By on August 24, 2017

Audi A8 naming numbering, Image: Audi AG

Remember the good old days, back when the numerical part of a car model’s alphanumeric name usually referred to its placement in the lineup or engine size? That went out with powdered wigs and polio. Get with the times. You can’t even count on Mercedes-Benz or BMW to follow through on that anymore.

Audi, however, seems to be blazing a confusing new trail, one that hopefully doesn’t become the norm within the industry. The automaker announced today it will tack an extra number onto existing alphanumeric names, describing not the displacement, not the wheelbase, but the specific vehicle’s power ranking within the model’s range — using a two-digit number (which means nothing on its own) as a signifier of the vehicle’s horsepower.

Prepare to feel nostalgic.

“Within the model families, combinations of two numbers will replace the various type designations previously used,” the automaker announced. “The new designations stand for the specific power output and apply both to cars with combustion engines and to e-tron models with hybrid and electric drives.”

Affecting every model from the tiny, Europe-only A1 to the range-topping A8 sedan and Q7 SUV, the new naming system hasn’t exactly gone over well with the automotive press. Regardless, it looks like the extra numbers are here to stay.

Here’s what to expect. Vehicles generating 109 to 129 horsepower (who wants that?) carry a “30” designation, while those making 147 to 161 hp receive a “35” on the trunklid. 168 to 201 hp? That earns a model a “40.” On and on it goes up the ladder — 45, 50 (55 isn’t confirmed, reports Wards Auto), 60, topping out at 536-plus-horsepower performance models worthy of a “70” designation.

S and RS models keep their existing names under the new system, as does the R8. As well, all models will keep a reference to the engine technology hiding under the hood — TFSI, TDI, e-tron — so buyers know what they’re dealing with. The first model carrying the extra numerical baggage is the next-generation 2018 A8 due out this fall (launched in A8 50 TDI and A8 55 TFSI versions).

So, who dreamed up this plan? The powers that be in Ingolstadt surely didn’t just wake up one morning and decide en masse to fling numbers around like currywurst after a soccer match. Apparently, the company is hoping to get ahead of confusion caused by new technology.

“As alternative drive technologies become increasingly relevant, engine displacement as a performance attribute is becoming less important to our customers,” said Dr. Dietmar Voggenreiter, Audi AG’s board of management member for sales and marketing, in a statement. “The clarity and logic of structuring the designations according to power output makes it possible to distinguish between the various performance levels.”

Get ready to look down your nose at Audis with a lower “score” than yours.

[Image: Audi AG]

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45 Comments on “Number Crunching: Audi’s New Model Naming Process Inspires Confusion, Math...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    well, at least we know part of Johan’s legacy lives on at Audi.

  • avatar
    ash78

    In 2013, I wrote this little piece of prescient snark on my mothballed car blog. You can basically just move all the years up by 4 and add a few models, it still works.

    Audi to Unveil Decimalized Models by 2016

    Until just a few years ago, Audi offered an array even-numbered car models in its markets around the world. Since then, production flexibility, platform sharing, and improved marketing data have driven the expansion into models like the A5, A7, Q5, Q7, and the still-new-to-America A3.

    “We will continue to develop models that appeal to our more discerning customers. For example, we are currently considering the idea of an A4.3625, which will be slightly larger and more luxurious than an A4, feature two regular doors, two half-sized “suicide doors,” an interior crafted of alligator skin, a 19-speaker, 1800-watt Harmin Cochlea sound system, and a sporty, steeply raked hatchback. In a sense, it’s our answer to the Mazda RX-8. That question was not asked, so we must ask it. It is our near-term goal to accelerate this company, intentionally or otherwise, into the next century.”

    Mueller cited the need to enter this market segment after a single write-in questionnaire response indicated a 28-year-old unmarried male in Framingham, MA, with income between $25,000 and $34,999 would be “likely” to “very likely” to lease such a model in the next 18-24 months.

    He continued, “For Audi, that’s more than enough validation that a solid market exists for this vehicle.”

    Many critics ask whether Audi should focus more heavily on its core A4/6/8 car models, improving variety, content, and pricing to increase and maintain a competitive edge against worldwide rivals BMW and Mercedes. Several companies–notably GM–have been guilty of expanding product lines in an effort to gain segment market share, diluting the overall brand and reducing quality along the way.

    “In Germany, we have a saying ‘Eine Wurst, Funfzehn Groesse’ (one sausage, 15 sizes). You see, BMW have an X3, so we must have a Q5. They have an X5; we must have a Q7. They have an M3 coupe; we must have an S5. They have a 1-series convertible, we must have a…Scheisse.”

    Mr. Mueller then ended the line of questioning abruptly, nervously shouting in German to a coworker in the Product Design group. His assistant later referred us to the product website for the Volkswagen Eos, asking us to imagine four rings on the grille.

    When asked about the possibility of a diesel-powered wagon with manual transmission in the US, Mueller responded “We have heard this request from thousands of online forum users, but to date have not sold a single one to those people. We believe these requests to be a result of a single hacker using ‘alt’ identities to pump up interest in obscure, unprofitable vehicle configurations. Similarly, we will never offer a ute [car with truck bed], nor a vehicle where the model’s numbers indicate the displacement or any other rational metric.”

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    I am always a sucker for this sort of thing where the numbers have meanings, because I think that there’s a little bit of Oldsmobile magic still alive in the world if the start of the number tells you about the chassis and the end of the number tells you about the power. This is probably why “CT6” means nothing to me, as I can tell without a decoder ring that I’m looking at a car and not a CUV or a truck.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    “As alternative drive technologies become increasingly relevant, engine displacement as a performance attribute is becoming less important to our customers,” said Dr. Dietmar Voggenreiter

    Or they’re leaving German cars to people who don’t care about engineering. The problem with German cars is that there still people who buy them. Maybe they would have kept making good cars if there wasn’t a replacement population of non-discerning buyers.

  • avatar
    ajla

    So displacement doesn’t matter to customers but if you call something a ‘520i’ or ‘LC350h’ to match actual displacement it will make their d*cks shrivel up and give the perception of lesser performance.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    I can hear it now, “yo, man, he got a SIXTY in that thin’, that’s pimping.”

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    Stock tip: Invest in fishing line manufacturers.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Great now I’ll be looking at Audis in traffic the same way a dog does when he’s confused by what he’s just encountered. Head cocked to one side, eyebrow raised.

  • avatar
    matt3319

    This idea that Audi has is just beyond stupid. But that’s my opinion. To this day I still don’t like Infiniti’s last name changes. Im still not sure what the G turned into. I really think name changes that make no sense can hurt sales.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Everything became Q, you know, to remind people of Infiniti’s failed flagship that hadn’t been sold new in years.

      I liked Infiniti’s naming scheme before. Denoting the engine size was great…until it wasn’t. By that, I mean that I imagine this is in preparation for when all models will come with a small displacement, forced-induction engine. No bragging rights in having a G20, M20, FX20, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      My wife has a Q60 – I just keep calling it a G37 since that actually makes sense. Really dumb of Infiniti to change names since most people knew what a “G” was.

      Here however Audi just copied Telsa with their 60, 70, 90 versions.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Everyday I learn something new here. I now know (from looking it up in Wikipedia) what currywurst is. Oh, and that Audi has looked at it’s slightly logical naming convention and decided it was too close to making sense.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Okay, I can understand Audi wanting to get ahead of the time when they will be selling a 3 cylinder combustion engine supplemented by electric boost for $60,000, but what is with the arbitrary hp ranges and the gaps between the ranges?

    30 for models with between 109 hp and 129 hp.
    35 for models with between 147 hp and 161 hp.
    40 for models with between 168 hp and 201 hp.
    45 for models with between 226 hp and 248 hp.
    50 for models with between 281 hp and 308 hp.
    60 for models with between 429 hp and 456 hp.
    70 for models with over 536 hp.

  • avatar
    W.Minter

    So many missed chances. They could have gone hexadecimal, THAT would have been a bold move. Or five letters. Or 8 characters, including at last 1 capital letter and 1 number. Or french lingerie sizes. But double digit numbers? Meh.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Model naming idea! Same as the complicated rules for account passwords. 8 characters, at least one capital letter, one special character, and one number.

      If Cadillac sees this – I call dibs on the idea.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I was thinking Chinese characters, or some Egyptian heiroglyphics.

      “Oh, you’ve got a bird-squiggle-water-eye Audi. Cool.”

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I thought this would make my head hurt, but it really isn’t much worse than what they already have.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    BMW has basically already gone to this system, and Audi is following suit, just with the numbers set a bit higher. Luxury customers are mostly gullible and this is the sort of marketing gullible customers get.

  • avatar
    TTCat

    This isn’t actually a new thing – Audi has used this system for years in other markets.

    When I was still looking to buy a new TT here in Colorado a couple of years ago, a Denver dealer had a “55 TFSI” TT on the lot – I asked them WTH that was, they said it had just been mistakenly labeled for North American delivery…

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I’m waiting for the Audi A8 55 STFU.

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    All lux makers should just skip the dance and just attach an LED panel on the back of the car with the TTL paid at the dealership. It’s what consumers really want.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Most important option: Delete engine size badge.

    Oh, I forgot, you don’t special order your vehicles do you? Sad. :-P

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Vehicles generating 109 to 129 horsepower (who wants that?) carry a “30” designation”

    Someone driving an A1 should be pretty pleased with 129HP.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I’d modify the badges to conform to Jack’s recommended nomenclature.

    “The proper solution to all of this is blinding in its simplicity. For the majority of consumers, the number on a BMW or Mercedes is only relevant insofar as it provides an approximate estimate of price . . .”

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/avoidable-contact-an-immodest-proposal-to-solve-the-german-nomenclatural-nincompoopery/

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I liked it when they meant displacement. Made sense.

    This is just stupid. Just put A4/A6/A8 on it and be done with it.

    Does it really matter? Do owners want to be sure they can show off their car has XYZ powerplant and that they’re “better” than owners of the ABC powerplant?

    Probably. I mean I guess it still matters to me if I see a GT or 5.0 badge on a Mustang. But do I care if I see “V6” on a Honda Accord. No.

    I’m sure Audi has done their homework.

    Funny thing is in Germany almost everyone deletes their badges from their cars. Maybe that’s cuz all they can afford there is the 1.4L T with 140hp on their A6. Embarrassing.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      In the US this is pointless since the A3 has only one power output, then the S3. The A4 has only two power output, then the S4.
      In Europe there are a greater range of engines per model, but not here.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    This is a dumb idea anyway, but WTF is the thought behind the HP ranges???? They seem completely random. I’d love for them to explain that part in greater detail…not that it would change my opinion on the idea being dumb.

    Really, only enthusiasts care about anything other than the model name (even even then, does anyone REALLY care?), and displacement and/or whether it’s a V8 are all that is needed beyond that.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    My guess is that Audi will soon become the number one debadged vehicle in North America.

  • avatar
    chnzwh

    Actually Audi had been doing this in China since 2013, and there’s actually a formula to decide that number which goes like this:

    “The New Number” = 100KM / 1 Hour / the vehicle’s 0-100KPH time x 10

    For instance, my Audi Q5 goes from 0 – 100KPH in 7.5s, then the corresponding number is:

    100,000m / 3,600s / 7.5s x 10 = 37.03, and the number 37.03 rounds up to 40. Therefore my Q5 is badged “40 TFSI quattro” on the right side of the tailgate. Note that Audi only uses numbers end with either 0 or 5.

    Around a year back Audi extended this practice to other Asian markets, but I didn’t expect them to do so in NA.

    There are downsides to this naming method. For example, two of the most common engine choices found on Audi A6L (Yes, the LWB version only available in China) were 2.0 TFSI with 180 HP and 2.5 FSI with 190 HP, and the latter has a higher price tag as it has bigger displacement and two more cylinders. However when it comes to 0-100 times the 2.5 FSI model is actually slower than the 2.0 TFSI model. To address this, Audi named the 2.5 FSI model with “30 FSI” while the 2.0 TFSI model was simply badged “TFSI” on the back.

    FWIW, Volkswagen in China had also started a similar practice, but rather than using a complicated formula, they simply add 30 to the torque number of the engines and name the cars that way:

    1.4 TSI with 250 N.m -> 280 TSI
    1.8 TSI with 300 N.m -> 330 TSI
    2.0 TSI with 350 N.m -> 380 TSI

    A 2.0TSI Tiguan is badged: 380TSI 4Motion

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of the new naming system; I even had people asking me whether my Q5 has a 4 liter displacement. After a while I simply pulled the number “40” off my tailgate and live with “TFSI quattro” happily ever since.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    This is revenge by the marketing dept on the engineers for causing the cheating scandal. Wait ’til you see VW’s new scheme!

  • avatar
    threeer

    “Clarity and logic?” Not so much. Now I’ll need a friggin’ decoder ring to decipher Audis.

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