Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that the Audi TT is based on the VW Golf, which can be had for under $18,000. And it can seem silly when people buy an econobox then pour multiples of the purchase price into mods. When Audi does the same to create the $57,725 TT RS, how can we take the end result seriously?
Americans are smart people. Avoid the word “wagon” in favor of “Avant,” and they still see a wagon. And don’t buy it. So for 2013 there are no more Avants for us. Instead, the “allroad” is back. Audi promises that it’s more than just a fancy name.
“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?