“How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris?” So said the farmer to his wife about the chances that their sons would return home following the end of the First World War. The societal implications aren’t quite so large, but the same might be wondered about the redesigned-for-2012 Audi A6. Now that the sexy A7 is available, why get the staid sedan with which it shares a chassis, powertrain, and interior?
I needed a suitable car for a spirited 500-mile run to the “coolest small town in America,” and back. One leaped to mind: the Audi S4 with its optional active differential. In our first encounter, the current “B8” S4 underwhelmed me. Though quick and capable, it just didn’t feel special. “A4 3.0T” seemed more apt. But that car lacked the trick diff. And metro Detroit’s roads aren’t the most challenging. A re-test was warranted. The roads of Southeastern Ohio and West Virginia would provide it.
Tick off all the boxes on an Audi Q5 order form, and you’ll find yourself staring at a $58,350 tab. Too much for a compact crossover? Well, the example seen here will set you back $20,000 less. Now I know what you’re thinking: “A mere $38,400 for a right-sized chunk of German engineering? Sign me up!” Not so fast—to save twenty large you must give up something. But what?
Large four-door cars with the style of a coupe aren’t a recent innovation. But early attempts, like the 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora, failed to captivate car buyers. It fell to Mercedes to launch the “four-door coupe” segment with the 2006 CLS. Though sales have long since dwindled to exotic car levels, back when the CLS was new about 2,000 of them left dealer lots each month. This apparently provided sufficient motivation for other manufacturers to offer their own “four-door coupes.” Volkswagen didn’t stray far from the original with its CC. Audi, on the other hand, has taken a very different approach with the new 2012 A7.
The crossover is the new minivan, and in an age of $4-per-gallon gasoline, the fuel-efficient crossover is all the rage. While minivan-mommies may disagree for the sake of image, ask yourself: how is your crossover different than your parent’s minivan? The minivan sprang out of the station wagon revolt and the CUV is the result of minivan denial. As usual, the formula is the same: start with a sedan, add a taller box, toss in some optional AWD to make buyers think they are getting something rugged and you get instant sales success (unless you’re a Chrysler, but that’s a different review). This CUV formula wrought on an A4 creates the Audi Q5, one of Audi’s hottest selling models in the US market. Sales of the cute-ute soared over 70% to just over 23,000 in 2010 and show no signs of cooling with January sales up 50% over 2010. To keep the momentum (and CAFE numbers) going in the right direction, Audi has mated the corporate 2.0T engine to the latest 8-speed auto from ZF creating the 2011 Q5 2.0T Quattro.
The Audi A8’s fifteen minutes of fame in Super Bowl XLV showed that Audi did not intend for its flagship to fall into the luxury sedan trap of courting mainstream aspirational lust with a stodgy, obviously “upscale” demeanor. And since America’s economic recovery is too halting to inspire over-the-top indulgence, and Mercedes owns the “bulk-and-bling” approach to luxury anyway, Audi’s attempt at a more subtle, sophisticated brand of luxury flagship makes good marketing sense on paper. But does Audi’s cleaner, leaner design aesthetic strike the right tone for a “new era of luxury,” or does it doom this A8 to the over-subtlety that kept its predecessors from breakinginto the mainstream of full-sized luxury? More to the point, does Audi’s sophisticated marketing message reflect a car that really does offer a different approach to luxury? Let’s find out…
Everyone hates the BMW M3. If you need proof of that, simply look at the sheer number of times auto manufacturers compare their latest wares to the M3. The green-eyed monster is alive and well for a reason: the M3 is a performance legend whether or not you agree it’s the performance king. The M3 is Elvis, King Arthur, Robin Hood and the Fountain of Youth all rolled into one. The seemingly insurmountable task of dethroning the M3 encourages all manner of attempts from every unlikely angle of the automotive world from the former Volvo V70R to the Nissan 350Z. In Audi’s corner: the S5 coupe.
“Didn’t he say they had only one of the new A8s?”
“That’s an A4, Dad.”
Some people will walk away at this point, refusing to even consider spending $85,000+ on a car that can be so easily confused with one costing less than half as much. A similar problem killed GM’s luxury car sales back in the second half of the 1980s. But, by walking away, are these buyers missing out on the best large luxury sedan on the market?
Coupe – feminine noun. Cutting; cutting out; cut. According to the Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary at least, this is the definition of a word that always held special promise for car lovers worldwide. But the evocative nature of the term, and the fact that French is no longer the world’s lingua franca, have given today’s automakers license to apply the term to almost anything. If a car’s roof line even remotely resembles a rotten piece of a banana, it’s a coupe. Marketing, after all, is a more powerful force than grammar.
It is said of Frank Lloyd Wright that he was an unbelievably annoying and offensive man; worse than that, every home he ever built ended up with a leaky roof. More than eight years ago, the first major gathering of North American TT owners took place, not at a racetrack or in the banal confines of a convention-center parking lot, but in the shadow of Wright’s residential masterpiece, Fallingwater. It was an apt choice for an automobile which has chosen form over function since its introduction. Among the quartet of small German sportsters — Audi TT, Porsche Boxster, BMW Z, and Mercedes SLK — only the TT is a transverse-engined front-driver, only the TT is currently supplied in North America with a four-cylinder engine, and only the TT features rear seats, improbable as they may be. Those of us who remember the Sesame Street song “One of These Things Is Not Like The Other” will have no trouble picking out the Audi as the one which, indeed, is not like the others.
Review: Audi TT-S Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
Once upon a time, S was for Audis what M was for BMWs. A decade ago Audi took an A4, added a pair of turbos to the V6, stiffened the suspension, plus-oned the alloys, and tagged the result the S4. A special driving experience that became more special (if less moddable) when the 250-horsepower turbo V6 was replaced by a 340-horsepower V8 a few years later. The A4 was redesigned for 2009, and this year there’s a new S4. The V8 has been tossed in favor of a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that kicks out 333 horsepower. Is the resulting car worthy of the S?
After urbane styling and precise road manners made Audi a real player in the luxury sports sedan market with the late ‘90s A6, the Ingolstadt Werkmeisters took a more conservative route with the third-generation A6. It became larger, more architectural than haute couture, and softer. For 2009, though, Audi decided to give the A6 an adrenaline shot right to the heart: a new engine that transforms this car from wallflower to stealth wildcat.
The process of writing a car review often feels like creating a “Mad Lib”. TTAC readers old enough to have taken a long road trip in the pre-GameBoy era may remember Mad Libs; they are little booklets with blanks for nouns, verbs, proper names, and so on. One person comes up with the nouns and verbs, another person writes them into the blanks, and hilarity ensues. Car and Driver appears to be almost entirely written by Mad Lib nowadays, but those oh-so-seductive English big-format car rags aren’t above doing a little fill-in-the-blank action themselves.
Review: 2009 Audi A6 3.0T Quattro Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
One of the enduring lessons of the car game is that good vehicles don’t always sell well. As a car writer who took on news analysis before ever getting manufacturer-sponsored time behind the wheel, this lesson can’t help but tinge my impressions of a road test. So when my first weeklong tester arrived in the form of a Q7 TDI, I felt no desire to justify Audi’s decision to bring the thing to market. After all, by any reasonable analysis, the brand built by Quattro wagons should have been the primary beneficiary of America’s SUV craze. Or, at least its worst enemy. Instead the Q7 showed up for the party fashionably dressed but fashionably late. And very few wanted to buy it. With the high price of luxo ute party fuel already killing the festive vibes, is switching to a new drink enough to make Audi’s SUV sales party like its 1999?
Review: 2010 Audi Q7 TDI Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
On paper, the Audi A3 TDI is an exercise in futility. The model shares platform bits with a Golf Rabbit. It’s smaller than a Jetta Sportwagen. It carries a lofty price premium; the diesel-powered A3 “boasts” the same engine that can be had across the street at the Vee-Dub for thousands less. It’s not as fast, sporty or capacious as the rear wheel-drive BMW 335d. By any rational measure, the A3 TDI is an answer to a question that few Americans even thought about asking. Which is why it’s better to judge the A3 TDI “in the flesh.”
Review: 2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars