Expect more changes to exterior styling as brand moves to change things up
Audi may have copped a bit of flak over its same-same-but-different car design over the past few years, but the company is looking to make its models appear mode distinct as they roll out.
Andreas Mindt, head of Audi design exterior, told CarAdvice at the 2017 Geneva motor show that the German company is working on ways to ensure its models aren't as, shall we say, Russian Doll-like as they have been in the past.
"When you think back 10 years ago, in half of the world Audi was not known as a brand. The single-frame grille was new, and people had to learn what the single-frame is, or what an Audi is," Mindt said. "This is why when you go to China, for instance, and you're not known in the market, you have to make it more recognisable.
"When [the vehicle range] looks more alike, when you do one advertisement, you're advertising for the whole lot. But then as things change and people know about you, you should do more differentiation to make it more playful," Mindt stated, before giving a concrete example of how that thought process has come to fruition.
Pictured above: Audi A4 (top); Audi A5 Sportback (bottom)
"When you compare the A5 and the A4, the A4 has a higher grille and the A5 has a lower grille. So the bonnet goes lower or stays higher; that depends on if you want to show more status, or more dynamism - and you can play with this. This is one theme that you can work out," he said.
"Absolutely - you will see this, like A5 and A4, there are two different faces already. I think this is very important," Mindt said of the A6 and A7 being profoundly different in terms of styling.
Another new model that Mindt says will shift perception is the upcoming all-new A8, which is set to take its styling to a different level. It is expected to draw heavily upon the Audi Prologue concept of a couple of years ago, and you can see below that the grille treatment in particular is broad and purposeful.
"For sure, the next A8 will have most of the status, you really have to put all the models next to each other and see how long the window graphic is, and then you have to decide how to put it into the whole range," he said. "Window graphic sizes, grille sizes, you can play with this. Sometimes you freak out for special cases. Sometimes you can mix it up - when you're confident, you can mix it up."
Mindt said that the company's uniform grille treatment will be differentiated between SUVs and passenger cars: the SUV line will have an eight-pointed grille design that will portray boldness, while the six-point single-frame grille on passenger cars can be toyed with depending on the model. He said the RS5 Coupe, for instance, gets a more compact but broader grille finish compared with the regular A5 Coupe, to give it more stance.
"I think that an SUV and a lower car are two different worlds. The tricks working on an SUV will not work on a normal cars, and this is why I think you need to separate them, to do the stuff that fits with each car. And this is what you will see in the near future," he said.
Pictured: The vastly different styling interpretations applied to the production Audi RS5 Coupe (above) and Audi Q8 sport concept (below)
Another interpretation that the brand is considering is the face of its electric cars. There are three new electric cars due before 2020, and Mindt said the company has something special planned to make the EV range stand out from the conventional combustion-engine models.
"We are confident in saying that we need a face," he said. "Some of these electric cars are kind of faceless, like cars from the 1980s. In the '80s you couldn't see the difference between brands, but now we have the task to differentiate with the grille to make more difference.
"All the cars coming out now will have different faces and different body styles," he said.
"The quattro architecture will stay: the car will always say 'I'm driven by four wheels', this is our core brand value. The car looks like its crawling on all fours, it's not falling over. Even for electric driven cars we want to keep this."