By on September 27, 2012
You’ve seen the Baldwin brothers. Canadians are very acquainted with the Sutter hockey dynasty. At their best, any of the nine Jackson siblings could almost pass for any of the other eight.

Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, I don’t know for sure. People I’ve never met – which is a large group of people – have an uncanny ability to identify me as a Cain. For all I know, my grandfather sold them a horse in the 60s. Perhaps my father taught them high school economics in the 70s. My uncle possibly sold them a Dodge Aries in the 80s. Maybe my brother ordered their parts at the Suzuki dealership in the 90s. Certain genes flow more fervently. Thus, I’m identifiable.

The Baldwins, Sutters, Jacksons, and a family you’ve never heard of in Atlantic Canada know how the Audi Crosslane Coupe Concept feels. Eleven years ago in Paris, Audi displayed the Steppenwolf. The Crosslane appears to be the same vehicle, details aside. It’s almost as though Audi designers went on vacation this summer. At the last second, Audi executives realized they had nothing new to show in Paris. One guy was brought back from a staycation in Rothenburg ob der Tauber with the temptation of time-and-a-half to rework the Steppenwolf. Eleven years later.

I didn’t attend art school. My formal car design education includes reading Tony Lewin’s How To Design Cars Like A Pro and, for a while, reading Robert Cumberford’s piece in Automobile and Stephen Bayley’s column in CarI do study car sales, however, and I know that the Steppenwolf’s descendants, the Q7 and Q5, have been major players for Audi. 33,906 Q models were sold in the U.S. last year.

Think back to the pre-Q era: the U.S. new vehicle market shrunk 24.8% from calendar year 2005 to calendar year 2011, yet Audi USA sales were 41.5% higher in 2011 than in 2005. That growth wasn’t powered by preexisting Audis, however. Excluding the Q5 and the Q7, Audi USA posted a 2011 increase of 0.7% compared with 2005. Models which were on sale in 2005 and still on sale in 2011 actually slid 16.8%. That’s something, of course, as the overall industry’s decline was much worse.

Nevertheless, the reason you see more new Audis on the road now than in 2005 is because there are more Audis to be sold. Audi’s best-seller, the A4, suffered a 28% decline between 2005 and 2011, a drop that’s worse than what the overall market endured. Audi sold 34,495 more vehicles in 2011 than in 2005. Audi’s core models didn’t make that happen. In order to fuel the volume expansion, Audi brought to market the A5, A7, R8, Q5, and Q7. Collectively, those five models found 56,706 buyers last year.

Would importing the Q3 to North America be a mistake? BMW has found plenty of Canadian success with the X1. We don’t need a Crosslane-inspired Q2, but then again, we don’t need 333-horsepower S5 Cabriolets, either. Audi wants to sell more cars. If greater market share in the 3-Series/C-Class segment can’t be won, conquering or creating a new crossover niche isn’t the worst idea coming out of a product planner’s brainstorming session.

Sadly, if the Crosslane Coupe Concept does become a production Q2, it will look just like every other Audi. Unfortunately, Audi’s successful design team, the one which brought us the wildly unique first-generation TT and then totally distinguished the R8 from the Gallardo, is looking back eleven years rather than coming up with new ideas. I grew up in Audis. My father exchanged his four times when the odometer rang up 100,000 kilometres. Yet while I’ll urge luxury car buyers to consider an Audi when they’d otherwise make the default E-Class or RX350 choice, I’m personally losing interest

Audi is most certainly not the only automaker designing cars this way. You’re not the only one routinely asking yourself, “Which BMW is that?”, or, “Is that really a new Aston Martin model?” The Crosslane’s lack of originality just happen to make it the latest egregious example of a disappointing trend.

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19 Comments on “Editorial: Out Of Ideas: Audi Crosslane Is Another Steppenwolf, But That Probably Won’t Matter...”

  • avatar

    I figured when the ‘carpocolypse’ occurred in 2008 the first people fired were the stylists. Not many cars from any manufacturers are even remotely interesting these days, aside from Dodge’s almost insanely unhealthy obsession with reviving the late 1960’s. There seems to be a contest among manufacturers to design the blandest, least interesting sedans and crossovers on the planet painted in the latest shades of grey/silver/whatever.

    • 0 avatar

      Out of curiosity: what kind of post-1950’s car do think looks really good?

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda 6? Me likely.

    • 0 avatar

      I happen to think some of the most aesthetically attractive and innovative styling came out of the 1960’s, after the garish chrome and tailfin era of the 1950’s and before the bloated excesses of the dreadful 1970’s. Cars that were long and low with tasteful amounts of chrome trim and available in a wide variety of bodystyles from flashy convertibles to interesting hardtops to functional wagons. Cars like the 1962-1969 Impala, 1963-1967 Corvette, the original Mustang, Chrysler 300, and most of the first generation muscle cars. The key feature was variety. Today, how many cars are offered in any bodystyle other than sedan or crossover? How many cars offer interiors that aren’t charcoal or beige? How many cars offer more than 5 exterior colours, 3 of which are some variety of silver?

      Granted, today’s cars may be tops in terms of reliability, longevity, and fuel economy, but style is not an abundant feature.

  • avatar

    I really like the Crosslane!

    As a wanna-be auto designer, I believe Audi has some of the cleanest designs on the market.

    How does the Crosslane look like any other car? That’s an Audi I would perhaps like to drive and own, someday.

    As far as one car looking like another, well, that’s what sells, and it’s all about numbers.

  • avatar

    I’ll tellya what it is to me: a futuristic, Teutonic Lada Niva!

  • avatar

    Weird. I think the new Audi nose is absolutely the best sedan face in the industry. I don’t care if it’s similar on the A3 or the S7 because it looks fantastic. Strong, simple, tough, elegant.

    I’d never actually buy an Audi because I don’t really want a nose-heavy AWD sedan, but I do think they are great additions to the automotive scenery, a million times better than the latest alienware from BMW and Mercedes.

    Such is life…

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Mercedes have become overwrought caricatures of the cars they once were. HUGE grills and obscene swoops all over the place. They used to be elegant.

      BMW…they’re getting better now that Bangle has left. I curse Audi for the LED Christmas light headlight treatments I see everywhere, but the ones on the Audis do looks darned sexy.

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        On a personal note, I like Audi’s new approach to installing the LED light bars instead of the row of superbright individual LEDs of the 1st R8.

        Oh and I hate how the first iteration of those LEDs (and corresponding headlamp) would extinguish when you turned on your blinker.

  • avatar

    I think that Audi has the most attractive line up of any mainstream brand and i frankly dont care if it stays looking about the same for a while. I feel that too often, automakers obsess with making things look different. I am more of the opinion that things should only change to make the car function better, or to reflect technological change. Therefore fancy Audi headlights are cool, but constant change, not so much.

    But then again, what do I know? I don’t sell cars, next thing you know carmakers will make their interiors intuitive and functional instead of stylish.

  • avatar

    I prefer the Toyota RSC concept from awhile back to this.

  • avatar

    Anyone else think it looks like a modern take on an AMC General (or at least a Pacer with big wheels)?

  • avatar

    “You’ve seen the Baldwin brothers”

    You mean Daniel, William, Alec and Stephen, the known Baldwin boys right? Not the unnamed “Ugly” Baldwin who lives as a troll, locked in a closet at the Baldwin compound for the last 40 years, and on occassion dragged out for his weekly beating/hosing off, right? Just wanted to be sure.

  • avatar

    Audi seems to be operating as good time but not long time, aren’t they are too expensive to keep after W ran out?

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Neat a bit of vintage Quattro with Q5. We do need more 2 door CUV’s. I like the roof design. Could this portend the return of targa’s and T-roof’s?

  • avatar

    The name “Crosslane” conjures up images of stay-at-home trophy wives doing just that, with a cellphone on their ears, crying toddler in the back, as they do what they can to catch that highway exit at the last minute from the far left lane because they weren’t paying enough attention.

  • avatar

    “One guy was brought back from a staycation in Rothenburg ob der Tauber with the temptation of time-and-a-half to rework the Steppenwolf.”

    A nice story, but in reality the Crosslane is much more than a hastily thrown together styling exercise. See here for details:

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