By on March 15, 2010

Just as Toyota has coasted in recent years on a reputation built some time ago, Audi’s latest round of interior-cheapening has gone largely unremarked-upon in the motoring press. Sitting in the new A4, I don’t find myself thinking, as Motor Trend did, that its “high-quality materials and clean, attractive design continue to live up to Audi’s stellar reputation as the industry benchmark.” In fact, the interiors of nearly every current Audi (except the A8 and TT) strike me as cheap, disappointing and monumentally uninspired. In other words, the opposite of living up to Audi’s reputation.

Good thing the reviewers haven’t noticed, because this picture of the next-generation A6 [via Auto Motor und Sport print edition] seems to indicate that the current batch of dreary interiors was a fluke. If the production model [on sale in Germany in early 2011] comes anywhere close to this A8-inspired vision, with its stripped-down, yet distinctive aesthetic (complete with wood finish apparently borrowed from the Phantom Drophead Coupe’s rear deck), we’ll all be able to pretend that Audi never lost its way. Which, frankly, is a lot easier than figuring out a new consensus for best interiors in the industry.

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33 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Back Like That Edition...”

  • avatar

    Isn’t that just the A7 concept from about a year ago?

    • 0 avatar

      Using my limited German knowledge, the caption on the picture says, more or less, A7 as well as A6. So, you’re right, but it’s also still the A6.

  • avatar

    Maybe I don’t drive Audis often enough, but I found the latest A4’s cabin absolutely sublime. Even if it’s not as good as the old A4, if the current A4/A5’s cabin is “cheap” then to be honest I can’t even conceive of what might be a “nice” interior.

    BTW, yeah that’s the A7 Sportback Concept’s interior; I imagine the production A7 will be pretty similar but I’d be surprised if it still had that wood trim. Which is a shame, because it’s awesome.

  • avatar

    The wood trim looks like the decking on a yacht it’s fantastic.

  • avatar

    Were they taking styling cues from the 1980’s Enterprise D design? It’s pretty neat looking, but I wouldn’t want that for my daily driver.

  • avatar

    I think they spent a big part of the interior budget on installing that giant shiny brake-override pedal on the left side of the driver’s toe box.

  • avatar


    that’s out of style in houses… what makes them think it works in cars?

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I disagree. I have an S4 cabrio, which I love. But I can’t wait to get an S5 Cab. The interior in my car is very nice, and it’s still nicer than 99% of other cars on the road. It’s amazing how they can find a way to use real wood, aluminum and leather where other cars still use plasti-luminum, plasti-wood and vinyl where they don’t think you’ll notice. After five years, the use of high quality materials is why the car still looks new… with the exception of over-designed cup holders that don’t work well. As much as I like my car, Audi’s previous generations are not on the same level as the newest Audis.

  • avatar

    Interior-wise, the new models cannot hold a candle in front of the B5s. Audi is spending a lot on electronics and cutting costs on quality of plastic, wood and leather. Like we do not get enough of flat screens at home and work, we need to stare at one constantly while driving. They are banning cell-phone usage while driving but 12″ displays popping up in the dashboard are safe…

  • avatar

    My first Audi was an ’89 90 (an upscale 80, that would have been the later CS nomenclature, I believe). It was my favorite interior. Easy to read analog meters with a center cluster accessory gauge triad all trimmed in a light zebrano wood. The V8 had, to my mind, the best interior of the bunch, with the 200 right behind. These interiors were almost as nice as the equivalent Mercs of the era. My next A4 had a lacquered darker wood (not sure what), but was just as ergonomic and unassuming. Unable and unwilling to throw down the price of today’s A4, I have a new Passat. While not as “appointed” it too has uncluttered and tasteful interior. Say what you will about German quality (or lack thereof), I just can’t get used to the Japanese “Boeing 747” cockpit school of interior design (“Yumiko, must add more buttons and flashing LEDs–American guy like colorful lights”). Interiors obviously designed by moonlighting JVC boom box engineers.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian E

      I like what you describe as the 747 school of interior design. Yes, the buttons can be a bit heavy, but overall I prefer an interior look that’s highly technological to one that has what some call “old world” charm. Wood does absolutely nothing for me; I don’t want to be driving around in what someone’s idea of a trendy designer flat looks like.

      While my 1G TSX isn’t perfect, I much prefer the ambiance to that of the current generation A4. I haven’t seen one in the metal yet, but the inside of the new ZDX seems just about perfect – acres of leather and real metal, and not a plank of dead tree in sight. The CTS-V looks rather nice too, as the wood in the standard CTS trim is substituted with carbon fiber.

    • 0 avatar

      Say what you will about German quality (or lack thereof), I just can’t get used to the Japanese “Boeing 747″ cockpit school of interior design…

      We have both a German and a Japanese vehicle in our household, and there are days when I wish I could merge the soothing, sublime visual and tactile qualities of the German vehicle with the easy-to-use, menu-less user interface of the Japanese one.

  • avatar

    When the wife’s A4 was in the shop (yeah, yeah, whatever, they fixed it for free and never even burped about it), we made them pony up a driver, and the rental agency gave us a G35(7?). My wife was ecstatic to get her Audi back. The interiors are in different universes as far as I can tell. Not a real fan of how those Infiniti’s drive either, they seem a bit crude especially next to a 3 series. I know people have different tastes so don’t start yelling at me. If you want to whine about the catastrophic failures of modern BMWs/Audis/VWs, fine, but I like mine and since most of my early life was spent in Fiats and Alfas I have learned how to take care of cars to make them last…

  • avatar

    While I’ll agree that Audi has cut a few corners on their most recent cars, such as using lower quality/harder plastics on the lower door panels or that shiny-plasticky gauge surround on the dash of the new S4/A4, all in all Audi still does a great job.

    Frankly, with the overall improvements they’ve made in both dynamics and reliability, I’m more than willing to put up with the increased use of hard plastics on non-critical surfaces.

  • avatar

    See, that looks like something out of an early eighties K-car to me, although I’m sure it doesn’t feel like one.

    Wood belongs in Jaguars, Rollers, and Morgans. Modern A6, not so much.

    And why is the slab dash back again? Consoles took over for a reason: better ergonomics.

    Grumble grumble.

  • avatar

    I know I may make a controversial statement here, but …

    The interiors look great initially, and are really well put together. By 75K though all of that soft touch stuff on the door handles is peeling away, and things are starting to fall off. Not that this is a fair comparison, but my W124 1995 E300D interior may not have been stylish, but at 300K miles the interior was indistinguishable from new, where my partner’s 2001 A4 had the above described look.

    Don’t get me wrong though, I still think Audi has some of the best interiors on the market.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s more like the truth.

      I knew a 3-series owner and a VW owner, and both cars had rubberized surfaces. After a few years, the rubber flakes off and the parts that hadn’t flaked off were black and covered in hand-grime.

    • 0 avatar

      The peeling was an issue on many cars that first used the rubberized coatings. Exacerbated by the oils in certain skin-care lotions from what I understand. Supposedly the problem was figured out and fixed by ’05-06 or so. Time will tell. Certainly in the Saab world, the ’03-05 9-3s have this issue, but ’06+ do not seem to.

      I like the Audi interior – it’s a little “fancy” but when you drop $60-70K on a car why not get a little fancy?

    • 0 avatar

      My mom’s 06 9-3 has the peeling issue to some extent – it’d really piss me off. That said, the car’s so nice to drive that it’s easy to forget about the interior once the car is moving…

      My 2005 9-5 is really nice; I wonder if the 2006 decontenting is responsible for the savage TTAC reviews of post-2005 9-5s. After looking at a ton of 2000 to 2004 era cars, Audi included, the 9-5 was my favorite interior design-wise. The wrap around dash makes symmetric center pillar stuff seem really foolish after you get used to it. The materials may not be quite up to par – in particular there are bits which are vinyl rather than leather – but the rest is pretty nice.

      I drove a 2003 BMW 528i, and the interior in that was not only falling apart, but just felt loose and… wrong, somehow. It bugged the hell out of me for some reason.

      The shot of the above Audi does look pretty cool, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Uncle Mellow

      This is my impression as well . the interior of my Jap car was nothing special when new , but after 12 years it’s still as good as new. Audi interiors are really good when they’re new , but don’t last very well.

  • avatar

    I am glad I am not the only one who has sat in an A4 and thought, “wow, that is a poor copy of a Lexus IS interior”.

    Never bothered with Audi before, and when I went to go buy one because of all the superlatives heaped on the interior, I didn’t see much reason for it. I’d put it slightly ahead of the 3-series and C-class, on par with the G, and behind the IS for luxury materials.

    Oddly enough though, I would buy in the opposite order.

    • 0 avatar

      Personally, I’ve never thought Audi interiors have ever exceeded those of Lexus, Infiniti, or Mercedes, though they did finally catch up with the 2003+ A8. The interior of an early 90’s ES300, LS400, J30 or Q45 is still a knockout in my eyes.

  • avatar

    Channeling my inner Bob Lutz: perception is reality. I sat in an Audi or two at the local auto show and didn’t find them all that special. In fact, all the German cars have what seems to me to be a sterile look and feel. Had I bought one I’d probably stopped worrying about the haptics after the first few hundred miles, but that’s my take.

    • 0 avatar

      Sit in the S6 and you’ll feel differently, but I would agree on the pedestrian versions of the Audis. You’ve got to drop bank to get the REALLY nice interior (55k+)

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    That’s a good looking interior? Really?

    I agree it’s not dreary, but it’s far from good looking.

  • avatar

    I have to concur with those who complain about Audi interiors falling apart. Here is an incomplete list of the pieces of plastic that fell off my 2002 Allroad during the 87,000 miles we owned it:

    – cover on both driver and passenger seat motors (or something) — fell off almost immediately, never stayed on, ever. Just threw them away.

    – passenger side power seat fore-aft switch button (fortunately it was set at a decent position at time of death); due to stupid design involving tiny metal pins that disappeared once the button fell off, required a $400 replacement part as well as removing the entire seat since the part installed into the seat from the inside

    – cargo area cover (retaining thingies broke almost immediately)

    – all four cup holders (over-engineered nightmares) — breakage of the cute pop-up center console cup holder took many other stupid little pieces of plastic with it into the abyss

    – rear lid release switch button on driver-side door sill — just popped out and disappeared

    – both rear ashtrays

    – front ashtray / coin holder complex

    – over-engineered weird rotating cover on 12V power receptacle in cargo area

    – fuzzy-covered panel on inside of rear lid

    – warning triangle retainer above aforementioned fuzzy-covered panel

    – most of the pieces of the back end of the center console including two round covers on either side of the center armrest hiding an incredible solid machined aluminum hinge assembly that permitted the armrest to rotate 90 degrees

    – radio power button / volume knob; fortunately it could be swapped with the tuning knob

    – and of course ever Audi of this vintage has obscured the meaning of various buttons coated in heat-shrunk rubbery plastic (for example the + and – buttons for the climate control become undifferentiated blobs of white), replacement involves removal of the radio and lots more

    All of this — that I felt like replacing anyway — came to well over $2000 in parts alone.

    Essentially, most of the breakages related to the use of little plastic tabs that were not up to the forces they were being asked to carry, or should never have been interacting with the metal underneath them. The mechanical integrity of the car was not much better and a lot of the common problems were due to a similar misguided use of materials — the air suspension air bags that would puncture from normal road dirt, the original 2.7T water pump with the plastic impeller, etc.

  • avatar

    Agreed. Where are the underseat drawers, the slot for the owner’s manual, among many other missing items?

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    I must be easy on interiors. My last A4 (2006) never had anything break, wear out or fall off. My current A4 with 20,000 miles, is the same story. In fact, the two cars, with a combined 69,000 miles, have never had a repair done except for those problematic lower control arms on the current one. As for comparing the two models, there’s no question that the ’06 had better materials quality, though the styling was overly dull. Now the styling is better but the plastics in particular are cheaper looking and more prevalent. As for an overall comparison of the two, the newer model is far better in most every respect. My current 4 cylinder is considerably faster than the previous one, and it rides better and handles much better. However, it maybe be slightly noisier, though not by much. It’s also roomier inside, though some might prefer a smaller car. To me, the most unforgiveable thing they did was put a silver painted piece of plastic across the driver’s side of the dash surrounding the gauges. Would it have cost so much to use aluminum or stainless steel in such a prominent spot? I think they even do this in the upmarket models. A dumb misstep. Conclusion though is that it’s still a very satisfying car and I’d almost certainly get another if I needed to.

  • avatar

    Anybody else get an early 80s deja vu looking at that ad?

    Perhaps a Pioneer ad?

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