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Paris show: Audi ready for radical redesign

Big changes: The next-generation A8 will take a different shape to the current model (left) and will ring in a change in styling direction for Audi.

New Audi design boss says next A8 will preview the brand’s look into the next decade

7 Oct 2014


AUDI’S next-generation A8 flagship will herald a fresh design direction for the luxury marque, including a different interpretation of the current ‘Single Frame’ grille and a more sweeping silhouette.

Due in 2016, the D5 generation aluminium sedan – and possibly ‘shooting break’ style wagon as per a secret concept expected as early as next month’s LA motor show – will set the scene for all future Audis, including the critical A6 mid-sizer.

There will also be a different, but just as bold, reinterpretation of the brand’s popular Q-model SUVs, which are about to multiply into BMW X6-style crossover coupes as Audi mines even more niches.

Speaking to the Australian media at the Paris Motor Show last week, Audi’s new head of design, Marc Lichte, talked about the importance of maintaining the momentum kicked off by his predecessor Walter de Silva when he implemented the Single Frame grille on the C6-generation A6 in 2004.

“Walter de Silva did the most important thing when he connected the upper grille with the bottom one and created the single grille,” he said. “He gave Audi a face on the level of Benz and BMW.”“Audi developed this face only in the last 10 years and the proportions have stayed the same, so now is the time to do a bigger step.”

Using a pencil to illustrate his thoughts, the design boss sketched a more elongated, almost stretched diamond grille rendering that is reminiscent of the current Aston Martin/Ford aperture, although more integrated.

While Mr Lichte pointed to the TT Sportback Concept as the most tangible example of how the Audi grille will evolve, he said that this is only partly there, as the sportscar’s famous silhouette requires a different interpretation of it to work on that car. Plus it was designed prior to his arrival.

“The (TT Sportback) grille is only an evolution, because it’s based on the TT,” he said. “The next one will be more of a revolution. When the grille gets even bigger the car looks immediately lower and wider.”

A similar theme will debut on the next A4 mid-sizer and its A5 sibling due next year, however these will not be the full-fat change that the A8 will gain.

Name checking the 90 Sport racing car, Mr Lichte said the next A8 will probably brandish more emotive and brand descriptive elements such as broader wheel arches in the way that classic Audis did in the 1980s to accentuate their quattro all-wheel drive ability.

It is in the same way that BMW’s long-nose/short-tail shape emphasises the Bavarian marque’s rear-wheel drive ability.

“It’s about making Audi’s qualities visible through design,” he said.

Further to that, the A8’s window line will be shallower and swoopier, with a greater proportion of metal to glass to better broadcast its aerodynamic qualities.

Mr Lichte added that these treatments are for the sedans only. The SUVs and coupes are likely to have their own defining and evolving characteristics, in an effort to keep ahead of the pack.

Other visual advances will come in the form of technology-aided headlight and tail-light redesigns, while Audi is also experimenting with rectangular C-pillars to break away from the proliferation of six-window applications.

With decades of experience garnered at Volkswagen and GM Opel before that, the 45 year-old designer worked on the current Scirocco, as well as the last three generations of Golfs, the current and upcoming Passat and the existing Tiguan.

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