By on August 5, 2006

steveangry.jpg Six years ago, social commentator David Brooks published his book Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. Brooks’ explained how the countercultural values of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s were adopted by the mainstream by the mid-‘90’s. Marketers devoured Brooks’ book like it was crab legs on a Chinese buffet. Ever since, we’ve seen an explosion of style in every aspect of our lives and every room of our homes– except, of course, the garage.  If Wal-Mart (of all places) sells dinner plates suitable for the Museum of Modern Art, why are today’s cars so dull?  My theory: car designers are still in the thrall of the 1984 Audi 5000.

When the Audi 5000 debuted in 1983, the motoring press slobbered all over themselves. They showered the model with endless praise, touting it as “the world’s most aerodynamic sedan.” In fact, the car’s styling was a remix of the previous year’s 5000. Its soft corners, unsculptured sides, flush glass, and understated “blackout” trim had all been done before. The new 5000 simply combined all these exterior features into an easy-to-fawn-over form.  Inside the car, the 5000’s interior belied its upscale aspirations; it was a Jetta wearing a corduroy blazer.  Maybe the sublime (for its time) experience of driving the 5000 blurred the critics’ judgment.

The 5000 died a quick, undeserved death in the American marketplace, stabbed in the sales chart by investigative journalism. Its influence, however, is still with us twenty-three years later. Within just a couple model seasons, most Japanese manufacturers had appropriated the 5000’s “no nonsense” persona for their own, more modest vehicles.  Mazda styled its late-80s 323, 626, and 929 sedans as knockoffs of Audi’s flagship saloon. The 1987 Toyota Camry and 1990 Honda Accord also carried surprising amounts of Teutonic styling DNA. It took American manufacturers a little longer, but eventually even they stripped their cars of chrome, complicated sheetmetal bends, and any other ornamentation.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of assassination. Typical of both Japanese and American auto companies, excessive me-tooism quickly turned the 5000’s look into a cliché. Even such decidedly non-wonderful cars as the Chevy Celebrity wound up looking like ersatz Audis.

Much of the 5000’s lingering influence isn’t immediately obvious. The ongoing effect lies in the car’s proportions: the relationship of the front and rear overhangs to each other and to the car’s total length, the relationship between the roofline and the beltline, the tumble-home of the side glass, and other minor details. Even manufacturers who were slow to adopt the 5000’s Bauhaus aesthetic enthusiastically embraced its proportioning. It’s as if designers had suddenly discovered the Golden Rectangle of automobiles. Again, the 5000’s influence is still with us.  Other than front wheel drive, what do the Acura TL and the Chevrolet Impala have in common?  The Audi 5000’s proportions, that’s what.

These days, when a carmaker deviates from the Audi 5000’s basic proportions even slightly, everyone notices. Consider the most roundly praised recent mainstream sedan, the Chrysler 300C.  Everyone is all over this car because to our eyes it looks so different from every other sedan on the road. What, stylistically, has changed in the 300C?  The relationship between the beltline and the road.  Otherwise, it too embodies the 5000’s basic proportions.

Occasionally, some designers will sneak a bit of subversion through the design process, even though much true design innovation gets the kibosh from platform engineers. Chrysler’s “cab-forward” styling of the mid-1990s is an example of this. Yet, in twenty-three years, there hasn’t been a serious challenger to the Audi 5000. Nothing else has even showed potential of becoming a new car design icon.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  There was one car: the 1996 Ford Taurus.  While the original Taurus was slagged by some as a 5000 rip-off back in ‘86, the ‘96 version could not really be accused of following any known influence.  It couldn’t have been more iconoclastic had Ford put all four wheels on the roof and asked the driver to sit in the trunk. Its Mercury Sable sister car was just as radical.  Ford’s multi-billion-dollar gamble didn’t pay off, however.  The Taurus eventually lost its status as America’s best-selling sedan. Some of that was down to Ford’s decision to price the car much higher than its Japanese-branded competition (and then cut and run by dumping the car into rental fleets).  But a lot of the blame for the Taurus’ demise is attributable to the car’s too-far-out-there styling.

Marketers may imitate successful products a little too much, but they go to great lengths to avoid imitating failures like the 1996 Taurus.  Why do cars all wear the same dull clothes these days?  Because the sales charts tell us that we can’t ever get enough of the 1984 Audi 5000.

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45 Comments on “The Imitable Audi 5000...”

  • avatar

    To my eyes, Audis have always looked fantastic, whether it be the 5000 or the A8. Other manufacturers following suit is no bad thing, when done right, but my biggest disappointment is that Audi has decided to follow its competitiors, BMW and Mercedes, in having a big, look at me grill in recent years. In my opinion (I don’t know if I am alone in this), this me too-ism has ruined all of Audis good design work and has taken a style leader and turned them into a fashion victim.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Just when I was getting over it…you HAD to mention the A8 and once again my mind returned to “Ronin” and the horribly mangled A8 used in that fine film – damn you, Hasty, no sleep for me tonight…

  • avatar


    I have 3 kids. If I don’t get to sleep, why should you?

  • avatar

    Hmm, my 1993 Accord does look just like that.

  • avatar

    “something fast… audi s8… with nitrous, I’ve got the plans”

    and to mimick lizthvw’s comment, I agree the fishmouth has been controversial (execcuted great on the A8/A6) and I really dislike the proportions on the A4 (undecided on the new TT) but for the company’s ‘never follow’ mantra, a bit sad. I’m excited to see that the identity the Audi (VAG) group is going for is hardly iconoclasm- and I’m glad to see attempt at embracing what those four little auto-union rings once symbolize and paying homage to the engineering and aerodynamic brilliance of the silver-arrows.

    to me it was the quattro coupe that defined the lines and performance of the company that ushered in the 5000… you cannot talk about 1 without the other :)

    and to carry that horrible string of thoughts further to another rally-star turned latter day follower- SAAB.

    I’m finding audi design attempts much more pleasing (being a former SAABer) than GM’s atrocity of hijacking false history for SAAB’s ‘born from jets’ campaign- (technically born from turbo props I believe) and turning an icon of safety culture and design into essentially an IKEA that outfits ‘me-too’ seemingly generic platoforms with pleasing, ergonomic, and comfy interiors.

  • avatar

    While I agree, that that car might have been very influential, I wouldn’t call it the source of the golden car-rectangle. That kind of design has evolved because it obviously works. There were similar cars before and after. The Audi 5000 might have nailed it, but it didn’t invent it.

  • avatar

    On the other hand, it is BMW’s short front overhang, wheels at the corner aesthetic which is winning in today’s design marketplace. For true immitation in proportion, start with a 3-series, and place next to it a C-class, G35 sedan, IS350, and even the previous-generation Civic. Granted, not the same universe of influence as the 5000, but as we all know RWD is slowly clawing back from it’s dark days. Even the Chrysler 300, which you mentioned, owes a debt to BMW’s short-snout style, a vast difference from the too-long front overhang that the 5000 established, and a style which is going out of fashion in most places (except France for some reason.)

  • avatar

    I see more of an influence on car design by the 1986 Mercedes-Benz 300E than the Audi 5000. I would estimate that nearly every car on the road since 1986 has adopted the same basic taillight shape of the 300E at one time or another. Before the 300E, nearly every Japanese car mimicked the rectangular taillight design of contemporary Mercedes models. Then, when the 300E came out, practically every car maker abandoned that previous design.

    What about the slab sides of the 300E? You still see that look today on many, many cars. I would also argue that the “raised butt” design that every car has today originates in Mercedes design. The front wheels pushed to the front corners also stems from Mercedes.

    In short, my argument is that the 300E ushered in the accepted look of cars on the road today, NOT the Audi 5000. Put a 300E next to a new 3 series, and you’ll see that the basic proportions are the same, just the details are different.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    First: I liked my Celebrity. For a front driver, it (a V6) was fun to drive. Unfortunately, it started to rust within a month after I bought it, but I got 9 years out of it.

    Second, Audi made the counterstatement to the 5000 with the TT, which took the Tarus ovoid idea to its logical conclusion, and proved that it was not aerodynamic. (You may recall the problems that the 1st gen TT had at high speeds).

    Third, The problem with the Taurus was that, as a car, it was terrible. Just like driving a bowl of oatmeal.

    Fourth, the biggest influence in design now is BMW, and that is not a good thing. I think the new Camry is ugly.

  • avatar

    While I can appreciate the basic idea that many makers have derived their designs from the successes of the Audi, I’m not entirely sure you’ve addressed the ‘why’ of it adequately.

    Consider minimalism in architecture. It was extremely avant garde in the ’30s. And then, practically overnight, it was everywhere. Did the public’s tastes do a u-turn? Not so much… the key is that the buildings were just absolutely stupid cheap to build compared to the more ornate designs favored at the time, and conferred an instant ‘cool’ status upon the occupants. Cheap and ego massaging? Where do I sign? While architecture is certainly different from car manufacturing, I wouldn’t be surprised if Audi’s approach made the bean counters drool as much or more than the stylists.

    All that said, I think that the 5000, like some of the better early examples of modernist architecture, was an unqualified success styling-wise. The rub with moderism is that when you reduce the number of elements that comprise a design so radically, there are only so many ways to put them together in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Nuances of proportion are everything. Really, it’s no surprise that everyone who tried to copy the 5000 (without *totally* copying it) fails. Audi nailed the gestalt the first time… there was nowhere to go but down.

    To that end, I have to add… this is what bugs me a bit about the comparison in the article between the 5000 and the Chrysler 300’s (another successful styling exercise in my opinion)- the gestalt is completely different! The 5000 is a sleek matte-finished saber, and the 300 is a chrome encrusted sledgehammer. While they may share some proportions, they exude diametrically opposing attitudes. In the mind of both the stylist and the consumer, that’s all that matters.

  • avatar

    Mark how many type 44s have you owned?

  • avatar


    The high-butt look on cars, as far as I can tell, arrived with the Ford Tempo in 1983 (for the ’84 model year), well in advance of the ’86 300E. There’s no question which of those two cars I’d rather own (the 300E), but Ford got there first, unless I am mistaken.

    Robert Schwartz:

    I’ve owned every iteration of the GM FWD A-body except the Cutlass Ciera. They weren’t horrible to drive except, as you noted, they had a severe tendency to rust. Those A-bodies were fairly long lived otherwise. I’m really not a fan of Bangle’s designs either and I too think the new Camry is painful on the eyes.


    You’re right; the 5000 and 300C are/were aimed at completely different end results. Maybe that’s a testament to the basic soundness of the 5000’s design, that Chrysler could keep so much of it and yet come up with a radically different car. And I’m sure the relatively low cost of building plain, boxy cars helped spread the 5000’s basic DNA as well.

  • avatar


    I’ve never owned a Type 44. I’ve driven a few.

  • avatar

    now lets hope the same holds true for the Audi B5 S4. After all the children get through destroying them, by drag racing and modding, maybe the survivors will start holding their value!

  • avatar

    Mark Hasty:
    The first so called “high-butt” I remember was on the 1982 Mercedes 190E (W201).

  • avatar

    VEry interesting hypothesis–although I think Tom’s criticism, below, is apt.

    >>While I agree, that that car might have been very influential, I wouldn’t call it the source of the golden car-rectangle. That kind of design has evolved because it obviously works. There were similar cars before and after. The Audi 5000 might have nailed it, but it didn’t invent it.

    I think the problem has more to do with stylists just doing a poor, unimaginative job these days, for the most part. Yeah, the Audi 5000 is a nice looking car, but just about everything on the road since somewhere around the mid-70s has been appliance-like, and getting uglier over the years. Camrys since the mid-90s or so, Accords until the last generation, most GM cars of the ’90s and ’00s, the second generation Taurus (somewhat imaginatively awful, but awful nonetheless), almost all other Ford and Xler products of the last 15 years or more except for the latest Mustang, the 300, and the Magnum, all Subarus (the running shoe look), and most of the rest of the Japanese cars. Cars are REALLY ugly these days.

    Two of the biggest problems with most cars are the headlights and grills. The headlights are hideous, and the grills don’t do anything for the cars. Cars used to have faces, but the way the headlights are styled to clash into the grills leaves them with ugly, abstract lines instead of faces. Some cars, like the PT Cruiser, are ruined by Pokemon eyes. Even the Porsche Cayenne is plug-ugly.

    I would love to know why cars went from being beautiful in the ’50s and ’60s to ghastly beginning in the 70s and accelerating in the ’90s. I mean, did they stop hiring decent stylists, or did they lower their status so much that they couldn’t do a good job, or what? I do think the oil embargoes of the ’70s combined with the lousy frequency of repair on US cars changed the way Americans looked upon their cars–style fell in importance while reliability rose. And I think Japanese cars pretty much lacked style from the get-go.

    The other problem was that what stylistic efforts the big 3 made went mostly into SUVs.

    A few exceptions to the terrible styling: the last two generations of the Chevy Caprice (the last real Chevy), the first generation Saturns (a great and under-rated design–I had one, and women used to complement it [although I wouldn’ t say I got laid because of it!]. But when GM pulled Saturn back into the mother ship in ’96, all the style went out of the Saturns), the current Acuras, especially the TSX, the current Accord is pretty good… And of course, cars like the Mini Cooper, the aforementioned Xler products, various sports cars, and a few others. BMWs look OK, but next to, say, a ’64 Impala or a ’55 Olds, they’re pretty plain.

    Why can’t the car companies really beautify the highways for us? Anyone?

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    The 5000 was one of those cars you’ll never forget. I never considered it to have such a lasting impact on the industry, but well, it has!

    As far as big butts, I find it funny that the 1996 Taurus was one of the few sedans with a thin backside. Of course, nobody noticed since their eyes were affixed on that oval rear window. The only thing that wasn’t round on those cars was the optional moonroof.

    I thought the Crown Vic/Grand Marquis had the biggest butts out there, but they are about par for the course these days. Not to mention they look smaller/better since the trunk is longer and visually “thins” the posterior.

    Thanks Mark, we need more write-ups on Industrial Design like this.

  • avatar

    All of this discussion has been about sedans, but what about hatchbacks? It’s a style which seems to be really unpopular these days (at least in the states), but there have been some pretty ones – 3rd generation Honda civic was the icon in my book. Looked nice and clean on the outside, and on the inside I remember being really impressed by all the glass and visibility and the internal simplicity and low belt line. Of course, there have been a lot of ugly hatchbacks too – AMC Pacer and Gremlin, Datsun B210 to name my favorites. The most recent hatch that I like (but it’s already gone) was the ’05 Honda. Now there are very few hatchbacks and it’s a shame. Maybe with SUVs declining in popularity they’ll make a comeback?

  • avatar

    Let’s face it, modt three box sedan designs are not only appliance boring but also not an optimum use of space. The wagon/hatch design offers more room without sacrificing aerodynamics or needing more weight.

    When you think about the whole trunk design of sedans you have to come to the conclusion that it is quaint at best yet buyers are notoriously conservative and keep the design alive.

    You shouldn’t blame the car companies for producing what people want and that is conservative design. You rightly mention the 96 Taurus which buyers abandoned for the boring Camry and Accord.

  • avatar

    Wow, everytime I log into this blog, the editing tools are different…

    I was hoping to have something pithy to post here, but I really couldn’t think of any zingers…

    I recall advertising from ’70’s upon the release of the Triumph TR-7 as it being the ‘shape of things to come’, which actually turned out be partially true. Since 1975, think about how many cars have had the design characteristic of the high trunk, low nose, “wedge shape” as BL described it.

    Some, like the 5000 had a more blocky interpretation of that design ethic, but largely adhered to it. Ditto, the original Taurus, the GM A cars, the Benz 190’s Isuzu Piazza…

    The wedge shape makes a lot of sense obviously, which is why it has survived this long. The second-gen Taurus with the whole ovoid design motif tried to break out of the wedge philosophy. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’ve often thought the sloping deck lid had to kill trunk capacity.

    If you want to see a big butt, look at the 3rd gen GM J bodies, or the 4th gen F bodies, the Pontiacs in particular. If you’re Sir Mix-a-Lot, that’s not a bad thing…

  • avatar

    Mmm… wasn’t this car on Magnum PI?

    As I get older I dislike the new Audis. Does anyone like the A6?

  • avatar

    Just to be fair about it, the stylists are not directly the folks to hold accountable for most of the visual pablum/horrors that grace today’s roads.

    (Depending on your viewpoint, Earl and Bangle being notable exceptions…)

    The designers serve many, many masters. From the souless suits who choose the product mix and priorities, to the engineers who have to figure out how to build it, to the assembly teams who have to figure out how to put it together, to the beancounters who determine that if you can save 5 minutes of line assembly time with a less-than-beautiful piece, then that’s what you get.

    There are some hugely talented folks who create outlandish, beautiful and wonderful design studies for their employers. Which are then quickly homogenized from an Elise to an Elantra by a focus group.

    If the ‘focus group’ doesn’t kill a novel/interesting design, then it will surely be castrated by the most obscene “C-word” in corporate America:

    The Committee.

    Regardless of my hatred of Bangle-ized BMWs, the fact remains that they are recognizable, and, more importantly, they do sell.

  • avatar

    Audi has to be good at styling their bread and butter has been sedans/avants with front engines placed to accomodate a transmission that is in line with the front axle but behind the engine block. In other words they’ve gotten good at hiding an 18″ long engine block between the center of the wheel and the leading edge of the hood. Some models do it better than others…. but when you look for it its there.

    The typ 44 and 4A that came after were both designed for LONG engine blocks because they both came with 5 cylinder engines which is the longest engine block ever cast by audi. The belt drive I5 034 block makes a 077 belt drive V8 look short and the 079 chain drive V8 look diminuitive. Audi has receded their front end overhangs as much as possible over the years and they are about to go even shorter. The B5 A4 was intended for nothing longer than an inline 4… the B6 S4 can only fit the V8 because it has a rear chain drive and no accessories on the front of the block. It is rumored that the B8&C7 will share a new platform with a shorter front overhang achieved by a redesign of the transmission’s configuration. I’m not clear on exactly how this is possible while keeping the torsen differential.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I think there are a number of ‘classic’ sedan designs during my lifetime that will remain timeless 30 years down the road.

    The original Audi 5000 (I was fortunate enough to buy a used one [simply beautiful inside and out], but unfortunate enough to not financially handle being nickel and dimed to death on repairs….), the late ’80’s BMW 5 series, the mid-90’s MB E-series, the Chrysler 300C, and I would venture to say even the late ’90’s Accord. Most stuff todays is just plain fugly…with the exception, perhaps, of the Mazda6 or the new E series.

  • avatar

    zOMG… boioioioing for the E28 design. When I was a kid a neighbor had a 528i in alpine weiss with a 5 speed & black leather interior. He was a BMWCCA member and I had the hots for his daughter. Damn shame they moved to south carolina.

  • avatar

    Carlos, I love the new A6, especially the A6 4.2 and the S6. However, true pimpdom is the Audi A8 W12 and Audi S8. Droooolllll.

    Mustang51D, I couldn’t agree more. I owned a B5 S4 for a while and loved the car. While it was reliable in giving me a headache (in the shop quite frequently), I still love that car. An instant classic in my mind, though underrated.

  • avatar

    The Audi 5000 actually debuted in 1979. I worked for Volkswagen of America at the time and everyone wanted to drive the 5000s that were in the employee motor pool. I snatched one regularly and even snagged a turbo model to use for my sister’s wedding in 1980.

    But more to the point of the editorial, the styling has certainly influenced numerous other sedans. The proportions of beltline and greenhouse, hood-trunk-roof length, and front and rear overhangs always appealed to me. For some reason it seems difficult for designers to get all of them right in a given sedan. Cars where they are not right, as in the seriously malproprortioned Chrysler 300C, stand out as different *because* the proportions are so out of synch.

  • avatar

    I think it must be noted that the B5 A4 & D2 A8 are nearly identically shaped & poroportioned. Bumper,Hood, fenders, doors, roofline same basic idea till the trunklid which is where you realize the A4 has a notched decklid that extends at the top… A8 has a rolled trunk lid top and slopes slightly down to the tail lamps which are wraparound and are a leftover from the early 90’s (a8 circa 1994). The A4’s tail lamps are blistered like wrap around ones from the B4 and B3 however the A4 has no trunklid lamps just the blisterd metal that looks like it should be painted red to finish off the wrap around look. I love the B5 A4 design in both sedan and avant forms… actually the avant is identical to the sedan all the way to the trailing edge of the rear doors… the rear doors are shared between sedan & avant except the window frame for avant is different.



  • avatar

    For sure, the ’83 Audi 5000 (100 in the rest of the world) was a trend setter. But certainly not THE trendsetter. It and the ’85 MB 300E offered the aero formula for the ’80’s and ’90’s. Tall, long, narrow, with skinny wheels. Today it is still not difficult to tell at-a-glance whether a sedan is front or rear driven: the realtionship of the proximity of the front wheel position and the front door leading shutlines. If they are close, it’s FWD, if the front wheels are well forward, it’s RWD. A Chrysler 300C or a Benz E Class look distinctively different from most Camry-type cars for that very reason.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    A discussion of modern automotive styling, and not one whisper of the Cadillac CTS and its Art + Science theme? Have we all missed something here, or is this an example of the Audi 5000 not having had an influence? Enquiring minds want to know.

  • avatar

    A line bisecting the hood and front bumper in this day in age is a pretty crude throw back to deccades of the past. The Audi 5000 did have such a bisection line down the middle of it’s hood and front bumper.

  • avatar

    geozinger nails it. The “high-butt” wedge shape started with the Australian designed and built Leyland P-76 in 1973.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    You all talk about what came after audi 5000. I had both the sedan and the wagen for my wife (it was stunning for a wagen), but think about what was marketed in the 80’s for cars. You take a block of ivory soap, you cut out the front in a square for the engine, and you cut out a smaller block in the back for the trunk. You now add square windows and presto you have a 80’s mostly anything. Audi changed it all and was 10 years ahead of everyone. Even the five cylinder engine was different. If 60 minutes didn’t do a falsification of unintended acceleration, they would have had an even longer run in the U.S. ps for those who don’t remember, a couple of housewives ran over their children in the driveway and said the car like a monster just reared up and flattened junior. While no one knows the real motive, it appears that not wanting to admint carelessness, these mothers picked up the story after reading it from other incidents in the news. CBS had a lab drill holes in the transmission and inject high pressure air into it to simulate the event since it couldn’t be made to do it eithout a child in front and a mother at the wheel. (hard to get kids to volunteer for these things anyway). So yes they accelerated with no one touching the pedals, just the hidden technician hitting the air button. The German technicians flew in and said “let’s simulate this” they put their foot on the brake and floored the accelerator and the car reared up roared and smoked, but it didn’t move. Naturally the Germans were made to look like nazis not wanting to own up to killing kids. CBS never apologized for rigging the test (a thing they did with gas tanks on gm pickups also) and the sales of the Audis tanked in America. A sad end for a 21st century car sold in the 80’s.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Small point of clarification, but it was Dateline NBC that took credit for rigging a GM C/K pickup to blow its gas tank. Another example of how well we’ve been served by the mainstream American media.

  • avatar
    crackity jones

    My yuppie parents drove us around in an Audi 5000 back in the day. The seminal nature of the 5000 escaped me in the back seat, at least.

    I don’t agree with snout-bashing the current look. Audi fans like me want a little bit more intensity from their designs. I’m glad they’ve added some ‘tude with this current line-up, though the design could definitely be improved on.

    I admit I’m not a purist. I like new ideas, even if sometimes they’re wonky.

  • avatar

    I must say the best designed sedan is the D2 A8. The proportions are shared with the A4, however look much better when stretched to A8 proportions. The subtle chrome accents mixed with the slab siding are more elegant than anything else on the road, and the back of the car is possibly the best on the road. Look at the back of an S8, and if it doesn’t spell muscle to you, a trip to the optometrist would be a great idea.

  • avatar

    I still have a T44 as my daily driver (91 200 quattro).

    Alas, as gas prices continue to ratchet upwards we’ll see more and more of the ford focus hatchback body styles where passenger space takes precedence over all else.

  • avatar

    The Audi 5000 DID have a throttle surging problem–consumer advocates be damned. The engine would surge for no reason. They never figured out why, although there were plenty of investigative reporters looking into it.

    This was also the first vehicle that caused people to flat out ignore the “fix engine light” because it was always on, for no reason.

    I actually got my drivers license in a 1985 model.

  • avatar


    See, I didn’t really touch on the whole issue of quality. (Actually, I did, but that paragraph didn’t survive my initial efforts to get a 1200-word piece down to 800 words.) I actually really like Audis. I’m not sure the overall tone of my piece conveyed that adequately. But facts are facts, and Audi’s early quality-control problems are well known.

    I still want an early-80s 4000, though. Doesn’t even have to be a Quattro.

  • avatar

    I remember when the Audi 5000 debuted. I was in Germany at the time, and the car was sold as the Audi 100. It first came to the public over there in 1982.

    The car was based on the Audi Forschungsauto – Research Car – which was introduced at the German Autoshow in 1978-79. The final form of the Audi 100 differed very little from that car.

    The Audi 100 truly represented a masterpiece of design. This may have been the first time that a manufacturer (with the possible exception of the Mercedes W126) paid attention to minute details in design for reasons other than pure aestetics. Weight was kept to a minimum to save fuel – plastic wheelcaps, small spare tire, aluminum, no ornamentation, etc. and every detail was subjected to the aerodymnamic windtunnel. The idea was to reduce wind drag to reduce noise and save on gas. Form following function was the dictating mantra at the time. At a time where such cars as the Ford Taunus or Granada where the norm in design – cars that barely are remembered today, the Audi was beautiful and timeless – just like the Audis of today.

    I would disagree that most cars today follow the Audi’s proportions. The Audi set a trend at the time, along with the Ford Sierra, but today’s cars are simply the design of changing tastes. What does the new Toyota Camry have in common with the simple lines of th Audi? Nothing, other than having four tires, an engine, a trunk, etc.

    It’s easy to criticize 25 years later. I miss the author’s point.

  • avatar

    I guess you did miss my point, userinottawa. I wasn’t criticizing the 5000, but rather the unthinking imitation of the 5000. I was also lamenting the lack of a new way to think about what a car could or should look like.

  • avatar

    August 5th, 2006 at 9:41 am
    To my eyes, Audis have always looked fantastic, whether it be the 5000 or the A8. Other manufacturers following suit is no bad thing, when done right, but my biggest disappointment is that Audi has decided to follow its competitiors, BMW and Mercedes, in having a big, look at me grill in recent years. In my opinion (I don’t know if I am alone in this), this me too-ism has ruined all of Audis good design work and has taken a style leader and turned them into a fashion victim.”

    I couldn’t disagree more if my life depended on it. MB and BMW have enjoyed a strong brand image for many years, coupled with a design philosophy that allows alot of people to be able to immediately identify the brand; that’s a part of the strong brand image which Audi failed to achieve for a long time. For example, yank all badging off an old BMW and you still immediately know it’s a BMW. Yank all badging off a pre-big-grill Audi, and the fact is 99% of folks would have a hard time telling you what it is. Audi’s new design changes all that, for better or for worse. Love it or hate it you will definitely notice it and come to know it’s an Audi, and that’s exactly what the madmen of Stuttgart wanted.

  • avatar

    ACK I meant Ingolstadt, sorry.

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  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Kyree Williams, United States