It’s a new week, and I’m back with another German car Rental Review for your enjoyment! Today’s rental is one of two American market entrants into the premium compact five-door liftback segment, and not a car one expects to find in an Enterprise lot. Presenting a 2020 Audi A5 Sportback, two years and 50,000 rental miles later.
Back when everyone still bought into the hype surrounding self-driving cars, automakers were releasing concept vehicles framed as a “lounge on wheels.” The theory was that once autonomous vehicles hit the mainstream, companies would begin dropping futuristic models with swanky interiors because drivers would no longer be responsible for piloting the car for the duration of its journey. However, the public eventually learned that autonomous driving technologies had failed to progress as promised and would likely come with a host of restrictions plenty of drivers wouldn’t be interested in once the wrinkles had been ironed out.
But there are a whole host of markets to be tapped, the public has a relatively short-term memory, and there’s always a chance that some major headway was made during the last few years of development. So we’ve seen a resurgence of mobility talk from the industry, especially as it relates to all-electric vehicles. Case in point is the Audi Urbansphere — an autonomous concept vehicle designed for “Chinese megacities” but allegedly perfect for a metropolitan area near you.
Audi and FAW Group, the state-owned partner it is effectively required to have in order to preferential treatment from the Communist Party of China, received some good news this week. Government officials have approved the duo for a new, jointly operated production facility in Changchun.
With Volkswagen Group having shifted its focus toward China in recent years, the market has become all-important for the German company. VW is currently the top-selling brand for the entire region, with its Audi subsidiary typically being the highest volume premium automaker from Europe. Building in China is good optics for brands hoping to remain popular there and has the added benefit of placing manufacturing complexes closer to relevant suppliers, especially if you’re swapping to electric vehicles.
Ken Block is a man of many talents, many of which have nothing to do with driving. But he’s still best known for showboating from behind the wheel in the highly entertaining and well-produced Gymkhana video series. Here, Kenneth and the Hoonigan team choose a visually engaging locale and creatively rips up the pavement in some of the coolest custom-built rally cars ever to grace the screen.
Due to Block’s partnership with Ford, the majority of those cars wore the Blue Oval. But he’s since entered into a new professional marriage with Audi where he’s supposed to help push the brand’s all-electric agenda. The unification has apparently yielded its first mechanical offspring, with the insane-looking Audi S1 e-tron Quattro Hoonitron having debuted on Wednesday. Predictably electric, the vehicle is heavily inspired by the Group B legend that shares the parts of the name that don’t utilize the word tron.
Despite being the target of a German lawsuit accusing the manufacturer of not being green enough, Volkswagen Group is probably the legacy automaker touting the merits of electrification with the most enthusiasm. While undoubtedly influenced by the diesel emissions catastrophe that cheesed off every regulator in the Western world, its brand has actively been delivering EVs and praising alternative energy automobiles whenever possible.
There was more of that this week. Porsche has reportedly decided to make the 718 to be an all-electric model by 2025 and Audi recently announced that it’s employing rally icon and Hoonigan founder Ken Block (who broke with the Ford Motor Co. earlier this year) to develop EVs.
It often feels like the automotive industry has hit a creative wall where every concept vehicle has to be another electric vehicle offering next-generation connectivity and some self-driving claims that will later be tamped down. We’ve gotten used to being disappointed but there has been one brand that’s been furnishing concept vehicles that are at least interesting.
In 2018, Audi debuted the PB18 E-Tron Concept (AI:RACE) in an attempt to highlight what’s possible with a pure EV using the skateboard platform. Without a driveshaft hogging interior space, the automaker felt it could build a supercar with an interchangeable driving position that allowed the pilot to transition from a central F1-style cockpit to something that’s more suited to the daily commute. The company has since decided to build on that idea with the Skysphere Concept, which alters the roadster’s exterior based on whether it’s you or the car that’s doing the driving.
Press-car abuse is a part of the automotive journalism industry. So, too, is damage caused by normally diligent journalists who made a mistake/had some bad luck. I don’t intentionally abuse vehicles, but I’ve dented and dinged and broken a few things because sometimes shit happens.
What I have not done is use a press car to help flood victims. Nor have I been scolded for doing so, even though the car wasn’t apparently damaged.
Audi is discontinuing the A1, citing Europe’s regulatory landscape as the main cause. Eager to limit the amount of CO2 coming out of tailpipes, the European Union has placed strict limits on petroleum-powered passenger vehicles. For Audi, the price of manufacturing a subcompact automobile-dependent upon internal combustion is getting too high. Installing a smaller motor would negatively impact drivability while slotting in a hybrid powertrain means more R&D costs and jacking up the MSRP to a point where consumers might lose interest.
There’s just not much incentive to build small, efficient vehicles when the profit margins have been made razor thin and people aren’t buying them in great numbers. And this is a lesson that’s being learned by all automakers, not just those associated to Volkswagen Group.
Volkswagen Group has been prattling on about electrification for years and ultimately decided that Audi would be the tip of its progressive spear. The brand has cachet as both a luxury and performance division, while simultaneously possessing VW’s magical ability to produce vehicles that don’t become an eyesore after you’ve had them in the garage for a decade.
While transitioning toward EVs runs the risk of spoiling that, Audi is clearly the VW property best positioned to come after would-be Tesla customers and is not hesitant to issue reminders that it’s serious about being a global leader when it comes to battery-driven vehicles. On Tuesday, the Ingolstadt-based company announced plans to exclusively launch electrically driven automobiles from 2026 onward — adding that it doesn’t even plan on selling internal-combustion vehicles by 2033.
But these rules won’t apply to the Chinese market, which will be flush with internal-combustion vehicles produced within its borders years after the rest of the world has apparently lost the option to purchase them.
Rare Rides has featured the predecessor of today’s sedan previously, in a very pearly 1990 V8 Quattro. After Audi spent a few years unsuccessfully trying to sell its first-ever attempt at a flagship full-size sedan, it took the lessons learned from the D1 and developed the D2 A8 and S8.
When I’m wandering junkyards and looking for interesting stuff, I don’t pay much attention to Audis of our current century. No, I want to photograph old Audis, preferably ones from the 1970s. I make exceptions for discarded members of the Audi S family, however, because these cars do such a great job of demonstrating the ruthlessly quick depreciation of German luxury machinery that didn’t get the maintenance it deserved. Here’s an ’07 S6 that didn’t even see 15 years of use, found in a Denver-area yard last week.
While Europe often appears as a safe haven for punchy subcompacts, the reality is that the continent’s biggest sellers happen to be reasonably sized automobiles equipped with a tepid engine option. The Volkswagen Golf, Toyota Corolla, and Škoda Octavia (especially if you happen to travel through any former satellite states of the Soviet Union) are absolutely everywhere. Europe also has a strong taste for many of the compact crossovers that are popular here in North America, giving subcompacts an increasingly small share of the overall market. And it’s projected to get smaller (globally) under the existing European regulations.
Pint-sized economy vehicles aren’t exactly profit leaders for automakers and their margins are only going to become slimmer. The EU is now reaching a point where building them won’t make sense, as tailpipe regulations will eventually force some amount of electrification. This will jack up their price to a point where the kind of people that might have been considering them will probably shop used. But don’t take our word for it; Audi CEO Markus Duesmann recently said this is probably what will kill the A1.
In the last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn, we discussed three large European wagons with a $65,000 price point. The Buy vote was a toss-up between the E-Class and the A6 allroad.
Today we cover the sedan variants of the same three cars, at the exact same price point. Think you’ll choose differently?
In our last Rare Rides, we discussed how the W126 S-Class established the model as a default for the large German sedan shopper. I also referenced the failed attempt at S-Class competition which was the Audi V8 Quattro.
So today let’s expound upon that failure a bit.
Maybe I am softening in my old age, or maybe crossovers are getting a bit better to drive, or both, but I found myself semi-charmed by Audi’s Q8 crossover. Of course, a luxury crossover should be somewhat enticing, lest the buyer feel he or she wasted money each month when that car payment auto drafts out of the bank account.
I say semi-charmed for a few reasons. One, the Q8 is still a crossover, not a sport sedan. Two, there were tradeoffs.
But Americans have more European luxury wagon choices in this, the Awesome Year of 2020 than in the decade and a half prior. So let’s revisit the discussion.
It’s an occasion worthy of a future “Rare Rides” label when the North American market is graced with a new large wagon. Only a few of the breed are for sale presently, and that quantity has remained largely unchanged since the late 1990s.
Audi is selling two new ones this year, but they don’t seem to be on anyone’s mind. Not even the wagon-loving car journalists.
Like it or not, and it seems most of our readers don’t, manufacturers are pressing ahead with the coupification of luxury-grade small crossovers. The BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe generally offer a more sport and less utility, thanks in no small part to a roofline that begins to swoop dramatically to the pavement just aft of the driver’s noggin.
Audi wants in, of course. The existence of a Q5 Sportback was confirmed earlier this year. Now they’re ready to show a production version, complete with its so-called Singleframe grille aggressively tapered rear end.
Have you seen an Audi E-Tron (officially, “e-tron”) on the street? This writer hasn’t. Yet the electric Audi crossover has been on offer for a little over a year now, slowly paving the way for an all-electric future.
Available to U.S. customers through special order and to dealers who just wish to keep one around, the E-Tron arrived in early 2019 with 204 miles of EPA-rated range. It’s now back after skipping a model year, with two improvements aimed at broader consumer appeal, if not adoption.
Once upon a time, if you were shopping for a luxury vehicle that drove like a sports car, you’d get a BMW or, in some cases, a Jaguar. If you wanted one strictly for its comfort and opulence, you’d get a Mercedes-Benz or a Lexus. If you wanted a sort of ‘tweener, then you’d consider an Audi, particularly since it was one of the few in its segment to offer all-wheel drive. But these days, the German (and Japanese, and British) luxury giants have become so competitive with each other, they’re no longer separated by the unique characteristics that once defined them.
When it comes to the midsize-luxury-sedan trifecta, this trend couldn’t have been any more apparent. The BMW 5 Series seemingly gave up some of its enthusiast-minded “ultimate driving machine” superiority to focus on technology innovation while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class lost its allure for over-engineered excellence during its mix-up with the DaimlerChrysler merger of equals. Meanwhile, Audi took the lead with the A6, dethroning its direct competitors from their winning pedestals in numerous class comparisons over the years just by ticking all of the boxes incredibly well.
Does the story remain the same with the new fifth-generation model, which recently launched in our market?
With the Audi RS 6 Avant confirmed for America and the manufacturer teasing wagons via social media throughout the summer, we figured Germany would soon send another wagen our way. And while nothing has been confirmed through official channels, Audi executives are already saying it’s to be the A6 Allroad.
Rumors stated that the model would make its way to the United States ever since the updated A6 premiered at the New York Auto Show in the spring. Audi managed to encourage these rumors without issuing any confirmation — at least until Oliver Hoffmann, managing director of Audi Sport, chimed in earlier this week.
Dieselgate never dies. Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt) has informed Audi that it will be subjected to additional fines if it fails to meet upcoming deadlines for retrofitting manipulated diesel models with updated software.
Reports from Bild am Sonntag, later confirmed by Reuters, claim the regulatory authority issued three letters to the automaker stipulating that it had until September 26th to replace the software in emissions-cheating V6 and V8 TDI engines (originally certified as EU6 compliant) lest it be fined 25,000 euros (about $27,500) per vehicle. While fines are only applicable to cars still carrying illicit software, the transport ministry estimated some 127,000 Audi vehicles qualified in Europe last year. There were originally around 850,000.
Audi is teasing a new model slated to debut at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show — an off-road specialist called the AI:TRAIL Quattro. With massive wheels and a nonexistent approach/departure angle, the conceptual crossover certainly seems ready to scurry up a mountain. But the overall design is more hyper-modern RC car than traditional baja beast.
It’s not coming entirely out of left field. Audi has shown several electrified concepts using a similarly futuristic design language, among them the AICON luxury sedan, PB18 supercar, and AI:ME city vehicle. Like the AI:TRAIL, each is designed to tackle a very specific portion of the market. All will be on hand in Frankfurt to showcase Audi’s vision of what a car could be.
Before Audi revolutionized rallying and four-wheel drive cars with the Ur-Quattro circa 1980, the company made front-drive vehicles underpinned by Volkswagen platforms (some things never change). Today’s Rare Ride 5000 hails from the waning days of Audi’s front-drive era, not long before an all-new 5000 set the template for aerodynamic sedan design.
Months of teasing gave way to an admission of intent late Tuesday. After dangling Avants wagons of yesteryear in front of social media watchers since the spring, Audi finally came out and admitted the beastly RS6 Avant wagon will make its way stateside.
Sporting all-wheel drive, a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8, and endlessly customizable drive settings, the next-generation RS 6 Avant lands in America in 2020, but don’t expect to see many polluting showroom floors.
Despite wagons facing a growing unpopularity that rivals that of free speech, Audi continues winking and nudging at North America, sneakily hinting that the king of all long-roofs might make its way to this side of the Atlantic.
There, it could see dozens, perhaps even hundreds of orders. Cynical? Perhaps, but a niche pocket of enthusiasm does greet any mention of the A6 Avant midsize wagon and its upcoming, beastly RS 6 Avant performance variant. Believed to pack a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 and a boatload of horsepower, the next-generation RS 6 launches for the 2020 model year, but it remains to be seen whether any of these wagons arrive on these shores.
Certainly, Audi wants fans to think they will.
Audi’s E-Tron has become the first battery electric vehicle to receive the coveted Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+ award. However, considering the group rarely tests EVs, it may soon find itself with company. The IIHS requires an automobile to earn high marks in six crashworthiness evaluations, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and a good headlight rating to be eligible for the commendation.
Chevrolet’s Bolt managed to achieve the necessary ratings in all categories, save for headlight illumination. The same was true for Tesla’s Model S — though that vehicle also received an “acceptable” rating for the small frontal overlap crash test. Other EVs have yet to undertake a full complement of tests, potentially giving the E-Tron a bit of a head start.
We’ve got some shocking news for convertible fans. The Audi A3 Cabriolet is still on sale in North America.
Did you forget that it existed? We sure did. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem we’ll have going into 2020, as this is to be the model’s last year. Of course, this changes next to nothing as we haven’t seen one in the wild some time. In fact, it’s difficult to recall the last occasion any automotive outlet even bothered reviewing one.
As the spiritual successor to VW’s now-defunct cabriolets, the open-air A3 occupies an interesting place in the market. It’s a little pricey for most parents looking to treat their college-aged daughters, with a starting MSRP of $39,000, and lacks the oomph and prestige of Audi’s other drop-top offerings.
Padding out its crossover lineup and going downmarket, like every other premium automaker, Audi presented us with a new model this week — the A1 Citycarver. Based upon the A1 Sportback, the Citycarver is lifted two-inches to provide additional clearance for potholes, urban debris, and the occasional instance of curb hopping. The ride hight also helps the brand’s A1 line take advantage of the severe case of crossover crazies that has swept through the global market.
Good on Audi for downplaying the adventure/lifestyle marketing and calling the Citycarver what it is — a small urban runabout with the ability to leave town. Bonus points for allowing it to maintain its foundation’s above-average looks.
The Audi S8 has always been the Q-ship of choice for those who wanted a luxurious sports sedan that flew under the radar of untrained eyes. For the 2020 model year, Audi increases the output to 563 horsepower, but retains the understated nature of the cosmetic upgrades.
Though the pictures shown are of the European short-wheelbase S8, only the long-wheelbase version will be arriving on U.S. shores. Sent to the Quattro all-wheel drive system through a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, the twin-turbo V8 engine is supplemented by a 48-volt mild hybrid system. The combined power of 563 hp and 590 ft-lbs is an increase of 103 hp and 103 ft-lbs over the standard A8’s twin-turbo V8.
A large portion of the automotive industry tends to follow Audi’s lead on interior design. That has resulted in the proliferation of the worst phenomenon in modern automotive history — the floating tablet-style infotainment screen.
With the refresh of the Audi Q7, the biggest scourge on automotive design since spinner wheels may finally be coming to an end.
Four men tasked with developing a very dirty diesel engine for use in Audi vehicles have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury. The four, including the head of Audi’s Diesel Engine Development department, face charges of wire fraud, violation of the Clean Air Act, and conspiracy, all stemming from the development of an engine that didn’t have a chance of being certified in the U.S.
And, because they’re believed to be living in Germany, they’d best leave the U.S. off their list of vacation destinations.
Audi is claiming women want butch, masculine, testosterone-saturated designs when it comes to their automobiles. Though it isn’t clear if they’re doing this because the automaker conducted extensive research on the matter or because they happen to be selling a muscular-looking crossover they’re really hoping will be popular with women.
Truth be told, while we wouldn’t have expected male and female tastes to perfectly overlap, we didn’t know that women were biased toward vehicular beefcake one way or the other.
Customers won’t get a chance to buy an Audi E-tron SUV until next year, but, if money’s tight, they might want to hold off for a while. The German brand’s first electric utility vehicle (seen above) arrives in the second quarter of 2019, carrying a base price of $74,800 — at least once the launch editions clear out. More E-trons will follow, including a Sportback version of the SUV and a top-flight GT sports sedan.
Green, but still requiring plenty of green to plunk one in your driveway. Audi apparently has a solution for budget-minded premium EV shoppers, and it plans to make it happen with help from Volkswagen.
After some healthy automotive foreplay, Audi finally took the wraps off its new e-tron GT Concept at the LA Auto Show. Offering the best elements of the brand’s design language, the vehicle previews a production model that’s scheduled to appear late in 2020, as well as Porsche’s upcoming Taycan EV — which will share the Audi’s drivetrain and platform.
Relatively handsome, if you like Audi sedans and oversized grilles on electric cars, the GT avoids getting overly ambitious with the futuristic styling we see on a lot of mainstream EVs. We’d call this “extremely modern” rather than some truly visionary design you’d expect from a concept car. It’s safe but not so safe that anyone should be left fretting.
However, it’s not quite the Tesla destroyer the media is eternally hunting for. Despite boasting some impressive specifications, the e-tron is roughly on par with the Model S when viewed broadly. But it should still make for healthy competition while encouraging the American brand to step up its game.
Audi has confirmed its design team has finished applying the finishing touches on the company’s first-ever Q4. Its job will be to tackle the increasingly popular subcompact luxury crossover segment populated by the likes of the Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes-Benz GLA. As such, the German brand will provide its customers with a vehicle that’ll assuredly be marketed as an adventure-ready SUV while still being a luxury-focused tech buffet that handles like a sports car and looks phenomenal.
It’s an interesting situation. Despite the industry’s fierce determination to make premium sedans and SUVs ever more “coupe-like,” nobody seems to be selling legitimate coupes anymore. You don’t see that much with other products. Sporks exist because companies didn’t want to pay to stock twice as many eating utensils, not because people were clamoring for a fork-like spoon.
That might not be a fair comparison, though. While everyone hates the spork, only a small subset of jaded automotive journalists and driving purists feel like crossover vehicles are an unfair compromise. The rest of the population seems to adore them, at least according to the sales statistics, and Audi is trying to tap into everything that’s hot right now with the Q4.
According to sources who spoke to Reuters, Volkswagen Group has more interest in pursuing technological relationships with new partners, especially Ford, than continuing on with Audi as its main development hub. At least for a while.
VW CEO Herbert Diess will reportedly unveil a 10-year plan to his company’s board later this month, part of an efficiency initiative born of diesel fines and the need to stay ahead of rivals. While the move would lessen Audi’s importance in the group, VW would stand to save big on R&D costs. Meanwhile, Ford might get access to VW’s electric vehicle architecture.
As supercars go, Audi’s R8 is one of the more endearing examples. Unlike the stereotypical Lamborghini Huracán driver, you don’t normally see someone exiting an R8 wrapped in a gaudy, overpriced t-shirt from Ed Hardy, their hair slicked up into a pompadour that clears the car’s roof by less than a millimeter. No, the Audi driver looks like someone who probably has to work for a living to afford such baubles and isn’t all that interested in flaunting it. They’re someone who probably dreamed of owning a Porsche 911 as a child, made a lot of smart financial decisions as an adult, and ultimately found themselves with more money than they needed.
Whether or not this portrayal is accurate is largely irrelevant. The assumption is that someone who bought an R8 is focused on the fundamentals — fitting, considering that’s very much what the automobile is about. Refreshed for 2019, Audi is keeping the R8 true to form. Visual enhancements are subtle and minor mechanical improvements have been made everywhere else to help build a better car.
Audi is prepared to debut important updates for the second-generation R8 within the next few months, assuming a teaser image floating around the internet is anything to go by. While you’ll still have to do a side-by-side comparison from most angles, most of the changes seem beneficial. Gone are the vertical slats on the air inlets, replaced by a mesh akin to what you’ll find on the R8’s new grille — which is slightly wider and tappers inward at the bottom.
Above it, a row of vents lead into what would normally be an engine bay. That’s a clear nod to the Sport Quattro of the mid-1980s and a tasteful reference the brand’s motorsport heritage (they also appear on the new A1 Sportback). Still, we doubt the mid-engined R8 would make a stellar rally car without some serious suspension mods, and it’s not clear what purpose those openings serve.
Audi’s first electric sport utility vehicle, the much-touted E-Tron, will arrive at dealerships a month later than anticipated. According to the automaker, a software development issue has stymied the rollout.
While nothing has reportedly busted, Audi claims it needs to obtain the necessary regulatory clearances for some ones and zeros that were modified during the development process. Normally, we would assume the applicable agencies would have been informed of this in advance, but we don’t know what Audi changed. All the manufacturer admits to is that alterations were made to benefit the customer.
The scandal has raged for over three years, and Audi clearly wants to be done with it. The company said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that, like Volkswagen, it will not fight a fine handed down by German prosecutors over the selling of rigged diesel engines in that country.
Earlier this month, Audi said auf wiedersehen to jailed CEO Rupert Stadler, who’s accused of fraud in relation to the diesel emissions affair. Now, the automaker will hand over a towering pile of euros to finally close this messy chapter in its history.
Big scandals have a way of sticking around for a while. Not just days or weeks, but years.
That’s the case with Audi, which is now facing a new investigation in Germany for falsifying documents, mileage readings, and vehicle identification numbers (VINs) in South Korea, going back to 2013.
It’s an idea that seems stupid and brilliant all at once, and a Dutch firm wants it to find a home in Europe’s passenger cars.
Europeans, often portrayed in films as sexy people with a penchant for rich foods and impeccably fashionable clothing, aren’t immune from the sedentary lifestyles and obesity afflicting their Western compatriots. Commutes eat up a lot of time, and not everyone bikes or takes a train to work — even in insufferably progressive Amsterdam.
Following a request from an inventor looking to free up more exercise time during the day, Dutch engineering firm BPO set about converting an Audi A4 wagon to run on pedal power. The car’s turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder still does the work, but it won’t work if the driver doesn’t break a sweat.
Rupert Stadler, now former CEO of Audi, saw his contract with Volkswagen Group terminated on Tuesday, thus allowing the automaker to distance itself from a PR-squashing reminder of its disastrous diesel emissions fiasco.
Serving as Audi AG’s CEO since 2010, Stadler’s June arrest on suspicion of interference in an ongoing German fraud investigation pushed an interim CEO into the top chair. It was the highest profile arrest thus far in the diesel emissions scandal. As investigators continue probing his potential involvement in the diesel fraud, the jailed Stadler also gives up his seat on VW’s management board, effective immediately.
Volkswagen Group’s supervisory board has postponed a decision on the future of Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, who has been in jail since June due to his presumed connection with the automaker’s diesel malfeasance. Despite having scheduled a Monday meeting to assess Stadler’s role within the company and how best to end it, the board found itself unable to come to a conclusion by Friday.
That does not mean the imprisoned CEO will be getting a pardon from the company, however. Stadler’s representatives and VW simply failed to negotiate a solution that would see Stadler step down from his role as Audi CEO and as a VW Group management board member, sources close to the situation told Automotive News Europe.
Marketing materials aside, visitors to Audi dealers in the near future won’t see much of the new E-Tron crossover. They’ll have to ask about it first, and, if they’re in luck, there’ll be a demonstrator on hand.
Audi’s proceeding cautiously with its mass-market EV. For now, it’s only taking refundable reservations from customers, hoping that keeping the E-Tron out of the normal vehicle flow will help it turn a profit — a problem facing most EVs.
Audi’s fourth-generation A8 sedan is the pinnacle of the brand’s opulence, so long as you’re willing to ignore every model that begins with the letter R and the forthcoming Q8. Starting at $83,800 before destination, the A8 isn’t cheap. But it does represent a relative bargain compared to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a model which has long been the poster child for automotive grandeur.
While the A8 is sumptuous affair, the S-Class pulls away the second Daimler tacks on the Maybach prefix and its corresponding price tag. Finding its competitive spirit, Audi is resurrecting the historic Horch name to rival Mercedes’ super-luxury flagship. Available within the next two to three years, the Horch A8 will feature additional creature comforts, palatial touches, and a much higher price tag than the car it’s based upon.
Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn trio represent the high-dollar sports car that doesn’t quite make it into supercar territory. They’re very expensive, yet among other extra-fast vehicles in the six-figure segment, they’re considered relatively good value.
This makes them all oddballs; none ever burn up the sales charts. But that doesn’t mean they can’t catch fire.
Unverified industry rumors claim Audi has no intention of bringing back the R8 for a third generation. The problem is deeply rooted in stagnating sales and further exacerbated by tightening emissions standards and Volkswagen Group’s new role as an environmentally conscious manufacturer. However, new reports indicate the brand’s flagship supercar will see new life as a cutting-edge electronic menace. A real Max Headroom, if you’ll forgive the incredibly dated reference.
The R8 has already done some time as an EV. Back in 2015, the German brand launched an e-tron variant that swapped the model’s stellar V10 for an all-electric drivetrain. But the project was short lived. After years of teasing and endless production headaches, the million-dollar R8 e-tron quickly died. Audi pulled the plug after less than two years of production, leaving fewer than 100 examples to tend to its legacy.
While that might cast a rather long shadow on the new model, Audi is keeping electrification in mind from Day One this time around.
Concept vehicles have been a bit of a snoozefest for enthusiasts lately. Despite the fact that automakers are still plenty capable of bringing out gorgeous designs, the autonomous angle has become so pervasive that it’s overridden the idea of having fun.
Then, during this week’s Monterey Car Week festivities, Audi dropped the PB 18 e-tron concept at Laguna Seca and fun slapped us across the face. This is the kind of car you have on your bedroom wall as a child and work your entire life to put into a garage as an adult.
With three electric motors (one driving the front axle and two out back) providing a combined output of 671 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque, the PB 18 should already be a menace. However, it can also temporarily bump itself up to 764 hp using stored energy via a kinetic energy recovery system. As a result, Audi claims the car is capable of a 0-to-62 mph rush in just over 2 seconds.
Combine that with an ultra-modern design that’s within the boundaries of what’s currently possible and several scoops of driver-focused tech, and you have one of best concept vehicles we’ve seen in years. The PB 18 expertly rides the line between fanciful and plausible.
The manual transmission continues to die a slow, lingering death. Audi is now eliminating the manual option from its entire U.S. lineup, not that the majority if its customers will actually miss it. While the 2018 Audi A4 can still be had with a six-speed manual, the refreshed 2019 model will not. The same will be true for the less-popular A5 coupe.
It’s a bum deal for enthusiasts but it’s difficult to come down too hard on Audi. The A4’s seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic isn’t exactly a terrible transmission and, considering it outsells the manual by a huge margin, it doesn’t make financial sense for Audi to ship anything else across the ocean.
Applying that logic hasn’t make us feel better about the situation, though.