Thanks to a string of premium cars that look like exotic cars -- think A5, A7, R8 -- and some of the nicest interiors you'll find at any price, Audi design is the envy of the industry. But where do you go from the top? And how do you capitalize on success (i.e., more models) without sacrificing distinctiveness? These are the challenges facing Wolfgang Egger, who has been head of Audi Group Design since 2007 and recently took over direct responsibility as the brand's lead designer. Georg Kacher sat down with Egger to find out what's in store.
Will the controversial, enormous, single-frame grille survive?
Wolfgang Egger: Sure. The single-frame grille is part of the Audi DNA. But it will evolve into something more authentic, innovative, and three-dimensional. There are going to be different grille themes for the A, R, and Q ranges, as well as variations for the base, S, and RS models. A sports car should embody and relay different styling elements than a sedan or an SUV. We are going to emphasize this differentiation in the near future.
The Q family of SUVs, according to your internal estimates, will soon contribute up to 45 percent of Audi's total sales volume. I'm assuming you will need plenty of new models.
WE: That's exactly our intention. The Crosslane concept unveiled at the Paris motor show [pictured at top right] is a good indication of things to come. The compact dimensions and the alternative drivetrain -- it features two electric motors and a three-cylinder range extender -- are tailor-made for the urban driving environment.
It looks less aggressive than some Audi production models.
WE: The design is contemporary and balanced. The new headlights are certainly more subdued than the very bright, dot-style LEDs we had to work with in the past. But the era when daytime running lights were shaped like waves, loops, or swooshes is definitely over. Instead, we have developed inoffensive and geometric light graphics consisting of distinct vertical and horizontal elements. This trademark light pattern will be unique to Audi, and we will eventually use it on all models.
Which other cues might define the future Audi family face?
WE: For Q models, there will be three dominating horizontal elements. This makes the car look wider and bolder, and it is historically in line with older Audis like the 80 and 100 series. The upper level consists of the slimmed-down headlights and the top section of the grille, which accommodates the four-ring badge. The lower horizontal level links the two lateral air intakes and the bottom section of the grille. The center section is essentially the license-plate carrier.
After the Q3, Q5, and Q7, the Q2 [the production name for the Crosslane concept] is the first Audi SUV with an even-numbered model designation. What does that portend for future models?
WE: Well observed. The Q2 is indeed the first in a series of sporty, even-numbered models. The uneven-numbered models look more robust, and there is a certain off-roadability built into their engineering concept.
Sounds a bit like a low-cost marketing trick -- much like the transformation from A4 Avant to A4 Allroad.
WE: Far from it! To make this strategy work, we need to invest heavily in two distinctly different architectures. The Q2, for instance, is lower and much more dynamic than the Q3. The windshield is more steeply raked, the rear window and C-pillars are sleeker, and there are flared wheel arches, which we call "Quattro blisters." We sharpened the creases and tightened the radii, and we added details like the sporty air intakes in the hood. We also opted for a deeper and meaner front spoiler. In contrast, the Q3, Q5, and Q7 are taller and more upright, have a bigger glass area, and offer more generous packaging.
What can we expect after the Q2?
WE: Let's wait and see. We have plenty of time to decide, but it would be a mistake not to be prepared for all eventualities. [In fact, sources tell us that a Q4, a Q6, and a Q8 are all in the works -- Ed.]