Design

By Design: Audi TT Offroad Concept

By Design

Audi has had a line of (realistically) two-seat sports cars carrying the TT name since 1998, but the Audi TT Offroad Concept that debuted at the 2014 Beijing auto show really has nothing whatsoever to do with what the world thinks of as sports cars. It’s not one, however well it may behave on and off-road. Nor is it really a sedan, given its rather restricted cabin and limited trunk space. Four-door coupe? That’s a popular designation these days for reduced-headroom sedans and SUVs, but it’s rather meaningless. Let’s just look at this concept as a car. Basically, who cares what a good car is called?

The VW New Beetle roof profile and side daylight opening are a little odd for a squarish platform, but not unpleasant. The huge wheel arches are even odder, antithetical to the Issigonis ideal of minimizing the volume taken up within the vehicle’s external envelope by wheels and their dynamic movements. The externals of the wheel arches recall certain awkward Mitsubishi SUVs from a decade or two back, but they’re nicely sculpted, as are all the surfaces. Still, I find this concept car to be ill-proportioned because of those too-big wheels, and wonder if an eventual production version will keep them. Consumers do seem to love big tires, at least until they have to pay for replacements.

The shiny chrome provisions for filling the Audi TT Offroad with liquid fuel or a jolt of electrons on either rear flank recall the fuel cap on the first TT coupes and roadsters at the end of the last century — perhaps the only traces of that iconic J Mays/Freeman Thomas design remaining today. The slim rounded-corner rectangular grille has given way to the much bigger irregular hexagon here, the textures are much more complex, and almost all the ineffable charm of the earlier TTs has evaporated. But it was ever thus. People are charmed by two-seaters and 2+2s and buy them by the hundreds. Add a lot of weight, space, and seats, and they buy by the thousands. Which is surely the hope underlying this crossover if a version actually makes production.

Click here to read a design analysis of the production 2016 Audi TT coupe.

Audi TT Offroad Concept Front 3/4 View

1. The highly styled bars in these openings are a far cry from the simple slots on the first TTs.

2. As is the giant, nearly vertical hexagonal grille with its seven elaborately shaped horizontal bars in front of a textured screen.

3. Nice use is made of crisp surface changes all over the exterior, giving linear definition to what is finally a rather blunt, squared-off form.

4. These huge arches with four concentric circles radiating outward from the wheel centers are so exaggerated they intrude into the upper surface of the hood, suggesting a front fender form.

5. The line through the doors derives from the hood cut, making one think that Audi’s purchase of Italdesign is paying dividends. Giugiaro was always the master of simplifying the skin of a car, using cutlines artfully.

6. The wedge effect in profile is amplified by the bottom of the sill rising toward the rear.

7. The plastic molding under the nose is a nice piece of work, with the outer ends of a separate blade acting as a splitter in the outer inlets, the whole panel being modeled with grace and precision.

8. A slight vestige of the original TT’s reclined front end is the headlamp lens surface, lying back at a sharper angle than the panels surrounding it.

9. Notice the little flat perimeter band around the grille opening. It stops where the hood panel defines the upper edge of the grille.

Audi TT Offroad Concept Rear 3/4 View

10. The side DLO is almost a perfect arc, but has a light kink where the rear door glass ends.

11. The line embossed around the side glass can be seen in this view to lead into the trunk cutlines, and to be harmoniously related to the rear wheelhouse bulge. The designers spent a lot of time and intelligence on developing and refining the body surfaces. Nice.

12. The add-on shield recalls the bump that had to be added to the original TT because the tapering tail cause dangerous rear-end lift. Here it just trips airflow as it leaves the roof. Once again there is a sharply delineated band at the perimeter.

13. This backlight restricts rear vision far more than it ought to. But that’s a problem with all four-door coupes.

14. This hard horizontal line serves as a controlling element for the whole rear-fascia graphic composition. Above it, everything has a convex curve; below, every line emphasizes width.

15. The exhaust outlets are joined by a bar floating in a concave depression in the bumper skin molding. It’s an elegant and effective solution.

16. This indented line across the back controls the transition from side to rear, drops down to frame the exhaust outlets, and rises to traverse the bumper as a strong horizontal reference.

17. It is clear in this view how much internal volume is taken up by the wheelhouse inner lining, leaving not much space for luggage in the truncated tail.

18. The door cuts continue to the bottom of the body, guiding the eye to understand all the convolutions of the cross section, relatively simple in the painted areas, more complex in the sill moldings, demonstrating the subtle skills of the designers.

Audi TT Offroad Concept Interior View

19. Five of these turbine-bladed vents across the interior seem a bit much, but they ought to provide all the airflow anyone could want, and their centers serve as controls and informational readouts. See temperature displayed in central vent.

20. I don’t recall ever seeing the start-stop button on the steering wheel. Not a bad idea, always accessible and available for the driver.

21. Yet another manifestation of using surface changes to provide linear definition of otherwise amorphous surfaces.

22. If the car is to have only an automatic transmission, the American idea of a much wider brake pedal would be a welcome addition.

23. Especially considering the importance given to the dead pedal for the otherwise unoccupied left foot.

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2014 Audi SQ5

2014 Audi SQ5

MSRP $51,900 Premium Plus quattro

0-60 MPH:

4.8 SECS

EPA MPG:

16 City / 23 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

29 / 57 cu. ft.