prius and the MINI. Ease of getting in and out was the only category where the A3 was substantially below segment average.
In Europe station wagons are accepted. They almost have to be. Families don’t have the luxury of opting for two vehicles to suit different tasks. In Europe they choose one versatile vehicle for multiple jobs. From hauling the family and their gear on a trip to Munich to commuting on a daily basis to work, the station wagon suits many families very well. In the United States us Yanks drive the SUV on the weekend and the sporty car (or stately sedan) to work during the week. The fusion of the two would have looked something like an Audi allroad… but American consumers didn’t seem to like the ambiguous styling and with slow sales Audi pulled the plug on North America.
Since the allroad (the hard core ‘Land Rover test course capable’ car-based SUV) didn’t work, Americans looking for a mid-sized Audi station wagon will have to settle for the A6 Avant.
AutoPacific‘s Detroit staff recently spent time in a 2008 Audi TT 2.0T Roadster (with the 200HP turbo I4), a 3.2 Coupe (with the 250HP 3.2L V6), and even spent a few minutes with a 3.2 Roadster. As this office includes current and former first-generation TT owners, we were particularly interested spending time with the latest TT (and with a 2002 ALMS edition coupe on hand, gave us an opportunity for the side-by-side photography in this blog). Our evaluation confirmed first impressions: Audi has successfully evolved the design into another work of art and improved interior space, handling, and performance. The first generation is still a wonderful driver. But the second generation offers enough improvements for owners of the first generation to consider trading up, and with a little more interior room should also be able to reach even more new buyers.
Our test cars were very well equipped, with eighteen-inch wheels and summer tires, bi-xenon adaptive headlights, Bluetooth, and an iPod interface. The 3.2 gets more standard equipment, including quattro, to which our Coupe added navigation plus and Magnetic Ride Suspension. Parking assist was left off both cars, but we didn’t miss that feature one bit. MSRP for our roadster was $44,400 and our coupe $51,595. Base prices at www.audiusa.com
, 2.0T models start at nearly $35,000 and $37,000 for coupe and roadster. Price of entry for the 3.2 S Tronic is $43,000 and $46,000. The price penalty for going topless is a rational $2000 or $3000.
The French are a different bunch of people. The 24 Hours of LeMans, run the weekend of June 16, took place in a small industrial city, nearly an hour south of Paris via high-speed train. The town is of little interest to tourists with the exception of the 24 Hour race, which takes place over ordinary town roads. But don’t let the sleepy little town fool you. It takes brass balls to step into the cockpit of a LeMans racer. “Le Mans is quite rightly billed as the hardest race in the world,” said Allan McNish, a former Formula One driver who has raced here seven times and who won in 1998.
“In this 24-hour period, we will average more than 200 kilometers per hour, including all of the pit stops,” he said. “The car will complete nearly 5,200 kilometers – which is the equivalent of a Grand Prix season in one day. It will do that without a change of the engine, without changing the brake pads or discs, without changing the gearbox, without a change in the suspension or anything.”
As concern regarding fossil fuels and dependence on specific suppliers mounts worldwide, answers to alternative fuel solutions remain largely elusive for the mainstream. Ethanol, hydrogen, and other fuels are not as easily accepted as one might expect.
Audi Commits Racing Fortunes to Diesel
Even diesel power has not been widely accepted in the United States. And, while there are numerous reasons why diesel power has historically been viewed differently in the U.S., today, there are several reasons why many Americans are taking a second look at diesel power.
There are several key reasons to consider diesel power, including advantages of fuel consumption, emissions, and the overall performance of modern diesel engines. To underscore these benefits, Audi embarked on a challenging mission at the turn of the (21st) century. The German car maker decided to create a LeMans racer powered by a fuel-efficient diesel engine. The goal, to win over Ferrari, Porsche, Ford, and scores of other manufacturers. The result: win after win.
Audi A3 Wins AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Image Compact Car:
“The key to success among Image Compact Cars is the ‘grin factor,” says AutoPacific president George Peterson. “The Audi A3 delivers. As might be expected, Audi A3 owners score their vehicle substantially higher for Exterior and Interior Styling, Handling, and being Fun-to-Drive. Instrument Layout and the Feel of Quality associated with the controls were also highly rated”.
Audi Chooses Shanghai to Introduce Concept Previewing Upcoming Small Crossover SUV
Audi‘s second SUV is a smaller entry set to go into production next year in Ingolstadt, and will be named Q5 when it reaches dealerships. As the production date gets closer, Audi floated a preview in the form of the Cross Coupe Quattro concept at this year’s Shanghai auto show. Yes, that’s right. Audi gave a worldwide introduction of a major concept at a Chinese auto show. Audi was not alone in making major product news in China this month and we’ll only see more introductions in Shanghai and Beijing as the Chinese market grows.
The Audi Cross Coupe Quattro Concept face embodies Audi’s latest big-mouth grilles and clearly pulls from the Q7. As such, it is likely pretty close to the production Q5’s face, though the concept’s extremely fast rear roofline will get raised for production. A taller rear roofline will also improve the looks, to our way of thinking. Among the interesting features on the Cross Coupe Quattro is a power-folding fabric roof, a la the 2008 Jeep Liberty. The interior shows a new direction for Audi, and the initial photos promise that they haven’t lost their touch for creating great-looking interiors.
Audi’s pricing for the new R8 sports car is about in line with what we at AutoPacific and VehicleVoice have been expecting. The humorous side to their pricing announcement, however, are the option packages and free standing options. These guys must have taken a page from Porsche’s book of optioning their cars. First, their “Convenience Package” including a 6-disc CD changer, Homelink, Bluetooth, auto dimming mirrors should be standard. The other free standing options are OK as options with the exception of the navigation system. Should be standard. Oh, well.
Audi’s Slightly Edited Press Release
Audi of America has announced pricing for the all-new 2008 R8 sports car. The R8 with a six-speed manual transmission will have a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $109,000 when it launches this fall in the United States. Models equipped with the six-speed R tronic automatic gearbox will start at $118,000. (That’s $9,000 for an automatic transmission – possibly a new record!)
The R8 is the first mid-engine sports car Audi has ever produced. With a 420 hp V8 4.2L FSI engine and rear-biased quattro® all-wheel drive system, the R8 has the performance capabilities unlike any Audi before it. With a zero to 60 mph time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 187 mph, the R8 is the fastest Audi ever produced. The lightweight aluminum frame and body and 44:56 front-to-rear weight distribution give the R8 tremendous handling capabilities, with the balance expected of a mid-engine sports car.
Imola is the name of a little town in Italy, located on the plains to the east of the Apennine Mountains. The region is filled with such passion for racing cars it makes Laguna Seca seem like Autopia at Disneyland. If you close your eyes you can envision the great marques making their way through the Italian countryside, nose to tail, a little road rashed, weaving their way through the hills at red line. Ferraris, Alfas, Maseratis, have all cut their teeth in and around the town of Imola. The Mille Miglia even ran through the hills behind Imola. Therefore, it seems quite fitting that Audi used ‘Imola’ to describe the yellow paint stuck to the exterior of this particular 2007 S4.
If not for the Imola Yellow paint this S4 could have been merely a mild mannered four-door sedan and perhaps a more mature color would have been more appropriate. A more muted color would make the S4 a true Q-Ship. The S4’s main body lacks the muscular fender flares found on its more aggressive brother, the RS4, and the badging is subtle. For the most part the S4 mirrors the basic A4, but packs a bigger punch with a 4.2L V8 with 340 normally aspirated horsepower (A4 w/3.2L V6 is @ 255 hp), a six-speed manual and Quattro AWD. The same 4.2L V8 found in the larger A6 Sedan.