Audi has laid the foundations for what one senior insider has described to Autocar as the brand's "most ambitious new model programme to date”.
The plan, which will result in Audi introducing no less than 15 new or facelifted models between now and the end of 2018, will be led by new versions of the Audi A8 and Audi A7. Both cars will feature advanced technology and design cues that will influence other vehicles in the Audi range.
The new model blitz is the core element in a broader strategy Audi’s chairman, Rupert Stadler, is banking on to help re-establish the company’s standing following the negative headlines and exodus of top-ranking officials in connection with the Dieselgate emissions scandal.
The first model charged with helping Audi to extend its global new car sales beyond the record 1,871,350 established in 2016 is the company’s new flagship, the fourth-generation A8. Due to make its world debut in July, the luxury saloon showcases a fresh design lineage and introduces a range of new technologies, including a suite of autonomous driving functions that will filter down into other Audis, such as the new Q8 and fifth-generation A6, which are both due in 2018.
Although Audi officials are keen to talk up the new A8, it's the second-generation A7 – the first model to be designed wholly under Audi’s new design boss, Marc Lichte – that Ingolstadt sources suggest more successfully embodies the stylistic direction the company intends to pursue.
Lichte, who rose to prominence at Volkswagen prior to succeeding Wolfgang Egger as Audi design boss in 2014, has planned two crucial steps in the design of Audi’s production models over the next three years. The first will focus around the new A7, which is due to be revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show in September. The second step will be reflected on the fourth-generation Audi A3, which is due to be revealed in 2019.
With an exterior heavily inspired by that seen on the 2015 Audi Prologue concept, the new A7 dispenses with the familiar look of today’s model in favour of a more tightly drawn appearance.
At the front end, it has a wider, shallower, eight-corner single-frame grille and distinctive trapezoidal headlamps with Audi’s LED Matrix lighting technology and a new design of graphics.
The new A7 has tauter surfacing forms than its predecessor. Also set to feature on the upmarket four-door coupé-hatchback are new feature lines along the flanks. Audi sources suggest these will become a common element on all of the company’s upcoming models. New production techniques are claimed to allow Audi to achieve corner radii of 2.5mm on panel creases, compared to the 8.0mm achieved by its premium-brand competition.