Audi:

Audi Plans More Conventional Headlights!?

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In the January, 2013 issue of Automobile Magazine, Wolfgang Egger, Design Chief of Audi is quoted when discussing the Crosslane concept shown at the Paris Auto Show in September, “The new headlights are certainly more subdued than the very bright dot-style LEDs we had to work with in the past.  But the era when daytime running lights were shaped like waves, loops of swooshes is definitely over.  Instead, we have developed inoffensive and geometric light graphics consisting of distinct vertical and horizontal elements.  This trademark light pattern will be unique to Audi and we will eventually see it on all models”

Audi A8 Headlight Graphics - Dramatic

Audi A8 Running Lights - Instantly Identifiable

Well… this qualifies for a “What Are They Thinking” category!

New Audi Headlamp Cues Shown on Crosslane Concept

The Crosslane running light graphics are shown in the image above.  As can be seen, this is a much more linear interpretation than the swoopy design Audi is using today.  Is this as distinctive?  Is this as head-turning?  Is this a design that can immediately identified when you glance at the car behind you in the rear view mirror?

I guess time will tell, but it appears that Audi is taking a more conservative and possibly less expensive direction with their signature headlamp theme.


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Audi S8 – $126,000 Hot Rod

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A large sedan with a 4.0L 520-horsepower twin turbocharged V8, the Audi S8 provides a compelling package for a quick blast from Orange County to Laughlin, Nevada swapping Interstates for surface roads and Route 66 – the “Main Street of America”.  Think of this as a familiarization trip to get fully acquainted with the interactive technologies of the S8.  Most of it has to do with the multi-media interface (MMI) with navigation, audio, phone and even seat adjustments shown on the center screen.  Audi’s NAV system includes a Google Earth view that lost its terrain view data over the desert, but that was not Audi’s fault, just that the Google folks have not gotten around to mapping uninhabited terrain much.  BTW, the S8 is rated at 15-mpg in the City and 26-mpg on the highway.  Returning from Laughlin resulted in 24-mpg.  Not bad at 75-mph cruising speeds.

Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go Really Works Spending more time on Interstates on the return, the S8’s adaptive cruise control system really came into its own.  Even in very heavy traffic descending the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County the cruise maintained speed and distance.  The spacing was a bit long and a few times someone would slip into the space causing the Audi to brake to adjust the distance again.  When traffic slowed to a stop, so did the S8.  This trip made me a believer in these advanced cruise control systems.

Two-Laners a Snap Admittedly, Route 66 is pretty deserted these days, even on a Saturday, but there are usually double yellow lines preventing passing.  When passing is allowed, inevitably there is a car approaching too soon.  Or is it?  A car with 520-horsepower gives you the confidence to punch it and go.  In the auto industry, there is a measurement called TED – Time Exposed to Danger.  This is usually the time to accelerate from 50-mph to 70-mph.  Well in the Audi, TED is very short almost feeling instantaneous from 50-mph to 80-mph.  Going to full throttle in the S8 generates an outstanding grumble from the exhaust.  I bet the cars passed by the S8 at full throttle were impressed when it flashed by.  Yeehaw!

Comfort Seats are the Ticket If you read the VehicleVoice reviews of the S7 written last week, you’ll remember that we were not particularly impressed with the sport seats in the car and noted that comfort seats were available as a $1,950 option.  Well, they are standard in the S8 and come with 22-way adjustment.  With these seats you can back off the bolsters to provide more spacious seating and get a massage at the same time.  When you are adjusting either front seat from the side-of-the-seat controls, a graphic appears on the center display showing you what adjustments you are making.  Nice.

Ride Quality Suffers With Aggressive Tires The S8, being the performance package for the S8, is set up for spirited driving with very aggressive 21-inch 35 aspect ratio Continental summer tires.  Even selecting the “Comfort” (rather than “Auto” or “Dynamic”) setting on the vehicle dynamics system resulted in a busy choppy ride at low speeds.  At higher speeds – lets admit to ten or fifteen mph over the speed limit at times – the car felt much more at home absorbing irregularities with ease.


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Audi S7 Beautiful, but Difficult to Drive Smoothly

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We began this year with a string of new high performance Audi sedans – S6, S7 and S8.  We have not gotten to the S8 yet, but the S6 and S7 are pretty similar cars so lets concentrate on the S7 fastback.  Think of the A7/S7 as Audi’s answer to the Mercedes CLS and the BMW 6-Series Grand Coupe.  The S7 is a four-door coupe with a very fast backlite and large rear hatch.  Opening the rear hatch reveals a huge rear cargo area.  While the S7 has a very sporty profile, its design has sacrificed ingress/egress in the front and especially rear seats.  The style limits rear seat headroom and the legroom in the rear is also down a bit from the three box S6 sedan.

Interior Par for the course, the S7’s sport interior is special with great attention to detail, great fit and finish and a very upscale ambiance.

No Fingerprints, Please Audi ‘s multi media interface (MMI) continues with controls on the center console not a touchscreen.  The Audi MMI is easy to use and somewhat intuitive once you have used it a few times, but it would fail the rental car test (unfamiliar car in a rental car lot at midnight in the driving rain).  Unlike its brethren Volkswagen and Porsche that now use touchscreens, Audi has stayed away from them because fingerprints on the screen are unsightly.

Get the Comfort Seat Package In the S7, the black and lunar silver interior is tasteful, but the seat bolsters are too aggressive for casual driving.  At this price, the seats in the S7 should have power adjustable cushion and back bolsters so you can have either a very supportive seat that you fit snugly in or a wide open seat that lets you move around however you want to.  Sure the “S cars” are sport performance models, but at $94,570 for the S7, there should be loads of comfort as well.  Recognizing this, Audi offers a comfort seat option for $1,950 that provide heating, cooling, massage and memory functions.  Unfortunately, the comfort seats are available only in black Valcona leather not the silver/white leather in the evaluation S7.

Featherlight Toe on the Accelerator But the sport seats weren’t the only thing that presented a problem.  The S-Cars are powered by a 420-horsepower 4.0L V8 with twin turbochargers and cylinder on demand.  Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s great Quattro all wheel drive system, this car should be a real pleasure to drive.  Lots of horsepower and torque.  Effortless V8 with turbos!  Wow.  But it isn’t a pleasure to drive.  Tip-in the accelerator and there is a hesitation that makes you shy about merging into traffic from a stop unless you stomp on it.  Maybe it’s the performance setting in the MMI?  Comfort?  The same.  Auto?  The same.  Dynamic?  The same… even worse.  Once you get the S7 rolling, it is delightful.  The throaty rumble of the engine is joyous.  But getting up to speed takes a featherlight touch of the toe to do smoothly.

So, the S7 is really for a person who wants upscale coupe styling and a lot of power.  It’s not for a person who needs to provide rear seat space or comfort.  The S7 is a car that turns heads and likes to be driven at speed, but it is a touchy low speed cruiser.


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Audi Freshens 2012 A4 Ideal Vehicle Award Winners and Adds 2013 Allroad

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Audi has launched five models from its 2013 B8 platform – the A4, S4, A5, S5 and Allroad.  The B8 is a mild mid-cycle freshening of Audi’s line of compact sport sedans.  But first to the awards…

Audi A4 Wins AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award: Over one-third of new car and light truck buyers are influenced by awards their vehicle has won.  Owner-based awards are more valuable than most.  For the 2012 model year – the B7 platform – Audi swept AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Awards for the Aspirational Luxury Car Category.  Not only was the A4 the most ideal Aspirational Luxury Car as rated by its owners, the A5 was in second place and the next-step-up A6 was in third place in the category.  These are significant achievements.

In AutoPacific’s IVA research, 25% of A4 owners want more power and acceleration.  About 23% want more passenger room, 21% want easier ingress/ingress and 19% want more daring styling.

A4/S4/A5/S5 Evolve Very Nicely, Thank You: So, the question is whether or not the new 2013 cars have hit their target market as well as their recent predecessors, and do they offset the shortfalls mentioned above?  After a drive of the cars in Colorado during fire season, we can safely say the 2013 versions are equal to or better than the class-winners they replace.

The basic dimensions of the 2013 cars are identical to the 2012 cars.  The styling of the sedans and coupe is very evolutionary with minor styling changes.  Think of the exterior styling change as a moderate “front six inches” with new grille shape, headlamps and front fascia.  The grille has evolved with a more trapezoidal look.   Audi took advantage of this freshening to re-design its LED-accented headlamps and taillamps.  These cues have become a distinguishing Audi design feature. So, Audi did not push the styling envelope with this facelift but remained safe.  (About 80% of A4 owners find the styling of the 2012 model ideal).

The interior of the cars remains an outstanding reason to buy.  Great fit and finish combined with excellent materials selection.   There is a new three-spoke steering wheel, revised instrument cluster and Audi connect with Audi’s controller-based MMI Navigation system is ordered.

Just a Brief Note on Touchscreens and Controllers: The auto industry is all over the place relative to touchscreen navigation systems or controller-based nav-systems.  Audi (MMI), BMW (iDrive), and Mercedes (COMAND) have continued with controller-based systems as have others.  Many mainstream brands continue with touchscreens or have moved to them after wrestling with controller logic.  Oddly, Volkswagen and Porsche – VWAG family members – both use touchscreen systems now.  Volkswagen used a touchscreen and Porsche has moved from a controller-based system to a touchscreen.  Audi engineers say “you will never see a touchscreen in an Audi”.  They don’t like the fingerprints.  So, inside VWAG, the engineers have agreed to disagree.

New Allroad is the Big News: The big news for the B8 launch is the re-launch of the Audi Allroad.  The previous Allroad (1999-2005) was based on the larger Audi A6 and looked more aggressively off-road capable than the 2013 version based on the smaller B8-platform A4.  The Allroad replaces the slow selling Avant wagon in the American lineup with the body of the Avant tweaked to appear off-road capable.  Its ride-height is increased by 1.5-inches.   The expected wheel arch trim is there as are the front- and rear-skid plates.  A roof rack completes the appearance package.

Powertrains Essentially Carryover and Still Outstanding: The B8s are powered by a 211HP 2.0L turbocharged direct-injection 4-cylinder engine.  With Audi’s Quattro all wheel drive system, the 4-cylinder turbo is mated to either a 6-speed manual transmission or 8-speed automatic transmission.  If you select a front wheel drive S4, you get a CVT.  This 4-cylinder turbo engine has always been a delight to drive and is one of the world’s best-regarded engines.

If you want more oomph in the A4 and A5, move up to the V6-powered S4 and S5.  With the S4 and S5 you get a 3.0L supercharged direct-injection V6 engine with 333-horsepower.  Quattro is standard in the S4 and S5.  While the A4 is no slouch on the road or in the mountains, The S-Cars provide effortless performance in any situation.  This engine choice lets you think about a place in traffic you want to be and then without knowing it, you are miraculously there.

So, all in all, the Audi B8 experience is about what you would expect.  Great cars with evolutionary styling, super finesse and outstanding powertrains.


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Audi – Ideal Premium Brand in AutoPacific Research

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) for Premium Brands recognizes the brand whose vehicles best hits the targets its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.

For 2012, Audi achieves the top ratings from its owners outpointing second place premium brand Porsche by 15 rating points.  Audi’s A4, A5 and A6 swept the top three places in the Aspirational Luxury Car category.  The Q7 and Q5 were second place in their crossover SUV categories.  Audi’s design DNA, attention to detail and finesse all contributed to this impressive win.


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Audi A4 – Most Ideal Aspirational Luxury Car

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.

Audi Sweeps Category for IVA Win: The 2012 Audi A4 comes closest to the ideal of any Aspirational Luxury Car.  In fact, each Audi entry in this class was at the top – A4, A5 and A6.  The A4 is 51 rating points higher than the A5 coupe and 64 points higher than the A6.  Having eighty-percent or more of owners rating a characteristic ideal is outstanding.  Getting a score of ninety-percent is even more impressive.  Ninety-percent or more of A4 owners rate these characteristics ideal:  exterior size, interior lighting, wheels and tires, driver’s seat comfort, ride and handling.  Eighty-percent or more of A4 owners find these additional characteristics ideal:  driver’s seat visibility, cargo space, exterior styling and safety features.

A Few Shortfalls – Power, Package, Infotainment: A quarter of A4 owners want more power and acceleration – only a few would trade off power and acceleration for more gas mileage.  The A4 is a personal-sized sport sedan.  This means tight seating for some and about 23% of A4 owners would like more passenger room than they have in the 2012 model.  About 21% would like the A4 to be easier to get into and out of.  While exterior styling is ideal for 81% of owners, the other 19% want more daring styling.  About 22% of Audi A4 owners want more or better infotainment technology

You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at  http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/consumer-s-ideal-cars-revealed-in-2012-iva-awards-112116/

For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact karin.turner@vehiclevoice.com and title your email “IVA Results”.  A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.


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Ed Kim and the Audi A3 e-tron

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Recently, Ed Kim, AutoPacific’s Director of Industry Analysis, was given a sneak peek at the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in electric.  Earlier this week, Ed’s impressions were prominently featured in Audi’s featurette about the car. This video was released in conjunction with the automaker’s official announcement about the A3 e-tron’s U.S. test program at the 2012 TED Conference in Long Beach, CA. 

The A3 e-tron will be distributed in select markets in the U.S. to help Audi get real world data about how electric vehicles are used in everyday life, ultimately aiding in the development of future plug-in vehicles from Audi.

Audi, rightly so in our opinion, believes there is no one silver bullet in the quest for greater efficiency.  As such, the automaker is exploring just about every available alternative powertrain technology out there as potential components of a greater solution.  Those can include electrics, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, diesels, or even very efficient gasoline engines.

Watch below to see Audi’s A3 e-tron in action, and Ed’s thoughts on some of the issues surrounding electric vehicles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6b28g_o9yQ&feature=bf_prev&list=PL7DADCC3EE813305E&lf=plpp_video


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Audi e-tron Spyder

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Sometimes things start out great and end up only OK, or perhaps worse. The smell of coffee in the morning. Most Superbowls. A full bottle of Patron. We recently had the opportunity to experience the Audi e-tron and came away excited by the vehicle, but wondering why we got to see so much of it.


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2012 Audi TT RS: Money Can Indeed Buy Happiness

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There are two things that I have daydreamed about for years.  The first is an Audi RS 4 Cabriolet in my garage.  The second is to have a place to drive that RS 4, like, say, maybe, my own personal race track?  My dream got about as close to reality as it ever will a few weeks ago in a remote part of the Catskill Mountains.   


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2011 Audi A3 TDI – Rejoice, A Green Car for Drivers!

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The Audi A3 is conclusive proof that green vehicles need not be boring or uninvolving transportation.  Frankly, it’s amazing that it has taken as long as it has to get fun yet extremely frugal vehicles into the marketplace.  Years of having to maneuver around hybrids like Prius driven by hypermilers have led so many people to simply assume that fuel sipping vehicles are incapable of possessing any excitement.

Fortunately, our European friends across the pond have never felt that way.  Much higher fuel taxes have resulted in fuel economy being a big priority in Europe, but that has never justified boring cars there.  Quite the opposite, actually.


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