There’s a word. I won’t use it here because it’s rude. But at what point, my friend wondered, did all the <insert that word here> migrate from BMWs to Audis?

Now, dear reader, please do not send letters, because it goes without saying that it is not the job of this blog to provide statistical analysis to prove this fact. Not when there’s hearsay, anecdotal evidence and blind prejudice on offer.

My ‘evidence’ came the day after Allan McNish, nine-time Le Mans podiumist, announced his retirement from Audi’s racing team. The weather was lousy and the M4 eastbound was sufficiently blowy and wet that spray was hitting my windscreen from cars even on the opposite carriageway. I, like everyone around me, was having a slow, miserable journey.

Except, that is, for a good half-dozen drivers of Audis (two genuine Audi A6s, a real Audi A7, an actual A4 Avant and two more I made up for good measure), who were auditioning for the vacant McNish seat and continuing at an unabated 90mph. 

It wasn’t always thus, was it? There was a time when Audis were like Saabs, bought by those who wore polo-necks and/or jackets with elbow patches to work, who slowed for inclement weather and didn’t feel obliged to fill any gap left in the outside lane larger than the length of their car plus two fag papers. 

When did one of these states end and the other begin? That’s what my friend asked and is the point (such as it is) of this piece.

The original 1994 A4 might have started it. Here was an athletic-looking Audi; the saloon even had a hint of spoiler shaped into the bootlid. Saucy. The 1997 A6’s bootlid was unadorned, but it was a design-led machine that could take on the 5-series. The TT followed and, if the supposed impact of halo models is true, made us believe that Audi built sports cars. As did its dominance of Le Mans.

I wonder, too, if Chris Bangle could take his share of the blame. As Audis became more obvious and mainstream, so Bangle’s flame-surfacing styling made BMWs a little, well, weirder. You had to choose to like the look of one. Make an intellectual decision. Did people who thought more with emotion than mind migrate from BMWs towards Audis then?