A design revolution is underway at Audi – and not before time I say.
For too long, the cars have looked just too similar. Take the badges off and at a first glance can you tell your A7 Sportback from an A6? Or an A5 Sportback from an A4? A Q3 from a Q5? A gold star if you can.
Audi’s new look will be inspired by the Prologue concept, unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show. Up first for the new look will be the new A8 in late 2016. Fortunately for Audi, the show car looks great, but the fact it looks different to what’s gone before is more important to me.
Audi’s new design chief Marc Lichte agreed that the time is right for a new look, but said there was justifiable logic in keeping the old 'cookie cutter' look for so long.
“It has been the right thing to do to evolve the design in small steps,” he said. “When Walter de Silva introduced the single-frame grille on the 2004 A6, people thought it was too radical.
“But it was the right thing to do, because it gave Audi a face. It was something new so had to be given time. Now after 10 years, people know the face of Audi and it’s time to do something new, but keeping the single-frame grille because it would be a mistake to change our face.”
He also promised those 'cookie cutter' days won’t return now Audi is fully established as a premium brand.
“We need to differentiate more and I promise future cars will be different,” he said. “We designed the A8, A7 and A6 together so made sure they were all different. The design of all three was signed off within only eight months of me arriving [at Audi].
“We’ll differentiate a lot and you’ll be able to tell which model is which. They’ll all be linked through the single-frame grille, but we can still do something really radical.
“We’re doing this with the next-generation A1 for instance. And the Q8 will have the single-frame grille but clearly something radical and very different.”
Audi has said its range will grow from 50 models to 60 by 2020, which means it faces a big challenge to ensure the cars are all suitably different and recognisable. Still, at least Audi is at last making the right noises about design.