What is it about Audi and battleship grey? Once again they displayed several of their exhibits in what we consider to be an awful, unflattering color. I guess their design guys must think otherwise.
The new A7 Sportback was introduced at the show featuring the taught, purposeful lines that we have come to expect from Audi. The interior is where the big changes are with a touch screen system replacing the rotary dial and 32 other switches. The main screen has haptic feedback, plus the ability to accept hand written input. The overall interior design is clean and linear with a level of quality, fit and finish that only Audi seems to achieve. We really like the frameless rear view mirror.
The new A8L, also just introduced in the US, is certainly an imposing machine that exudes understated elegance. The A8 features similar instrument panel technology and general layout to the A7, but with a higher level of refinement. Both the A7 and the A8 have power closing decklids – another feature that we will not be able to do without!
There were big announcements from the German manufacturers, both concepts and production vehicles.
Audi presented the Q8 concept, a late entry into the SUV/Coupe segment dominated by Mercedes and BMW. It is expected to be launched in 2018. Built on a shortened Q7 platform, the Q8 features a number of design cues from the famed 1980’s Quattro rally cars, including flared fenders and large front intakes below the sinister headlights. The 8-pointed grill is massive, with a strong vertical and horizontal texture that looks almost woven from a distance. The C-pillar is wide and strongly raked, reaching down to the full-width LED taillamp(s). The interior features bold shapes and multiple touch screens – a precursor for the upcoming new A8? The Bombay Blue exterior was a little jarring.
As I overheard one top industry executive sarcastically opine “Nothing says rugged, off road and sporty like baby blue”. Nevertheless the concept was enthusiastically received. It is much more graceful than the rather clumsy BMW and Mercedes SUV/Coupes and we look forward to seeing this Audi on the road..
The big introduction from Mercedes was the new E-Class. While the design was classic for the brand and instantly recognizable, it was somewhat disappointing and broke no new ground, although we did like the strong front end featuring large air intakes. The interior is also classic Mercedes – but in a good way. We were happy to see that they have gone away from the “iPad stuck on the instrument panel” look, moving to an integrated rectangular screen that spans from in front of the driver all the way to the central infotainment display. This display is either two 12.3-inch screens made to look like one, or, on lower line models, a more conventional instrument cluster and a central 12.3-inch screen also integrated to look like one large display. There are some well-executed wood inserts and LED accent lighting customizable in 64 different colours!
The S-Class Cabrio is a really beautiful car with a great interior….. and now we get the twin turbo V12 S65 AMG version. Lust at first sight!
The facelifted SLK, now called the SLC was also on display.
The Audi stand next door featured the Q8 h-Tron Quattro concept. This sharp looking crossover was first shown last fall in its battery powered e-Tron guise. The h-Tron is powered by a fuel cell and uses a combination of three hydrogen tanks plus a 1.8 kW hour battery pack to store energy. We do like the front-end look of this concept, as well as the “pop-out” rear view cameras on the front fenders. We can’t wait for these cameras to become viable for production so that we can get rid of the huge door mirrors we are obliged to use today.
The new A4 sedan and Allroad wagon also were on display. This model is typical Audi, with a nicely executed exterior and a finely detailed interior that remains the standard of the industry. We just wish that the exterior had a little more “reach” and we are disappointed that the interior has the “iPad” look for the infotainment – especially considering the hi-tech cluster Audi introduced on the TT.
We do like the facelifted R8 without the big “spear” behind the doors, but the front grill texture is rather Japanese looking. We also love the belt driven Ducati that was on the stand!
BMW chose Detroit to introduce the M2 Coupe, harking back to the 1970’s when we first came to love BMWs. A 2002 turbo model was on the stand for comparison. We are sure that the car will be a blast to drive and the front end is certainly a very dramatic combination of air intakes and aerodynamics, but the rear half of the car just doesn’t work. The roofline/C-pillar is weak and the car is just too short to provide an aggressive stance.
A 650i Cabrio on the stand painted in an attractive matt bronze colour caught our eye and the i8 still generates awe in all of us – although the black and white colour scheme is not our favourite……..
The VW stand was a rather sad place to be during press days. The pall resulting from the emissions debacle hangs heavy in the air and the VW executives failed once again to move us, the dealers or the customers beyond this fiasco. The VW goal of increasing US volumes to 1 million units is now just a dream. Amazingly, Subaru’s volume in the US exceeds that of VW, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini combined.
I am sure that the 2016 Passat is a decent cart , but it is rather dull and the only thing worthy of comment is the frameless interior rear view mirror. No big volume opportunity here.
The Tiguan GTE Active Concept was yet another attempt by VW to convince us that they actually have some SUV/Crossover products in the pipeline. They certainly cannot come soon enough for the struggling dealer body. Although execution of the vehicle is quite good, the choice of wheels and tyres seemed dated. In a move to convey ruggedness they put big truck tyres on the concept. We would have preferred a bigger wheel and a lower profile tyre.
Part I | Of course, it is a long standing comment: Switzerland is a neutral country and every car manufacturer wants to reveal its concept-cars and new model introductions at the Geneva show, but with this first year of renewed growth in Europe we are left a little hungry. It is clear that Geneva is an easy destination for all Europeans and that the Palexpo hall itself, just a few steps from the airport, is relatively small and easy to visit. In summary, every year all the ingredients are in place for a friendly and convenient show.
The European market seems to be restarting, with 2014 being the first positive year since 2007. The market is changing too. SUV’s are taking more and more sales, mostly replacing monospace vehicles.
There were many novelties last year, but this year the predominant theme is face-lifts rather than new vehicles. Even though only a few new cars were present, however, don’t forget that we are in Switzerland, so there is a welcome emphasis on sports cars.
For example, Audi presented the second version of the R8. Less revolutionary then the first, which was a totally new creation from the Ingolstadt company. Style is now underlined with sharper edges and the dramatic, graphic lateral element behind the door is no more. Well, it is still present, but in a more subtle form and split between the greenhouse and the air intake. The interior is 100% new, with the digital screen also seen in the new TT. So, this R8 is not an esthetic revolution, but an interesting evolution.
Ferrari presented the 488GTB — technically it is an evolution of the 458 Italia, but returning to the more pure lines dictated by aerodynamics. Ferrari Design department was definitely paying respect to the history of the mark. The character of the vehicle is achieved with sculptured flanks and enormous air intakes in the rear quarters most surely required for cooling and aerodynamics. The intakes are horizontally divided into two parts, like a signature, but also in order to visually reduce their enormous size. For the interior, sport is king. More of a simple approach: first all the main controls are close to the driver; second the clean, slim centre console, also oriented towards the driver. So, it is (almost) race-car basic, but with the necessary comfort.
From Bentley, Design Director, Luc Donckerwolke (who has since resigned), presented a study called “EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept”. This study, with just 2 seats, is positioned alongside the Continental, but with a more sporty style. Some will think it is like something… or it is inspired from something… but this concept is refreshing, with clear Bentley design cues. It has a typical Bentley front face, but it is more fluid than we are used to seeing. The interior is so British, with elegance, good taste, technology and an interesting vertical, tactile screen.
In this Episode 4, let’s talk about the German manufacturers and ask this question :
Why is it that the Germans (Audi excepted) seem to have forgotten that the definition of coupe or coupé is:
“A closed two-door car body style with a permanently attached fixed roof”
Mercedes call their new 4-door GLE ‘thing’ a coupe; BMW have 4 and 6 Series Gran Coupe 4-Door Sedans, as well as the X4 and X6 Sports Activity Coupe 4 doors; while VW has a new SUV called the Cross Coupé GTE! What is this all about? Mercedes just went through an elaborate retake on their nomenclature, but cannot tell the difference between a 2-door and a 4-door. BMW’s Gran Coupe 4-doors are at least sleek looking, but what happened to the letter “d” on Grand – or is it Granny? Well, I know…It certainly follow the Pininfarina concept Car called Gran Lusso…The Mercedes GLE and BMW X4/X6 are about as far removed from a coupe as one can get, — except perhaps for the VW GTE! To say that I am disappointed in these manufacturers would be a gross understatement.
Mercedes Benz had quite a few new products to show off. The previously revealed AMG GT provided the main “eye-candy” in a bright pearl white paint job. The car is striking from every angle and should become a force to be reckoned with the market. Not nearly as attractive is the MB copycat version of the BMW X4/X6, the GLE. There is no accounting for (bad) taste I suppose, but few market watchers would have predicted that the ugly duckling “Sports Activity Coupes” from BMW would achieve sufficient traction in their customer base to force MB to follow with a similar – also ugly — product. I just can’t talk about these vehicles any more……. Also on display was the Maybach version of the S-Class. The interior is a bit overdone, with every conceivable feature and luxury detail, but it would be nice to stretch out in the back with a glass of wine while someone else drives you to the yacht.
The F015 autonomous vehicle concept attracted quite a bit of attention. This beast is huge, with 26 inch wheels, four doors each of which has its own large screen TV, the rear doors are rear hinged and there is no B-Pillar, the front seats swivel 180 degrees, so you can have a meeting while being autonomously conveyed to your next destination. What a total waste of time — and it is ugly too. I typically like MB styling, but they seem to have lost their way with the F015 and the GLE. I do still love the S-Class Coupe, however, and yes, it really is a coupe!
There was not much new on the BMW stand. The i8 is still gorgeous, apart from the bright blue seat belts that is. The interior of the i3 on display left me cold, however, Supposedly it is responsible, eco-friendly and in tune with the younger crowd, but the exposed, reconstituted trim boards on the IP and the doors left me crying for leather or vinyl. The seats just left me crying. But all is not lost, the 650i Gran Coupe is beautiful, even if they did get the name wrong.
Audi introduced the new Q7 to mixed reviews. Somehow it is not as elegant as the previous model with sharper feature lines and a more station-wagon look. The body is now graced with a “side spear” towards the bottom of the doors, presumably to disguise the element of slab-sidedness. The grille on the Q7 (along with other models) is larger and more intimidating – good for autobahn driving. Audi still maintains an envied position in the industry with respect to interiors and the Q7 is no exception. To be the benchmark for as long as Audi has in this critical area is an astonishing achievement.
The VW display was brightly lit, as ever and prominently displayed were its Motor Trend Car of the Year and North American Car of the Year awards for the Golf range. VW has struggled for share in the US market this year and continues to underperform. Missing from the VW product line up are the small and mid-sized SUV’s and CUV’s that are presently selling so well in the US. As in previous years, VW again showed a concept for a potential competitor in this segment. This year it was the Cross Coupé GTE. You and I would probably call it an SUV. Shown in a delicate shade of metallic blue, the GTE is a sharp and clean design with a solid “machined” look. It features a low bodyside ‘A’ line that also embraces the unusually low door handles. This low feature line, together with a broad spear on the lower edge of the doors, combine to improve the appearance of another slab-sided body. All in all this is a competent design, they just can’t get it to the dealers soon enough.
Audi has unveiled the third opus of its modern classic TT. The TT Mk1 is an icon of design. The TT Mk3 is certainly close to being another one, especially with its interior…
In 1998, the design of the TT was a revolution. Geometrical shape, strong design language.
The Audi Design team ‘lost the plot’ to some extent with the Mk2, which was less interesting in terms of design, very common in its shape and image. But the designers have now come back to their roots.
This Mk3 version is very muscular and stands very low to the ground. The large wheel arches amplify that feeling. The flat greenhouse gives the impression of a cockpit. The car is wide and low — very sporty. The six sided grill appears to be more three dimensional. The lower air-intake line (on the normal version) gives the impression of a floating grill. This nice impression is lost on the TTS, but the side intakes compensate for this loss… The addition of slim headlamps gives a little bit of aggressiveness, just enough…
The interior is very simple, designed with the idea that “less is more”… Pure lines are used giving the impression that the dashboard is floating.
There is no central screen anymore. Everything is grouped in front of the driver with a so called “Virtual cockpit” meaning that the cluster is made of a single customizable screen.
You can choose to have the speedometer showing, the Navigation and/or any function of the MMI.
There is no doubt that this design will initiate a new fashion and new possibilities in cluster design. We are used to the smartphone and smart TV, let’s be sure that we will very soon talk about smart IP’s…
Seen from above, the instrument panel resembles the wing of an aircraft. Designers have kept the round air vents, which is a signature of the TT, now with a turbine-like design. Perhaps most importantly, the center of the vents contain all the controls for the air conditioning system. There are less buttons in the centre area of the panel and the centre console, less controls. And everything seems to be very simplified…We can agree that in such a design, less is certainly more…
With the TT Quattro Concept show car that was also shown in Geneva, Audi wanted to demonstrate what technology can do if used in an efficient way. Audi also wanted to promote the fact that smaller engines can give a lot of power and sensation to the driver. Which means that they plan to reduce cylinders and engine size in future production cars to improve fuel economy and emissions without giving away the essence of the automobile…what we call driving pleasure…
VW has failed to achieve the planned volume growth in the US that was required for the total group to meet its global objectives. Not so Audi. The premium sister brand has been growing from strength to strength – and for good reason. The Audi products still have the interiors that everyone benchmarks and the exteriors continue that “machined from the solid” look that is hard to beat.
The new S8 sedan on the front corner of the stand looked suitably menacing, with the now even larger grill clearly designed to strike fear in your rear view mirror on the autobahn! The S7 looks really good too.
The new A3 was introduced at the show and displayed in both sedan and cabrio form. Execution of these vehicles is exactly what we have come to expect from Audi with tight crisp lines and simple elegant forms. Also shown was the Q3 model that will enter the increasingly competitive premium compact SUV segment, along with the Porsche Macan, the MB GLA and the Lincoln MK C.
The E-Tron 2 door “Quattro shooting brake” concept PHEV that was also on display is expected to join the Audi family of vehicles in 2015. This will be a cool addition.
More than anything the new E-Tron concept is introducing the silhouette (up to the front door…) of the TT Mk III that will probably be introduced at the Geneva show. The interior was introduced at the CES in Las Vegas, earlier in the month. The design is very close to what the cockpit of the TT will be…lets say that if the first TT is a Design Icon; the Mk II was “just” a nice looking car; the Mk III will certainly be seen as a revolution for its interior… The cluster integrates fully digital instruments and displays all information directly in front of the driver. You can tune it up virtually the way you want with two display modes. The first one is a classic view where you see the speedometer and rev counter in front of you like a physical cluster. In the “infotainement” mode, the virtual instruments are smaller and the space that is then created offers a huge display area for your media info or map. The navigation map in 3D is right in front of you! The instrument panel is then reduced to its minimum and the design visually conveys the Audi lightweight construction principle. Designers got the freedom to rethink the whole interior, reducing the number of buttons here, removing the central screen there…In order to visually simplify the cockpit. The controls for the air conditioning are also housed in the vents – the adjustment functions for seat heating, and for the temperature, direction and strength of the air flow are located in their axes, with small displays indicating the chosen setting.
As the first TT became an Icon, no doubt that the Mk III will set up a new standard, at least for interior…But let’s see how they will design the rear part of the exterior…We can’t wait for Geneva…
Celebrating 30 years since the original Quattro, Audi revealed the Audi Sport Quattro Concept. Well…first of all there is no doubt that it is an Audi. Large shoulders, clean design. The single-frame grille, with sculpted inserts, is now in 3D, made of two sections: the lower is nearly vertical and the upper continues the hood line. This concept does not have as much DNA from the 80’s Quattro as the previous Quattro concept shown in Paris in 2011, but it certainly gives us some good hints of Audi’s design direction.