Rendez-Vous A Monte Carlo

Evening in Monte Carlo Bay

Dawn in Monte Carlo Bay

Audi A3 Cabriolet and S3

cruising with the A3 Cabriolet

Cruising with the A3 Cabriolet.

Prélude au printemps: Audi A3 Cabriolet et S3 et …

Serge Gouloumès

Monte Carlo. Of course, this is spring time, this is Formula 1 in a unique shape. The racetrack is incredible, its history awe-inspiring.

Yet, it is neither with a Porsche nor with a an F1 racing car but with other members of the A3 family with which we explore La Turbie and such like. The A3 Cabriolet and the S3 limousine are to be introduced to France in springtime 2014.

You want to read more? We are working on it.

see also:

 

food for thoughts - Serge et la baguette sans Raclette ... photos: Audi + Roeder, text ©roe.

Food for thoughts – Serge et la baguette sans Raclette … photos: Audi + Roeder, text: ©roe.

Aston Martin VANQUISHes Stuttgart

The new flagship model, the ultimate GT Aston Martin Vanquish.

Black Beauty: The V12 Vantage Roadster.

(Ad)Vantage for Stuttgart: Schwabe Dr. Ulrich Bez

He has seen it all and done it all. At the age of 70 Dr. Ulrich Bez does not have to prove anything to anyone any more. However, he has written a monumental book: Making Aston Martin.

Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez holding the opening speech for the new Aston Martin Dealer in Filderstadt (Stuttgart).

Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez holding the opening speech for the new Aston Martin Showroom in Filderstadt (Stuttgart).

And it is without a shadow of a doubt that the brand owes its success almost exclusively to this passionate car guy. The engineer who started his automobile career with BMW, nowadays lives Aston Martin. Without exaggeration one can say that Bez is the brand. And it is with utmost conviction that Bez says: “Aston Martin is the coolest brand ever.”

"Coolest brand" (U. Bez).

“Coolest brand” (U. Bez).

A heck of a lot could be and has been said and written about this specific man. To reflect things from his point of view Ulrich Bez has had the book “Making Aston Martin” published with teNeues. We will therefore refrain from inventing yet new expressions to describe this giant of the car making industry. Let us use the words of Paolo Tumminelli, professor at the International School of Design in Cologne and director of the Goodbrands Institute for Automotive Culture, who adequately sums up Bez’s main characteristics by calling him “a car manufacturer, one of the last of a dying breed.”

So for Dr. B’s 70th birthday here is a little serenade to one of the last of his kind:

We met up with him during the opening of the new showroom on the outskirts of Stuttgart, where among other things he proved to be a gifted DJ. Whether or not he would like the following film we are not so certain, because it would be a pity to use an Aston Martin for this kind of sporty exercise. But one never knows what strange ideas some nouveaux riches might have. As for us, we prefer the below type of car for this somewhat offbeat but absolutely stunning stunt.

Yet, let it be said: the Aston in the film “Johnny English” is unforgettable.

Susanne Roeder

©roe

see also: http://globaliter.de/constructed-with-love/

Audi A8 Revisited

Sculptures of an Exhibition: The new Audi A8 starring at Langen Foundation in Hombroich, Neuss Northrhine-Westfalia.

Sculptures of an Exhibition: The new Audi A8 starring at Langen Foundation in Hombroich, Neuss, North Rhine-Westphalia.

Four Rings and Three Dimensions

It is the Audi flagship, the epitome of hightech, luxury, comfort and ease, spiced with sportiness: the Audi A8. Four years after the third generation was launched, a distinctly made over version is waiting to enter the limelight. And since this car encapsulates most of the Audi prowess, there is also a long version, as Mercedes-Benz and other OEMs have their long versions, built especially for chauffeuring the rich and mighty. In a nutshell and therefore simplified: Faced with the choice between Audi or Mercedes-Benz, those focussing on ever-increasing security features will opt for a Mercedes, whereas drivers for whom sportiness is the essence will go for Audi, knowing full well that the brand with the four rings has always had sufficient state-of-the art safety on board. This verdict is made irrespective of the very personal tastes as regards design. And we are fully aware that  for simplicity’s sake we have not mentioned the third of the German “big three”, namely BMW, also acclaimed for its sportiness.

Man does not really like rain that much, quattro loves it. Plus the power of the of the S8: We were indeed having fun, as can be seen. Smiling faces, because this car is so direct, so easy to drive.

quattro loves rain. Plus the power of the S8 with its 4.0 litre V8 TFSI engine on board. We had mighty fun irrespective of the rain. Smiling faces, because this car is so direct, so agile in spite of its size, so easy to drive.

Some of our colleagues criticise Audi for its signature claim “Vorsprung durch Technik”, maintaining the car manufacturer had lost its technical supremacy. But how about Daimler’s slogan “Das Beste oder nichts”, “The Best or Nothing”? Looking at the design of quite a number of their cars our answer in the direction of the Stuttgart brand would at

Best in Class

Best in Class

present be: “I’d rather have nothing.” Audi certainly is not half as apodictic as Daimler with their claim. The four rings are simply saying that technical leadership is the key to success. As any linguist would argue with reference to the OEM’s slogan: Audi is not maintaining to be the best in everything. The premium car manufacturer is rather driving home the fact that technical breakthroughs help towards being benchmark, which, of course, is what the brand is striving for. What Audi does not and has never maintained is that the car manufacturer holds the laurel in every respect. Having said that, without any preconceived notions pro or against Audi leadership in certain fields can be measured objectively.

So what is it that makes a flagship, and what specifically do people expect from a luxury limousine? Abundant space for man and luggage, sufficient state-of-the-art safety features, comfort features like adaptive air suspension, seats with massaging functions

Audi Flagship = A8

Audi Flagship = A8

and possibly air ionisation, connectivity, a high end sound system, luxurious interieur as a whole and appealing design are aspects that immediately spring to mind. And as much as individual brands differ in how they meet all these requests, they definitely take them into account. Audi has certainly succeeded in fitting all of these premium features into the new A8. In fact, the OEM has passed the test with flying colours. Why can we be so certain? Not only is Audi first to introduce a very intelligent lighting system called Matrix LED lighting, the algorithms for which were developed inhouse, the technology coming from supplier Hella –, but also have the engines become yet more powerful and more efficient. And even if 350 Euro may sound negligible in relation to the sizable total amount, it is the sum which the new A8, available in Germany with prices starting at 74,500 Euro, costs less than its predecessor. The 3 litre V6 diesel with eight-speed tiptronic and quattro as entry level model feels quite sufficient for the majority of drivers, and one can certainly feel the character of the new A8 for this entry price. In other words, the A8 has become more perfect, if there can be such a degree of comparison, and slightly less expensive.

Just another few days and the new Audi A8, S8 and A8 L W12 will arrive at German Audi dealerships.

Just another few days and the new Audi A8, S8 and A8 L W12 will arrive at German Audi dealerships.

The A8 has successfully maintained its place as sportiest full size sedan in the premium segment. The new A8 is scheduled to arrive at German dealerships in November. When driving the various models of the A8, with a clear preference for the S8, we have been able to experience just that: excellent comfort, superb craftsmanship, strict lightweight construction and a broad portfolio of high-end technologies. Audi has indeed managed to update its A8 flagship exhaustively.

Vorsprung durch Technik: Shine a Light

New assistance systems and the innovative Matrix LED headlights make for even safer and more superior driving. The engines are more powerful and more efficient. And it is still there, the technical leadership in quattro. Nothing can compare to this uniquely efficient technology that leaves the driver with a feeling of utter sportiness and as though in total command of the car, even if it is the superior technology that is in control in cases where an amateur driver might run into dire straits.

How the Audi Matrix LED headlights work.

How the Audi Matrix LED headlights work.

quattro is unbeaten to this day. But let us take a closer look at that discipline in which Audi has lately become benchmark, too: lighting. As shown in an online sneak preview from August (see our previous text http://globaliter.de/heres-to-another-fab-member-of-the-rrrrrrrrrrrrsssssssssss-family/) Stephan Berlitz, chief lighting developer, explained the main functions to the interested journalists in the fittingly futuristic ambience of the Langen Foundation. Berlitz amazed his listeners with the announcement that the stunning lighting device allows more than one billion light distributions.

Here's looking straight at you...

Here’s looking straight at you…

Fortunately, the appearance of the headlights has changed. These lights that in the thorough facelift of the third generation, i.e. of the internally called D4/4H, had this effeminate eyelash or garland look have become straight in a convincing way and so unmistakably Audi. With Matrix LED Audi even more has attained a unique physique, as the headlights with their 25 LED lights per headlamp shine their light into every corner of the surroundings, without blinding either man or animal. So even if it may seem a soppy love song, the Audi matrix LED headlights can also be described emotionally. Seeing that Audi vehicles are driven all over the world, the headlights certainly manage to “shine a light in every corner of the world” and, what’s more, in an extremely intelligent manner:

The car has been improved so significantly as regards technology, efficiency and assistance systems, and has been carefully made over with respect to its outer and inner appearance that it will take at least another three years before the fourth generation will be constructed right from scratch.

Dressed to Kill

A8 ante portas: Testing the grounds of Schloss Bensberg in view of becoming a classic of the future at a Bensberg Classics event.

A8 ante portas: Testing the grounds of Schloss Bensberg in view of becoming a classic of the future at a Bensberg Classics event.

The new A8 has gained a more masculine and at the same time more elegant and slender overall appearance. Here are the most noticeable modifications: The flagship has received an even more clear-cut shape with straight lines and edges, as in the case of the bonnet

The three dimensions of the Audi Rings.

The three dimensions of the Audi Rings.

which more than before stretches angular across the singleframe grill and towards the new headlights. The singleframe grill itself has become slightly reduced but just as ready to hit the road. The rear with its separation edge and chrome trim is of a self-assured concreteness. The car is planted yet more solid on the ground. The operating Audi surgeons have every reason to be pleased with their facelift. It is very becoming to the physiognomy of the car. What also caught our attention as we glanced at the A8 sideways is its sculptured three dimensionality, which becomes most noticeable at the chiselled Audi rings protruding from the grill and calling for attention.

20 Years of Audi Space Frame

Less is more in each new Audi, meaning less weight. What twenty years ago began with the revolutionary Audi Space Frame has been expanded into scrutinising every part and

The body of the new A8 weighs just 231 kilograms - thanks to its ASF architecture and an intelligent blend of aluminum and high-strength steel.

The body of the new A8 weighs just 231 kilograms – thanks to its ASF architecture and an intelligent blend of aluminum and high-strength steel.

parcel of an Audi car with a view to reducing weight. As it highlights sportiness and of course means higher efficiency lightness is a top priority. Thus the new aluminum technology wheel underscores the Audi claim to leadership in lightweight construction. Besides the great design freedom, it also reduces the car’s unsprung masses substantially. Its innovative structure saves 4.35 kilograms (9.59 lb) compared with a conventionally fabricated forged wheel of the same design. That in itself means a total weight reduction per car of 17.4 kilograms (38.36 lb). Its surfaces in Iridium/Contrasting Gray emphasizes the three-dimensional effect and gives the new A8 wheels with an exclusive and unique look.

Three-dimensional effect of the new A8 wheels.

Three-dimensional effect of the new A8 wheels.

Added to the refreshingly facelifted design both outside and inside, the Audi flagship hosts the latest enhancements of Audi connect. Connected mobility has in fact been a key issue with Audi for many years. And again, the company with the four rings was first to study connected traffic in great depth. Audi MMI (Multi Media Interface), the operating concept of the Audi infotainment system, was introduced to the A8 back in 2002. Since then development has been rapid indeed. The latest generation of Audi connect not only displays parking lots and parking garages wherever wanted, it also indicates current prices of petrol stations, thus helping the driver to find the station with the best price.

Rolling understatement with 12 cylinders: A8 L W 12 small in Cuvée silver, metallic.

Rolling understatement with 12 cylinders: A8 L W 12 small in Cuvée silver, metallic.

“The Big”: A8 L W12

Although the A8 is an impressively spaceous limousine, there is yet the even more spaceous version, the long-wheelbase A8 L W12. “The Big” is truly an exclusive powerplant. Its W12 petrol engine produces 500 PS (368 kW) and delivers an impressive 625 Nm of torque at 4,750rpm. Once the Big rolls it glides along at impressive speed. Don’t get me wrong. This car is also amazingly quick right from the start:The sprint from 0 to 100 km/h is completed in 4.6 seconds, the electronically governed top speed of 250 km/h being just a formality. A speedboat, not a tanker.

Fast and luxurious: "the BIG".

Fast and luxurious: “the BIG”.

The A8 L W12 is expected to specifically appeal to the Chinese. However, Audi totally refrained from a plush interior just to please the Asian taste. It would be so un-Audi! On the

This is how the W12 engine works: It consists of four rows of three cylinders. Two rows face each other in a mutually offset configuration at 15-degree angles, respectively, and collectively form a single broad bank. The two cylinder banks thus form a 72-degree V configuration. The crankshaft has a crankpin offset of twelve degrees so that the twelve cylinders ignite in the ideal interval of 60 degrees.

This is how the W12 engine works: It consists of four rows of three cylinders. Two rows face each other in a mutually offset configuration at 15-degree angles, respectively, and collectively form a single broad bank. The two cylinder banks thus form a 72-degree V configuration. The crankshaft has a crankpin offset of twelve degrees so that the twelve cylinders ignite in the ideal interval of 60 degrees.

contrary, the Big delights in sheer understatement. Its interior is subdued, straight and echoes the Audi spirit of perfect quality. It is absolutely luscious to drive or be driven. Should one describe the sensation of driving or being driven, one might say that the Big has reminiscences of Mercedes-Benz limousines which generally focus on the feeling of cosiness, where the Audians in the majority of their models want the spotlight on sportive driving sensation. The Big certainly feels markedly different from any other A8. This is partly due to the long wheelbase and partly to the W12 engine which consists of four rows of four cylinders resulting in utter smoothness. Incidentally, the W12 engine amazes with a size of barely over 50 centimeters in length and is roughly 70 centimeters wide and tall.

S-ums the A8 up Adequately …

Who would want to question the S8 oozing sheer driving delight? Not us. Okay, it is a rather large car, measuring 5.135 metres in legth, 1.849 metres in width and 1.640 metres in height. But does that stop it from having a markedly sporty character? Not for a moment. The sprint from 0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) only takes 4.1 seconds.

The Audi S8 is sheer driving delight, realising the perfect mix between sporty character and top level luxury.

The Audi S8 is sheer driving delight, realising the perfect mix between sporty character and top level luxury.

The S8 with its V8 turbo is the sportiest model of the A8 family. The sound of the eight cylinders are sonorous bliss making the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System and rear seat entertainment superfluous. The S8 furthermore offers a generous list of standard equipment, including LED headlights, ambient lighting, convenience key, four-zone automatic air conditioning, Bose surround sound system and MMI navigation plus with S8-specific welcome screen. Although the whole A8 lineup is very impressive, given the choice we would not hesitate but take a seat in the S8. Sports car or not, the optional massage functions in the seats of the S8 are a very welcome feature. For the sportive driver who wants to delve into luxury, the S8 perfectly captures two cars in one to perfection.

The emblem of true sportiness.

The emblem of true sportiness.

On Such a quattro Day

We were in luck: There were spells of pouring rain awaiting us. Just the right thing for quattro. Rain, sleet, roads full of leaves or snow – such weather conditions are best for bringing out the quattro in the A8. In October we definitely had rain in abundance. But, needless to say, our Audi managed the unease marvellously well, no matter whether the S8, the A8 L or any other of the A8 models we were able to testdrive.

To those who seek sportive luxury, the A8 is just the car. It is equipped with a fast and smooth-shifting, eight-speed tiptronic. The electronically controlled automatic transmission is paired with quattro permanent all-wheel drive. Audi complements this with the optional sport differential, which distributes the power between the rear wheels as needed. It is standard with the A8 4.2 TDI clean diesel quattro and the S8. Additional sportiness stems from the sporty character of the chassis.

I can Hear your Heartbeat

human heart anatomy edThe heartbeat of all the A8 engines is reassuringly strong, sonorous and sporty. There are two TDI diesel engines, the 3.0 TDI with 258 PS (190 kW), or alternatively the 4.2 TDI with 385 PS (283 kW), and two TFSI petrol engines, namely the 3.0 TFSI V6 with 310 hp (228 kW) and the 4.0 TFSI with Cylinder on Demand (COD) and 435 hp (320 kW), all of which feature forced induction and direct injection. And they quite obviously satisfy the requirements of the Euro 6 emissions standard. Every second A8 sold in Europe is a 3.0 TDI.

There is also a hybrid version of the A8 and of course the S8 and the long version, the A8 L W12. It is particularly the even sportier S8 that made our hearts beat faster. With its 4.0 TFSI engine the S8 produces 520hp (382 kW) and develops 650 Nm of torque between 1,700 and 5,500 rpm.

Whereas the S8 has the feel of a spacious sportscar, the A8 L W12 is luscious luxury in completion with yet sporty elements and understated appearance in the interieur. Albeit a truly big car, the Big does not come across as colossal, but as elegantly muscular from the outside.

Mighty engine for a mighty car: 4L V8 TFSI beaing in the Audi S8.

Mighty engine for a mighty car: 4L V8 TFSI beaing in the Audi S8.

All engines consume up to ten per cent less energy. And how incredibly complex these astounding pieces of technology have become. Makes the human heart appear almost ridiculously simple by comparison. Engineers have truly become the magiciens of the present.

And for those bewailing the introduction of COD (Cylinder on Demand) let it be said that once four or six cylinders are switched off the sound does not diminish, but leaves the impression as though all eight / twelve cylinders are constantly doing their job. For this the acoustics engineers have carefully hideden four microphones in the ceiling.

Catch Me If You Can

100,000 of the second generation of the Audi flagship were sold from 1994 to 2002. 150,000 A3 have already been sold since 2003. We are convinced that the intelligently and thoroughly facelifted new A8 will sell well. Analysts maintaining Audi would lose out on the  two competitors BMW and Mercedes-Benz do not seem to be aware of the fact, that it does not always need a totally new generation. In a way, the made over third generation A8 is as good as a fourth generation.

It is premiere time for the Audi fleet shuttle quattro – the futuristic Audi can now be seen in the movie “Ender’s Game” with the actor Harrison Ford in the sci fi Audi.

It is premiere time for the Audi fleet shuttle quattro – the futuristic Audi can now be seen in the movie “Ender’s Game” with the actor Harrison Ford in the sci fi Audi.

So, why start from scratch prematurely? Considering the quality and benchmark hightech inherent to the A8 this is not only unnecessary, but also counterproductive, both economically and strategically. After all, the Audi brand is conservative in the original sense in that it has established its DNA. And what other than corrobarating this typcially A8 DNA does the facelift of the third generation do? In other words: Why topple a winner and start from scratch? A rhetorical question. After all, the appearance and technology of the new A8 has been signifcantly sharpened. And the automobile industry has always been cyclical, each OEM having their own timing for when to launch the next generation of an existing car or indeed a totally new model. Audi will for instance be launching the Q6, a new SUV. The question needs to be asked: Are not analysts trying to hype up this issue?

So while Audi is refining and fine-tuning its successful flagship it is embarking on the future in other spheres. It may be spacy, it may seem science fiction. At any rate, the company with the four rings is dealing with the future, be it future urban mobility which Audi addresses in its Audi Urban Future Initiative, or futuristic cars, as in the sci fi film with Harrison Ford. Because who knows whether or not the future is now.

Honestly, what does “technical leadership” actually mean? It quite simply means always being a step ahead. Although the amount of horesepower is undoubtedly impressive, the technical data will not amount to much unless the whole product is a success. This also necessitates that man and machine are feeling as one, whether while speeding or cruising along, or in using all the luxury features and assistance function – intuitively.

Our verdict? In the case of the new Audi A8 we would certainly award the car with a triple A. So there is indeed no need to come out with the fourth generation, just because Daimler has recently launched its new S-class. No, Audi can placidly keep that ace up its sleeve till 2016 in the pleasant feeling that the engineers have yet developed the existing A8 significantly further and produced an altogether stunning, consistent and well composed premium car.

Summary / Zusammenfassung:

Audi hat den Bogen raus. Das Design ist stimmig und von hohem Wiedererkennungswert. Und der Claim “Vorsprung durch Technik” ist auch im neuen A8 wirkungsvoll umgesetzt. quattro ist unschlagbare Nummer 1 in der Automobilwelt. So auch im A8. Der hat auch das Neueste vom Neuen in Sachen Audi connect, nämlich so nützliche Angaben wie die aktuellen Kraftstoffpreise an Tankstellen und andere intelligente Online-Services. Auch alle Audi A3 Varianten sowie die meisten anderen Audi Modelle haben diesen Service neu an Bord.

Mit dem grundlegenden Facelift haben die Ingolstädter der dritten Generation neues Leben eingehaucht. Wozu also eine vierte Generation, wenn die dritte verdammt gut ist? Auch das ist Nachhaltigkeit und ein Abrücken von der Wegwerfgesellschaft, die immer etwas Neues braucht, nur um der Neuigkeit halber. Warten wir also gelassen ab, welche technologischen Highlights Audi in drei Jahren in seinem Flaggschiff zündet.

Susanne Roeder

©roe

For those interested further in Langen Foundation, based at the Rocket Station in Hombroich, see under: http://langenfoundation.de/en/architecture/the-raketenstation/.



Happy Birthday to You, quattro!

happy_birthday_candles

On Many More Outstanding Jubilees to Come!

“30 years quattro GmbH – Pure adrenaline” can be seen as exhibition in the Audi Forum in Neckarsulm, Baden-Württemberg, till 4th January 2014 (free admission, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6pm, Saturdays from 8 am to 5pm). On account of this jubilee Audi is showing some unique Audi quattro cars, accessories through the ages, Customer Racing and, not least of all, some of the people who have shaped 30 years of incessant success, growth and passion.

Beary sportsman from the current quattro accessories selection.

Beary sportsman from the current quattro accessories selection.

In 1983 the name “quattro” was entered in the trade register in order to protect the name from being copied by other carmakers. The positioning of the new brand was quite a challenge, remember those who were involved with the project in its early days. From 1983 to 1994 quattro GmbH sold nothing but accessories – from keyrings, perfume, glasses, caps, little cars for children and other toys, to watches and leather merchandise like briefcases and wallets. Maria Leichtfuß, assistant to the first director of quattro GmbH, Dr. Jens Neumann recalls the early days of the high-end section of Audi engineering: “We felt like pioneers embarking on an adventure of passion. It was a great pleasure for us to inspire the accessories with the spirit of quattro. These simple seven letters infused Audi with something unique, something very special, the delight of power, empathy, and success. This spirit has persevered for more than 30 years – and it will last – since it  is implanted in the hearts of true Audi customers. quattro, this is more than just a word – it is a passion!”

7 = 7, passion = quattro

Audi debuts with its first individualised car.

Audi debuts with its first individualised car.

The year 1995 marked a decisive turning point in the history of the quattro brand: It is the year in which the first individualised Audi, an Audi A8 was presented during IAA in Frankfurt. 1995 was also the IAA where the Audi TT Coupé was presented as concept car, which as opposed to its predecessors quattro Spyder (1991) and Avus quattro came very close to series production. Designer Freeman Thomas had enjoyed great freedom, which resulted in a concept car from which the series production differed only in details. In 1998 the first Audi TT were delivered. Soon after, quattro had become a fully-fledged carmaker with a particularly sporty edge in the highend segment.

Audi TT concept car. Built only once, in search of yet higher performance.

Audi TT concept car. Built only once, in search of yet higher performance.

As of 1996, quattro GmbH was also vehicle manufacturer with their own chassis number for their vehicles. Werner Frowein is another name inextricably linked with the rise of quattro GmbH. Under his leadership from 1998 and ended only by his retirement in 2012 and Franciscus van Meel as his successor, the Audi RS 4 and RS 6 plus the high-performance models Q7 V12 TDI, RS 5, TT RS and RS 3 emerged and of course the super sports car R8.
Audi motorsports: The quattroworld at a glance. "Successful motorsport is part of our brand DNA," Wolfgang Dürheimer, former Member of the Management Board for Technical Development.

Audi motorsports: The quattroworld at a glance. “Successful motorsport is part of our brand DNA.” (Wolfgang Dürheimer, former Member of the Management Board for Technical Development)

The development of the rather exclusive quattro GmbH is breathtaking indeed – from accessories to handmade Audi quattro cars and, as top of the line, Customer Racing, the commitment to motorsports. Customer Racing started in 2009, and just four years later one hundred racing cars based on the Audi R8 have already been handed over to their proud owners.

In spite of having to jet all over the world, to a large extent living from a suitcase, Romolo Liebchen, Head of Customer Racing, considers his job as very rewarding. Liebchen who has been with Audi since 1989, took over the project management for the R8 LMS customer sport, the racing version of the Audi R8, back in 2008: “This has been the best decision in my life”, he says beaming all over his face.

Invented for passionate wo/men: Audi Customer Racing.

Invented for passionate wo/men: Audi Customer Racing.

quattro’s road to success as a very distinct brand full of passion has reached yet another climax in the 30 year jubilee: For the first time in its history more 200,000 quattro cars will have been built this year. This corresponds to an increase of sales by 30 per cent, comparedt to 160,000 cars sold last year. As site manager Fred Schulze proudly points out: “It is here in Neckarsulm that we develop all quattro models for our clients all over the world.”

13,000 hp can be marvelled at on three floors. Due to the tremendously gripping topic,  for the first time this special exhibition takes place on all three levels of the Audi Forum. One fabulous exhibit chases another, including precious pieces from private collectors. The exhibition conveys what the quattro GmbH has been known for since its foundation: high performance, exclusivity and hightech.

Gimme 5 Cylinders, Please!

Let’s therefore talk a bit more about cars now, as the history of this brand is just amazing. There is for instance the yellow “TT”, which only at first sight qualifies as a TT. Looked at more closely it becomes obvious that for a TT the car is too long. As a matter of fact the car is a hybrid in that it is the percursor of the Audi TT RS. The engineers were were racking their brains how to get more performance into the car. This meant working on how to fit six cylinders into this car rather than the hitherto four. Eventually, they took the A4 platform, a longitudinal platform which provided the adequate aggregates for the performance aimed for, and put the lid on the chassis, i.e. the typical TT top hat. The car in this configuration was only built once. Along with a number of other rare exhibits it can be seen in Neckarsulm till 4th January 2014. Soon after the engineers had the clever idea of reviving the 5-cylinder which fitted nicely into the TT platform. A perfect win:win situation, because not only did it allow them to adhere to the original TT platform, but most notably more performance was reached.

"Ur-quattro", the origin of the gripping quattro success story, owned by an Audi quattro enthusiast.

“Ur-quattro”, the origin of the gripping quattro success story, owned by an Audi quattro enthusiast. Below see some photos of this car in action.

Besides this unique piece there are many more delicious examples of engineering and craftsmanship to be seen. Take for instance the red “ur-quattro”, ancestor to what instigated a “quattro-mania”. For the purpose of the exhibition Audi borrowed this car from an absolute quattro and racing aficionado, whose entire collection of quattro cars wears Walter Röhrl’s signature on their bonnets. Or fancy owning a totally individualised Audi 100

A private collector's car. In immaculate condition and fully individualised: Audi 100 long version.

A private collector’s car. In immaculate condition and fully individualised: Audi 100 long version.

long version with specific leather all around, even the rooflining is clad in matching leather in ribs look. Both cars are in perfect nick and look as if they had just left the painting plant.

On the ground floor what immediately attracts one’s attention in the back are the two representatives of Customer Racing. The racing trim of the first polished to bring out its best shine, the other left in its original state after having completed a demanding race. It is in the eye of each individual beholder which car (s)he prefers.

Two versions of Customer Racing cars.

Two versions of Customer Racing cars.

It was … yes, of course, Ferdinand Piëch who introduced the 5-cylinder petrol engine to Audi, to the Audi 100 back in 1976. The engine proved so successful that the car manufacturer has kept it in its portfolio. Franciscus van Meel, too, is enthusiastic about the five-cylinder in-line turbo with its indistinguishable, particularly sonorous and earthy sound. In fact, van Meel could not resist announcing the new five-cylinder turbo in the Audi RS 3.

quattro Today

quattro means gripping hightech, which is symbolised by the technical quattro lizard that has a lot of grip on whichever surface.

quattro means gripping hightech, which is symbolised by the technical quattro lizard having a lot of grip on whichever surface.

“With eight RS-models and the Audi R8 we currently offer the largest range of models in the history of the quattro GmbH,” says Franciscus van Meel, Managing Director of quattro GmbH. And he is extremely proud to announce that to date more than 90,000 cars have left the manufacturing plant. In the meantime, 850 highly motivated quattro employees make sure that these top of the  line cars can be built.

Audi is benchmark in China.

Luck in Chinese. Audi is benchmark in China.

No end to growth is in sight. And like everybody else in the car manufacturing business, quattro GmbH is set to sell increasingly more cars in China. This is part of the plan for increasing internationalisation. As Fred Schulze points out: “We are by far the most successful premium car provider in China and will retain this position. In the course of the year we have surpassed the two-million mark. The first million sold cars took us 22 years, for the second million we will have taken three years. We were the first OEM in China. And our A6 is the most successful premium sedan in this country.” From these words one may deduce that Audi is not afraid of being overtaken by Mercedes-Benz that have announced a model-offensive in Asia.

One car that really is thrilling, as it looks unsuspiciously unobtrusive, is the RS 6 Avant. A wolf in sheep’s clothing… A perfect one-in-all that answers almost any need – except that of a cabriolet driver. Here is a little film encapsulating the spirit of quattro:

In an altogether different vein Ingolstadt, too, is commemorating 30 years, focussing exclusively on quattro motorsports. This exhibition according to Thomas Frank, Head of Audi Tradition, is a unique display of 30 years of motorsports and should not be expected to be seen in the same constellation for a long time. “Home of quattro” – meaning motorsports, not the place of production, as this is Neckarsulm/Heilbronn – can be seen in the Audi museum mobile in Ingolstadt from 15th October to 30th November, daily from 9 am to 6pm. Admission is free.

The Sport quattro S1 made its debut in 1985 during the Rally Marlboro in Argentina.

The Sport quattro S1 made its debut in 1985 during the Rally Marlboro in Argentina.

Some of us will still remember the breathtaking venture when the brand with the four rings set out to do the impossible and climb a ski jump. As early as 1986, they had rally driver Harald Demuth do the stunt. Watching the later version of this adventure, it looks almost an easy test of courage, which is no doubt why Audi subtitled: Copying not recommended!

But how better demonstrate how gripping in a double sense quattro can be …

As Years Go By …

Customers ask for increasingly more individualisation in their cars. quattro GmbH wants to meet these demands. Xmas Wish edThey therefore have imposed themselves an ambitious target: By 2020 they want to be the best premium car supplier. And who knows – after visiting one or both exhibitions in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria and seeing that Christmas is approaching fast, some of us may well feel inspired to have a word with Father Christmas and urge him to make a childhood wish come true:

Susanne Roeder

©roe

PS: And as can be seen from these photos, the “Ur-quattro” does not simply sit around lazily in a garage, but enjoys lots of rides right across Europe, as for instance in Zillertal (Austria) or Hamburg. Mind you, the owner is naturally so besotted with his car that he does not dream of driving from Bavaria right to Hamburg, but has the car take a ride on the train.

Meeting his mates in Zillertal.

Meeting his mates in Zillertal.

What is snow to a quattro? But a laugh.

What is snow to a quattro? But a laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The owner of the Ur-quattro is a genuine "Quattronista" !

The owner of the Ur-quattro is a genuine “Quattronista” !

quattro take you down to their place by the river... Hamburg, here we are.

quattro take you down to their place by the river… Hamburg, here we are.

We can climb the highest mountains ... easy peasy!

We can climb the highest mountains … easy peasy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Design, Heritage and Pedigree

RS 7 + SR in love small

Here’s to another Fab Member of the RrrrrrrrrrrrSssssssssss Family: Audi RS 7 Sportback

What is in a number? Read this one: 560 hp. Very impressive. 4.0 litre V8 TFSI engine. Sounds good. It is actually the same engine as in the latest RS 6 Avant, that premiered a few months earlier (see post “The Lord of the Rings” from May). But what an altogether different car the RS 7 Sportback is. In shape and feel.

Magic letters that make driving bliss.

Magic letters that make driving bliss.

And yet V8 means downsizing, an irrevocable trend it seems. The predecessor in the former RS 6 Avant was a V10 engine with a plus of 20 horsepower,  however less maximum torque. Not to mention the thunderous power of V12 engines, typically in Ferraris or Lamborghinis, also in the Aston Martin Vantage and DB9 Volante, the Mercedes-Benz 600 SL and other models from Stuttgart of years gone by, the Jaguar XJS, the BMW 750i, 750Li and quite a number of other cars designed for the street. But in all fairness, it has to be said: What the engineers have managed to wring out of this V8 is simply mind-boggling.

Added to which the two letters “RS” are the decisive factor denoting dynamism if not dynamite. They are a promise that this is Audi at its best. Where the “S” factor is already pretty awe inspiring, “RS” simply takes one’s breath away.

Spirits of Ancient Engines…

Let’s face it: Engines with an impressive number of cylinders obviously have become a thing of the past, ousted by an increasing number of limitations imposed on the car

V 10 engines: Pieces of evidence of a glorious past.

V 10 engines: Pieces of evidence of a glorious past.

industry worldwide. They are no longer deemed politically correct, soon to be carefully mothballed like Egyptian mummies, and thus preserved for posterity. In decades to come, people will marvel at these wonders of technology from days of yore. Mind you, one of my neighbours has one of those wicked 12 cylinder pickups, with a brutish booming roar. A great sound indeed, unless it explodes into the peace and quiet of the very early morning hours, which, alas, it frequently does. It certainly makes the other neighbour’s V6 Chrysler pickup sound pathetic, almost ethereally electric. Well, not quite. Views are divided over large SUVs, which is why the car industry is in the process of shrinking them. The Audi Q3 is one such example. The entire Volkswagen Group is pursuing this course of cutting down on size. In the case of Volkswagen this is facilitated on account of its recently established MQB system (Modularer Querbaukasten), a modular toolkit strategy for its transverse, front-engined, front-wheel drive automobiles: Audi set out with the Q7, followed by the Q5, followed by the Q3. VW does it, even Porsche does it (from Porsche Cayenne to Porsche Macan which is soon to debut). The VW Taigun as baby Tiguan may soon be on its way. The first and biggest VW SUV, the Tuareg and counterpart to the Porsche Cayenne, once considered absolutely hip, seems to have become mega out within a couple of years. The new motto: The smaller the hipper. SUVs of a sizable size therefore might soon belong to an endangered species, especially in politically hypercorrect Germany. Just as fur coats and their wearers were maligned and fell pray to the attacks of sprayers in former years, the new scapegoats might well be SUVs and other premium cars. Once loved dearly and hyped as status symbols, they now run the risk of being scratched or set on fire, their drivers denounced as a threat to the environment. Little do these dimwits know that A, B or C segment cars are profitting from the cutting edge technology first developed for premium cars. My late friend Dorothy, MBE, who married a German just before war broke out, summed it up adequately: “You Germans, you overdo it both ways.”

Even Formula 1 has been cut down to eight cylinders and it does not stop here. Next year motorsports aficionados will witness the return of turbo engines to what is arguably the epitome of motor racing, with engines powered by no more than six cylinders. “Ludicrous”, you may well say. The fact is that the difference to street cars continues to decrease. Or to put it differently: Formula 1 is getting forever closer in becoming a laboratory for future passenger cars and therefore has a convincing raison d’être. This is also why a  totally electric Formula 1 is likely, although it is difficult to see what joy this is to bring to spectators. It will have nothing in common with proper Formula 1, where sound and vibrations are imperative.

More cylinders than in the F1 race cars as from 2012 – even though only on demand.

More cylinders than in F1 as from 2014 – even though only on demand.

Compared to Formula 1 Audi and other OEMs manufacturing premium cars are courageous. They try to satisfy public demand for performance, and do so by means of ever increasing efficient performance. Coming back to the RS 7 Sportback, as in the case of the RS 6 Avant, not only does the engine have a total of eight instead of ten cylinders, these engines have what is called “cylinder on demand” (COD).

COD means that  you are placidly cruising along or driving in town with only four cylinders doing the work. At low to moderate load and engine speed, the system deactivates cylinders two, three, five and eight by closing their valves and shutting off the fuel injection. The 4.0 TFSI runs as a four-cylinder engine in this mode – until one presses firmly down on the gas pedal. The operating points in the active cylinders are displaced toward higher loads, increasing efficiency and simultaneously reducing consumption in the NEDC (New European Driving Circle) by around ten percent. The good thing about this is the average driver with a sporty ambition will not notice any difference in handling. The same cannot be said for a lot of cars.

Apart from COD the engineers at Audi are specifically proud pointing out another innovation, which shows that losing weight is a top priority for cars nowadays. Less weight means less fuel consumption and increased driving dynamics. The process of losing

Weight saving via clever shape: Front brake with wave brake disc.

Weight saving via clever shape: Front brake with wave brake disc.

weight concerns the whole body of the car as well as any separate item that can conceivably be further improved. Besides using a clever mix of materials – the RS 7 consists of a hybrid aluminum design making it weigh roughly 15 percent less than a comparable all-steel body –, a lot also depends on finding the optimum shape. As in the case of brake discs. The RS 7 Sportback features a wave design that does not only look interesting, the internally vented brake discs result in a sizable reduction of almost three kilograms (6.61 lb). Ceramic discs are optional amounting to an astounding minus ten kilograms in weight. As expected from Audi, there is also a sporty note to the brakes: The electronic stabilization control system (ESC) has a Sport mode that can be deactivated altogether. These weight saving wave brake discs are also standard on the RS 6 Avant.

The third outstanding technical feature that the RS 7 Sportback boasts is the eight-speed tiptronic gearbox as standard which has been specially matched to the sporty character of the car. It allows you to choose between D and S modes or change gears yourself. While the lower gears of the tiptronic are closely spaced for sporty response, the eighth gear is tall to reduce fuel consumption.

The marvels of hightech as state of the art.

The marvels of hightech as state of the art.

What Power. What Elegance. What Class.

The basic technical data about the Audi RS 7 Sportback are swiftly told: 4.0 liter biturbo V8; 560 hp/412 kW; maximum torque: 700 Nm at 1,750 to 5,500 rpm; official top speed: 305 km/h (189.52 mph); sprint from 0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 3.9 seconds; average of 9.8 litres of fuel consumption per 100 km; eight speed tiptronic transmission; tank capacitiy: 65 litres; net weight: 1,985 kg; size of boot: 535 to 1,390 litres. The car will arrive in the showrooms in the fourth quarter of the year, at a base price of € 113,000.

Sculpturesque beauty. Dynamic elegance at its best.

Sculpturesque beauty. Dynamic elegance at its best.

There is no doubt about it. Car manufacturers generally build good cars nowadays. And the bare facts and figures about the RS 7 certainly convey an impression of power. But what are the ingredients of a truly fascinating car, a car that is both thrilling to drive and to look at?  Such a car must definitely have an appealing design, outrageous speed, convincing torque, utmost precision in everything and unfailing attention to detail.

A Stroke of Genius & Homage to Yesterday

Not only is the driving experience bliss. Just looking at this car as it stands firmly poised on the ground is thrilling. So why on earth did it take Audi so long to come out with such a wonderful car? After all the A7 made its debut as late as 2010, followed by the S7 in 2012. And finally, the RS 7 Sportback proudly presented itself to the world during the Detroit Auto Show at the beginning of this year. The Audi designers were surely inspired not only by trends in architecture and fashion, but most of all by the car manufacturer’s impressive pedigree.

With hindsight ... The RS7 pedigree: Audi 100 Coupé. Some call it the most beautiful Audi of all times.

With hindsight … The RS 7 pedigree: Audi 100 Coupé. Some call it the most beautiful Audi of all times.

This car certainly has its own outstanding identity. A personality that sets it apart and yet harks back to another icon of style, the Audi 100 Coupé S. The latter was produced forty years ago, from 1970 to 1976, and is a typical creation of the 1970ies. It did not yet have quattro, because development of the phenomenally successful all-wheel drive à la Audi started in 1977, that is 46 years ago. It premiered in the famous Audi quattro. And like so many other innovations and masterpieces of hightech, it is inextricably linked to one name, that of Ferdinand Piëch.

Only three years after the premier of the Audi quattro in 1980, the quattro GmbH was founded. From the outset, the one hundred percent Audi subsidiary has been dedicated towards premium quality. What started with exquisite leather in 1983 for high-quality interior of Audi cars developed into a workshop for the car manufacturer’s top models. All RS models are consequently produced in the home of quattro GmbH, Neckarsulm near Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg.

Loss of Weight, Expansion of Waistline

911 2.0 Coupé from 1964 and the present 911 Carrera 4S Coupé.

911 2.0 Coupé from 1964 and the present 911 Carrera 4S Coupé.

The evolutionary process of the epitome of an iconic sportscar, the immortal and forever nimble sportsman 911, best demonstrates how over the years the waistline of cars has never stopped expanding . In fact, the overall size of the 911 has been growing from one model to the next. The Porsche Musuem in Zuffenhausen (Stuttgart) has a section showing the silhouettes of all Porsche cars as lines. These silhouettes delineate both the careful evolution of the legendary sportscar and its increasing dimensions, from the very first Porsche 901, later to be called 911, to the present 997 half a century later. So even if cars have started to battle extra weight, their proportions have grown. Just as man is growing and growing in size.

Nonsensical message. Both genders, male and female have since its birth been indiscriminately been dreaming of the 911.

Nonsensical message. Since its birth both genders, male and female, have indiscriminately been dreaming of the 911.

Porsche may call the present Porsche (internally called 997 and in its seventh generation) masculine or muscular. The fact remains that the very first slim 911 models look daintily nimble and feature an aura of dignity and grace that marketing people might call feminine. Maybe that is behind all this nonsense about Porsche being a man’s car. As seen in one of the latest postcard campaigns on account of the 50 years jubilee (see above).

Dancing cheek to cheek - Porsche 911 2.0 Coupé & Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Coupé.

Dancing cheek to cheek:
Porsche 911 2.0 Coupé & Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Coupé.

Masculine, feminine, bullish, graceful and slender – design follows a certain Zeitgeist. At the same time it has to make allowances for and is constrained by so many functions and technical demands that progressive growth in dimensions is almost inevitable.

Apart from life saving safety features cars are nowadays packed with space devouring hightech, most of all premium cars. The inner life of a car body is intricate and most complex. Right from the outset, designers work hand in hand with the engineers in their opposing quests for millimetres on the one hand and artistic freedom on the other.

Hence there are solid reasons behind the expanding dimensions of current car bodies, namely technological progress and relentless drive for luxuries such as a state of the art multi-media interior and an all consuming focus on maximum safety.

... and back to back: Audi 100 Coupé S and A7.

… and back to back: Audi 100 Coupé S and A7.

So what are the inner values of the RS 7? Audi has been renowned for its immaculate interiors. No squeaky dashboards, meticulously exact gap dimensions inside and outside. High-quality interior décor. The sport seats in the RS 7 are another definite highlight. They are extremely comfortable and with their superbly stitched leather they are a captivating sculpture themselves.

The RS 7 is remarkably spaceous. Even in the back there is ample space. In a word: This five-door supercar is a classy sculpture on very fast wheels. Not quite as sleek and slender as its relative of the 1970ies, but yields a posture of a dynamic elegance which stands alone.

Sleek and slender: Audi 100 Coupé S.

Sleek and slender: Audi 100 Coupé S.

The long engine hood, the 2.92 meter (9.58 ft) wheelbase and the short overhangs create a sculpture with powerfully harmonious proportions. With its low, flowing roof line, the 5.01 meter (16.44 ft) RS 7 Sportback is striking from any angle.

It is a superb statement of design, a paragon of dynamics and technical perfection. That such perfection does not go unnoticed is hardly surprising. Only a few weeks ago Audi AG was awarded the J.D. Power Plant Assembly Line Quality Award for producing models that yield the fewest defects or malfunctions.

Epicentre of quattro and Best Production Site in Europe

The Audi production site in Neckarsulm has received the internationally esteemed J.D. Power Award in gold for being best in class in Europe and Africa. Neckarsulm is the plant with the highest diversity of Audi models produced. It is where all the top line premium cars are built and is the home of customer racing. The simple reason being that quattro GmbH is located right in the midst of the factory with its comprehensive technical know-how and expertise. This generates maximum synergy and efficiency.

quattro GmbH is also the place where every conceivable cliental wish is granted for an individualised car.

Best in Europe – Production Site in Neckarsulm. Here: A 6 assembly line.

Best in Europe – Production Site in Neckarsulm. Here: A 6 assembly line.

And with 30 years of quattro GmbH, this is an anniversary that could not possibly pass without setting another record. With four new RS models this year alone, a total of eight RS models is now produced in Neckarsulm.This year will have seen the introduction of the RS Q3, the first RS model in the SUV segment, the third generation of the RS 6 Avant, the RS 7 Sportback and the RS 5 Cabriolet. The other four models are the RS 4 Avant, the RS 5 Coupé, plus the TT RS Coupé and Roadster. And of course, quattro GmbH is also where the R 8 is manufactured.

In Neckarsulm we were among the first to be honoured with a guided a tour of quattro GmbH, the Fort Knox of Audi. It is at a certain point – Audi calls it “Zählpunkt 6″, because all the various production phases are numbered – in the Audi production site that all the RS models are removed from that production process and taken to the quattro workshop, where they are enhanced and emerge as the very highend RS models that set them apart from their next of kin more or less conspicuously. Out of the 800 Audi people working for quattro GmbH, 22 at present work in production. There is a maximum capacity for 40 “Audians” in the present layout of the workshop.

Let's hit the road, yessssssssss

Let’s hit the road, yessssssssss

Thank you Audi for having filled the gap with the A7 and most of all, producing it in the inimitable RS version. Mission most successfully completed. Without a shadow of a doubt, we, too,  have selected this late arrival to the Audi family as worthy of prizes in all categories of design, power and meticulous craftsmanship.

This is a car in which we felt at ease instantly and with which we have started a flirtatious love affair. It gives you wings, makes you fly – even at 230 km/h and more, the car is easy and pleasant to drive. It feels like cruising mode, whereas it is easy to feel uncomfortable at 120 km/h in quite a number of cars, some of which had best be restricted to traffic in towns. All one needs to do in the RS 7 is heed the other motorists in front and beside oneself.

Icon of Pop meets Car Icon

50 years later: Still going strong. Where will Audi be in another 50 years? All electric? At present certainly not.

50 years later: Still going strong. Where will Audi be in another 50 years? All electric? At present certainly not.

Time for some music. Lead singer: Nobody less than PaulMcCartney:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjCt0sI-cFA

So here we are, moving to the tune of a new car age. And here is to this fabulous car, the RS 7 Sportback –  the dawning of great design, steeped in tradition:

I’m Your Baby — Do You Love Me?
I Can Drive A Cadillac
Across The Irish Sea
But When I’ve Finished Doing That
I Know Where I’ll Want To Be
‘Cos I’m Your Baby, And You Love Me.

Spirits Of Ancient Egypt
Spirits Of Ancient Egypt
Spirits Of Audi ONE-O-O
Spirits Of Audi ONE-O-O.

A Car with which I instantly fell in love. The shape, the speed, the sheer presence of the Audi RS7 Sportback. Quite simply a work of art and a masterpiece at that.

The Car with which I instantly fell in love. The shape, the speed, the sheer presence of the Audi RS 7 Sportback. Quite simply a work of art and a masterpiece at that.

Summary / Zusammenfassung

Der RS 7 Sportback ist ein superber Wurf der Audi Ingenieure und Designer. Eine Skulptur auf Rädern aus einem Guss. Besonders in Daytonagrau Matteffekt hat es uns die Sportlimousine angetan. Dieses Auto ist von Anbeginn eine Stilikone, die schon jetzt ihren Platz im Museum of Modern Art in Washington verdient hat.

Warum die Ingolstädter so lange mit dem A7 gewartet haben? Geniales Design braucht den zündenden Funken.

Susanne Roeder

©roe

 

PS: And for those who criticise this blog for length, why not join this lively discussion started by Brian Driggs on LinkedIn: Who does the deep, long tail automotive journalism these days?

http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=260209991&gid=85806&commentID=153724772&trk=view_disc&fromEmail=&ut=33zQBWedXCMRQ1

But I have to admit, I got somewhat carried away with the subject.

PPS from 21st August 2013:

And as an addition to Audi Design and engine power: At last they have unveiled the long awaited made over flagship, the new Audi A8 and S8, today, 21st August 2013. Which begs the question: Will an Audi RS 8 be in the making? There are no such plans, as we were told. However, should enough aficionados be determined to hand out the necessary euros …. who knows. But see for yourselves:

Louis de Funès and Pay Stations: La Côte d’Azur en couleur

 

To Collect or not to Collect the Toll …

Audi in the midst of Les Tourelles with its bungalows in Bauhaus style.

Audi in the midst of Les Tourelles with its bungalows in Bauhaus style.

Germany is a country that still offers drivers free for all usage of its road systems, plus no speed limit on various motorways. So far, so good. However, a clearly discernible lack of money has seen many stretches of this once magnificent collection of highways and roads fall into disrepair and become a national embarrassment. Overloaded, these same motorways are frequently the scenario of nerve-racking traffic congestions.

On our way to the South of France on a Friday in June, we experienced the road and driving conditions in four countries: Germany, Switzerland, Itally and finally France. While we were fortunate as regards Germany – traffic running smoothly the whole way, we encountered quite a number of traffic congestions in France, namely seemingly endless bottlenecks towards the pay stations. And whilst politically speaking chaos reigns in Italy, this is not the case when it comes to Italian pay stations. Things ran pretty smoothly. When it comes to toll systems, Switzerland is most efficient. The Alpine country, which in many respects is inimical towards car drivers, has the best solution imposing the least bureaucratic nuisance to drivers and  road maintenance: the “Vignette”. This windscreen

Licence to use Swiss motorways - from December of the previous year to January of the following year.

Licence to use Swiss motorways – from December of the previous year to January of the following year.

sticker for cars, allowing the respective car to use Swiss motorways, was introduced back in 1985. It is valid for one year. You buy it once for at present roughly 28 pounds, and have no more hassle for 14 months. The passage through Switzerland was quiet and easy, except of course that one is painfully limited to a maximum speed of tediously slow 75 miles per hour. In spite of this ridiculously slow speed there are not fewer accidents than in Germany. Makes one wonder as to the meaningfulness of this regulation.

After the Gotthard Tunnel it already feels very much like Italy. Driving starts to be more fun , because the Italians themselves do not interpret speed limits too closely. It is therefore advisable to follow a sportive local driver, despite the carabinieri increasingly trying to enforce the law. Once you are caught speeding, you might incur a hefty fine. Whether it helps to start negotiating or possibly flirting with the caribinieri, we cannot say, as we twice managed to pass Italy unscathed.

On the way to the Cafè Mozart on the sea front of Alessio.

On the way to the Cafè Mozart on the sea front of Alassio.

In Switzerland they really make you bleed. One kilometer in one of their countless tunnels cost us 30 Swiss francs. Fines  rise exponentially per kilometer exceeding the speed limit.

Leaving Itally and entering France, the impression one gets from the landscape is different yet again. Fortunately, the European Union has so far failed to equalise the architecture and appearance of cities in the respective member states. Italy to me has always been a country with a lot of charm, liveliness and indeed prowess considering its chaotic political situation. So it was with a little sadness that we left Italy and its impressive coastline – having stayed in Savona overnight and doing a bit of sightseeing the following day.

Péage, péage, péage – Please wait…

Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace… Yes, we do know the nursery rhyme. Nevertheless, especially in France we sometimes wondered why on earth a driver has to pay the fee. If a country instals toll collect, the procedure should at least run smoothly. Instead, we found ourselves faced with traffic congestions on a highway for the use of which one has to pay. In spite of always having our credit card at hand in the worst case we lost half an hour due to the tedious paying procedure. The only lanes running smoothly were the telepass lanes. However, for this drive-through service for the use of which you put a sticker on your windscreen as non-resident one has to pay a lump sum based on the estimated amount of money needed for the use of motorways. And that usually means that you overpay, unless you want to find yourself stopped by barriers refusing to open and being a nuisance to the drivers queuing up behind you. Added is a handling and postage fee. In other words: Toll collect really is big business, but a further hindrance to the driver. Undoubtedly, this should be an issue to be debated by the European Union. Motto: Where to draw the line for collecting the toll. Similar to planes and trains being late. After all, the infrastructure is here to serve the car driver.

 Péage and patience please: Louis de Funès would have had a fit of anger.

Péage and patience please: Louis de Funès would have had a fit of anger. His lookalike nowadays amuses tourists in St Tropez.

After this frustrating experience we eventually decided to drive the last hundred miles along the coast. Free of charge, slower, but a beautiful foretaste of what to expect from our destination: Absolutely blue sky vying with the shades of dark blue of the sea.

Destination Sainte Maxime

“Les Tourelles”, our final destination for a holiday, is where the French filming industry had its beginnings. One can clearly see why. The castle, also called “Château Gaumont” after Léon Gaumont,

Les Tourelles, a castle with a unique view across the Gulf of St Tropez.

Les Tourelles, a castle with a unique view across the Gulf of St Tropez.

one of the founders of the French filming industry, is very scenic, uniquely placed, overlooking Ste Maxime and offering a gorgeous view right across the sea to St Tropez. The little port harbours sailing boats and boats for fishermen and is a pleasantly unpretentious contrast to famous St Tropez. Be it by boat or car, St Tropez is just around the corner. So is charming medieval Ramatuelle. Cannes, Nice, (Cap d’) Antibes, all are just a stonethrow away. One cannot help being imbued with the savoir vivre of the South of France.

Apart from the typical Harley Davidson sound so frequently heard around here and evoking the times of Brigitte Bardot, Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Aston Martin, Bentley and Mercedes-Benz models are a more or less common sight – white still the seemingly preferred colour for cars. After all, white cars blend in nicely with the corresponding yachts.

Ste Maxime and its harbour.

Ste Maxime and its little harbour.

A vendre – For Sale

All that glitters is not gold – not even in the South of France. Economic reality has caught up with one of the most desirable spots on earth. Apart from the usual “à vendre” in front of houses and apartments, there was quirte a number of empty shop windows, shops for sale and cars for sale.

For sale - one of several indicators that all is no longer well in the South of France, even in a beautiful area like the Gulf or St Tropez. Besides, the only Boxster I really like is the third, i.e. present generation.

For sale – one of several indicators that all is no longer well in the South of France, even in a beautiful area like the Gulf of St Tropez. But although buying a Porsche is always a tempting thought, the only Boxster I really like is the third, i.e. present generation.

As in the case of a Porsche Boxster parked negligently in one of the little streets of Ste Maxime. Tempting, but as it was not the latest Boxster model, the only one I like, it was easy for me to resist.

Although it was before the great onslaught of holiday makers during July and August, it was nervertheless discernible and somewhat disconcerting that restaurants are finding it increasingly difficult to attract enough clients. And even the 81 bungalows that belong to the privately owned “Les Tourelles” estate, built in ecologically advanced Bauhaus style and blending in with the hinterland  were not completely booked up in June.

Summertime, and the livin’s easy

Whatever else may happen with France and the World Economy, one thing is certain: The weather along the Côte d’Azur is almost always beautiful. Perfect for a holiday in terms of sun, fun, diversion and sheer happiness. We certainly have decided to return with friends and a sporty car that will definitely not be white. The thing to do is to immerse oneself fully in a more relaxed way of life, in the joys of a nice bottle of red wine, some exquisite cheese and baguette or some seafood dish with a chilled bottle of white wine. Not to forget cassis, pastis and the inevitable game of pétanque. But beware of “les méduses”, a nice looking but stinging type of jellyfish that every now and again decides to swamp the beach and manages to deter but the courageous from taking a swim.

Majestic: Les Tourelles - with its unique view, facing St Tropez straight across.

Majestic: Les Tourelles – with its unique view, facing St Tropez straight across.

Life on the Côte d’Azur, as is well known, can be decadent to the extreme. We tried to keep an even keel – well, sort of. So after having moved into our summer abode we felt like a little spree aboard our yacht once in a while. You know, it can get so frightfully overcrowded with impertinent tourists.mein Boot small..

Susanne Roeder

©roe

PS: A rather different view: St Tropez without yachts. St Tropez without yachtsLittle sailing boats adding to a picturesque overall impression of one of the world’s most famous places. When we arrived an international regatta was just getting ready to leave for another competition. This was a fortnight before the onslaught of the holiday months July and August. At the height of the holiday season tourists and crowds of nouveaux-riches make a most unpleasant concoction.

Constructed with Love

AstonRapideS ed

The Sound of Silence of the Mas de Torrent

Another Garden of Eden

Another Garden of Eden

Counterpointed by

Spotlight on Charm

Spotlight on Charm

The Cascading Sonorous Humming of this Wickedly Breathtaking Beautiful Beast, the Aston Martin Rapide S – a genuine example of fully fledged sportsmanship

Are you a member,” intonated the voice behind me. My answer was prompt and perky: “No, I am not, but I have come with a member.” This incident which happened to me at one of the posh golf clubs in Surrey many years ago reminds me of the “U and non U” of the Aston Martin society, a society very much aware of its unique tradition and quite rightly so. Its philosophy embraces exquisite luxury and true sportiness. The mythical attraction is further heightened by the impossible missions which 007 alias James Bond, gentleman and sportsman through and through, accomplishes with sheer prowess and virtue. In short, Aston Martin has become a legend and is going stronger than ever – regarding racing, sales figures and renown.

This year, this marque with its impressive Headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, celebrates one hundred years of sports car excellence with a Grand Tour from the Middle East through Central Europe and Great Britian to America and ultimately Asia – starring the Aston Martin Vanquish. In fact, the legendary British carmaker has heralded a succession of exquisite celebrations throughout the year. One such unforgettable event was the launch of the Aston Martin Rapide S in Catalonia, Spain, in springtime to which we feel honoured to have been invited. It soon became very clear that the Aston Martin team has managed to unleash yet another iconic masterpiece of engineering and design.

Rapide S evoking the premium brand's 100 year history

Rapide S evoking the premium brand’s 100 year history

A secretive mystique envelops all 65 000 exemplars of these beautiful sports cars. 65 000 is the number of cars sold in the course of a century. A mere 15 000 Aston Martins were sold up to the turn of the millennium, eighty per cent of them in the United Kingdom. Since Dr. Ulrich Bez joined the company as CEO the marque has begun to compete on the international market. Since then a further 50 000 of these handcrafted cars have been sold, world-wide. Just think: this makes even the premium, expensive and highly sought-after Porsche 911 a mass product. The selected few who can pride themselves on calling an Aston Martin their own, are acutely aware of driving an exquisitely special car, a car full of controlled understatement. The marque, like the British  Monarchy, has managed to outlast quite a number of difficult times. It therefore comes hardly as a surprise that this epitome of Britishness in style, demeanour and sturdiness, this first-rate charismatic brand is employed in Her Majesty’s Service. The royal seal “By Appointment to His Royal Highness the Princess of Wales – Motor Car Manufacturer and Repairer” has a definite ring to it and makes these cars so supremely British and so very special.

After all, how many countries can boast not only a surviving monarchy, but one that for centuries has been enjoying widespread acclaim? As for the elitist car manufacturer Aston Martin, the marque has become another uniquely British institution enjoying worldwide acclaim and admiration. An Aston Martin accordingly has to be driven in style. It is a majestic, a royal  and an overtly sporty car – as became obvious once again when the Earl of March and Kinrara, better known as Lord March, host of the Goodwood Festival of Speed and generally Goodwood supremo, chased the new Vanquish up the famous 1.16 mile Goodwood hillclimb with its blind corner and sudden wall towards the end of the hillclimb.

Oh happy day...

Oh happy day…

It has spirit, it has soul, it has sound, it has speed, it has style, and it has luxury. In fact it does not leave any wish unfulfilled. Driving an Aston Martin is racing and revelling on Cloud 9. How is this possible? Any Aston Martin model is quite simply constructed with love. A small dedicated team accounts for the genuine authenticity of these cars, be it a Vanquish, a Rapide, a Vantage or one of the DB models. The latter being named after Sir David Brown, who in 1947 purchased the company for just over £20,500. The most famous of the so far over 14 individual DB models and derivatives is the Silver Birch DB5 figuring in the James Bond film “Goldfinger” and regarded by many as the most beautiful Aston Martin ever, the most famous of the James Bond cars and possibly the most famous car in the world. And, just in time for the 100 years celebration, Sean Connery’s DB5 has made its reappearance in the latest Bond film “Skyfall”, the most historic James Bond film to date.

Skyfall starring the DB5

Skyfall starring the DB5

Over the years, quite a number of different Aston Martins have figured alongside the MI6 agent in Her Majesty’s Service. This liaison has proved very successful as it combines genuine Britishness in the best possible fashion.

Noblesse & Tradition Obligent: Rapide S

Just as the loving hands of the masseurs in the Spa of the Mas de Torrent, which served as headquarters during the Rapide S launch, manage to accomplish a maximum sense of care and well-being, the Aston Martin is handled with maximum devotion during the act of being shaped into existence. This car is yet another example of the designers’ belief in simplicity. The Rapide S’ pure design means that it is incredibly well proportioned, the “S curve” being the typical Aston Martin signature. But design is not only shape. To the Aston Martin team it furthermore includes colour and the play with shades. “The team has looked closely at the individual contour lines of each of the cars to determine not only the right colours and shades, but also to create a template by which the paint changes from dark to light and where the graduated effect sits,”  Aston Martin design director Marek Reichman explains.

As one presses one of the buttons on the lavishly designed dashboard to start the engine, go into reverse or start the sport mode, it feels a bit like acting in her Majesty’s Secret Service as MI6 agent.

Always "Q"ed in.

Always “Q”ed in.

  The car certainly conveys this aura – an aura which in Spain was distinctly augmented by the presence of the men in black servicing the dozen Rapide S sports cars cruising and speeding through flat and mountainous Catalonia. The new luxury Gran Turismo Rapide S with its new 6.0-litre V12 engine producing 558 PS is the most powerful four-door Aston Martin to date. Naturally, it can be ordered in Skyfall silver. This is further proof that the bonds between 007 and Gaydon remain forever strong.

Wings of speed

Wings of speed

More power, more beauty, same soul”. This demand on the new model has been miraculously accomplished. The stunningly elegant four-door silhouette perfectly suits the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Once the naturally aspirated V12 powerplant is started, the beast instantly awakens to life. Its sound just takes one’s breath away. Why listen to the undoubtedly perfect 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system, when the engine of the Rapide S delivers an aural experience like no other! The wolf in sheep’s clothing cannot hide its true character, which besides the race car qualitities of this luxury sports car is further emphasised by the impressive and striking new full grille. It is almost double the size of the Rapide’s front grille, imbuing the new car with an even more sporting, forceful demeanour. And Dr. Bez is extremely proud of the fact that this innovative new front grille design also complies with the latest European pedestrian protection regulations. Aston Martin holds a patent on the construction of its aluminium front grille which will move rearwards on impact, whilst the central and outboard chin stiffeners give rigidity to the lower structure and support achievement of the leg impact regulations. This ingenious solution means that Aston Martin can remain true to its design ethos, and avoid the use of plastic grilles and nose cone bumpers that stretch up in front of the bonnet.

It would be tedious to enumerate all the various changes distinguishing the Rapide S from its predecessor, the Rapid. The fact is: This car is not just a facelifted Rapide, which in 2010 was Aston Martin’s first four-door coupe. The Rapide S has an entirely new engine, rocketing its power from 477 to 558 horsepower and its torque from 600 to 620 newtonmeter.

Handcrafted with love

Handcrafted with love

Moreover, the whole design has been aesthetically further heightened, making this Aston appear very sporty, longer, extremely sleek and elegant at the same time. Needless to say, every sinew, every stretch of hand stitched leather, every appealing detail of the Rapide S is so enticing and full of life because it has been chiselled with the outmost love and dedication.

Congratulations and Celebrations

Aston Martin. This uniquely charismatic brand with its honourable racing history will celebrate its centenary in a racy fashion. As early as 1959 the DBR1 won Le Mans. Many successes in racing were to follow. In fact, with the Vantage GTE, the V12 Vantage GT3 and the V8 Vantage GT4, Aston Martin boasts a full portfolio of race cars. Sir Stirling Moss, an Englishman and sportsman through and through and considered the best driver never to have won the Formula One World Championship – due to his chivalrous and altruistic behaviour towards his rival Mike Hawthorn – likes to remember his races in the DBR1: “At Goodwood I could really push the DBR1 to its limits. And on the Nürburgring, which in my opinion was the best circuit in the world in my time, the DBR1 was a great car to drive around there. It handled beautifully, you could really throw it around, which was how I wanted to drive. The brakes were great and the car had lovely balance.”

Victorious Stirling in Goodwood (1959)The models in the decades to follow have kept their lovely balance and have excellent brakes. And as research and development never stops, one highlight in this year’s string of centenary events will be the hydrogen Rapide S starting in the Nürburgring 24-hour race. In January the FIA gave this car its seal of approval. About 20 per cent of the qualifying laps were driven with zero emission using hydrogen. This hydrogen Aston Martin Rapide S will signal a premiere in racing history. CEO Bez is convinced that in 20 to 30 years to come Aston Martin will be able to deliver sports cars exclusively using hydrogen, thus producing zero emission.

Apart from the Nürburgring in which Aston Martin apart from its hydrogen car will compete with a line of its most impressive cars, the charismatic marque will parade one hundred Aston Martin road cars around the famous La Sarthe circuit. And for the devoted Aston Martin customers there are Centenary Editions of the V8 Vantage, DB9 and Rapide – each restricted to 100 examples. These cars are now available to order in each of the 46 countries in which Astons are sold. Befitting their low-volume status, the Centenary Edition cars feature a bespoke paint finish and solid sterling silver Aston Martin wing badges with tailored ‘trans flux’ enamel inlay.

Will iconic cars like the Aston Martin Rapide S soon be consigned to the history books, as Jeremy Clarkson predicts with sadness? No, never ever. We firmly believe in the ultimate sanity of mankind. It would thus be utter madness and ludicrous to get rid of these beautiful sculptures of speed emitting inimitable sounds of music. We do however go along with the view of the protagonist of the BBC car series “Top Gear” on the 12 cylinder Vantage, which no doubt also applies to the Rapide S, as to any other Aston Martin creation: ”It is fantastic. It is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.”

Susanne Roeder

©roe

Golden Eye - Susanne enjoying the Rapide S

Golden Eye – Susanne enjoying the Rapide S

Mit Gaumen, Herz und Seele

Der Maître des Cuisines des Südens auf Entdeckungsfahrt

Sternekoch Serge Gouloumès liebt es frisch, flott, sportlich

Serge Gouloumès small

Audi A3 Sportback + small

Abenteuer pur. Schon die Anfahrt: Boulevard Clément Rebuffel, Mougins. Mougins, ein hübsches, mittelalteriches Städtchen mit Gemäuer aus dem 15. Jahrhundert klingt schon mal vielversprechend. In der Nähe von Grasse befinde sich unser Ziel, so die Ansage der Freundin, die schon mal da war. Die letzten Meter zu Le Mas Candille à Mougins bedeuten selbst für den dynamischen Audi A3 Sportback eine Herausforderung. Nicht etwa an Drehmoment. Ein paar hundert Meter vor der Einfahrt zu dem Fünf-Sterne-Luxushotel der Kategorie Relais et Châteaux nämlich führt ein ebenso enger wie steiler Weg im rechten Winkel direkt auf die Straße zum Hotel. So abrupt gestaltet sich das Abbiegemanöver ins Nichts, dass wir selbst im knackig wendigen A3 noch einmal zurückstoßen müssen, um die Kurve beim zweiten Anlauf zu meistern. Dabei können wir nur hoffen, dass sich entgegenkommender Verkehr durch Hupen ankündigt oder mit Rücksicht auf das rechtsabbiegende Sträßchen entsprechend langsam vortastet. Aber vor das Vergnügen haben die Götter ja bekanntlich den Schweiß gesetzt. Gleich wird es um Autofahren und Kochen gehen…

Den Göttern so nah

Schweiß und ein wenig Adrenalin hinterm Volant sollten sich gelohnt haben. Nur wenige hundert Meter von der abenteuerlichen T-Kreuzung entfernt liegt der Eingang zu einer veritablen Verwöhnoase. Wir klingeln, und das sanft geschwungene Eisentor schwingt geschmeidig auf wie ein Sesam-öffne-dich. Vor uns liegt eine gepflegte Weite, die ins Unendliche zu reichen scheint. 4,5 Hektar terrassenförmige Parkanlage, Blick über den Pool in die Ferne, auf Grasse.

A hotel with a view+small

In dieser Hanglage mit perfekter Aussicht steht kein neumodischer Protzkasten. Die Geschichte des Mas Candille ist fast poetisch idyllisch, reicht zurück zu einer kommerziellen Olivenhainplantage. Äußerst behutsam vollzog sich der Umbau des provenzalischen Landhauses aus dem 18. Jahrhundert, das sich höchst stilvoll in die Landschaft integriert. Nur wenige Minuten entfernt vom pulsierenden Leben mit Reichtum, Stars und Sternchen der Côte d’Azur und, je nach Windkonstellation, in Geruchsnähe zum Duftparadies Grasse, der Hauptstadt des französischen Parfums, entfaltet sich in den bergigen Höhen der Provence eine Insel der Ruhe. Hier im Mas Candille Mougins ziehen wir uns zurück von der Hektik der Croisette in die Stille der Alpen und sind doch jederzeit in Nizza (30 Kilometer), Antibes mit dem Picasso Museum (16 Kilometer), Cannes (9 Kilometer) oder Monte Carlo (55 Kilometer). Von hier aus ist das azurblaue Meer unter ebensolchem Himmel zu erahnen, man hört Vogelgezwitscher, das Zirpen der Zikaden, beobachtet das „se lézarder“, das Sonnenbad der Eidechsen, genießt mediterrane Düfte von Zypressen, Palmen, Pinien, nebst Oleander, blühenden Bougainvilleas, Rosmarin, Thymian Bäumen, um dann einen Drink beim Pool zu nehmen oder eine kleine Speise im Restaurant la Pergola zu goutieren.

Le Mas + Sculpture small

Mourir de plaisir – das Beste aus vier Welten

Nein, an diesem wundersamen Ort amüsiert man sich nicht zu Tode. Er ist ein Genuss für alle Sinne – Körper, Seele, Augen und Geschmacksorgane. Die mediterrane Küche hat ihren Meister in Serge Gouloumès gefunden. Der sympathisch bodenständige Mann aus Agen, einer Stadt im Südwesten Frankreichs, kocht seit Teenagertagen – mit niemals nachlassendem Enthusiasmus. Binnen weniger Jahre, im jugendlichen Alter von 16 Jahren, verschafft er sich bereits einen Namen in der französischen Gastronomie. Dann zieht es den jungen Mann hinaus in die weite Welt – Stationen in Belgien, den Antillen, der Schweiz und Los Angeles verschaffen ihm intensiven Einblick in die Usancen der jeweiligen Landesküche.

Dann, im Jahr 1995, entscheidet er sich endgültig für sein Heimatland, und zwar für das mediterrane Flair der Côte d’Azur. Dort setzt er an zu einem kreativen Höhenflug nach dem nächsten. Nicht nur Maler spornt diese Region mit ihren einzigartigen Lichtverhältnissen, ihrer unnachahmlichen Farbengebung zu kreativen Höhenflügen. Gouloumès fühlt sich sofort heimisch. Mit der Eröffnung des Mas Candille in Mougins vollzieht er nach sechs erfolgreichen Jahren als Küchenchef des Miramar Beach Hotels in Théoule-sur-Mer den Wechsel seines Lebens. Es ist nur eine Frage der Zeit, bis er mit einem Michelin-Stern für seine liebevoll bodenständige und dennoch äußerst kreative Küche erhält. Im Jahr 2005 ist es soweit. „Für mich ist die phantasieerfüllte Arbeit in der Küche eine Selbstverständlichkeit. Ich glaube, von mir sagen zu können, dass ich Küche lebe,“ beschreibt Gouloumès seine Kochphilosophie. Dabei bedient er sich dessen, was die Region zur jeweiligen Jahreszeit zu bieten hat. Die reiche Kräutervielfalt der Provence und die Schätze des Meeres bilden die Basis seiner unwiderstehlichen Gaumengenüsse, Patisserie inklusive. „Die Inspiration für meine Speisen liefern mir die Jahreszeiten, der Besuch auf dem Markt, ein Spaziergang in der Natur, das Produkt an sich und zu seiner jeweiligen Zeit, der Zeit, die es braucht um zu voller Reife zu gelangen.“

Bürgerliche Gourmetküche ohne Starallüren

Die Interpretationen seiner Speisen sind ebenso kühn wie überraschend und dabei stets nachvollziehbar für Gaumen, Augen und Seele. Seit über 30 Jahren ist Serge Gouloumès unterdessen Maître des Cuisines. Und dabei erfindungsreich und voller Begeisterung für sein Metier wie am ersten Tag. Über die Jahre hat sich seine Küche zu einer Reise um die Welt entwickelt. Mal setzt er asiatische Akzente, mal einen Touch Karibik oder eine Brise Irland, und immer gibt er hundert Prozent Serge dazu. Jedes seiner Gerichte verspricht Eleganz und künstlerische Harmonie und ist darauf bedacht, die hochgesteckten Erwartungen seiner Gäste zu erfüllen. Davon wollen wir uns gerne überzeugen lassen. Im wunderschönen, äußerst stilvoll renovierten Restaurant Candille, dem Restaurant mit dem Michelin-Stern verwöhnt uns Serge Gouloumès nach allen Regeln der Kochkunst.

Natürlich darf eine Spezialität aus seiner Heimat nicht fehlen: Sein berühmter Tatin de foie gras façon Candille à l’armagnac, zu deutsch etwa Stopflebertörtchen mit Armagnac nach Art des Hauses. Allein das war schon köstlich. Doch zunächst serviert er uns mit „Coeur de saumon en habit de poireau confit, jus corsè aux épices thaïes, chutney passion“ ein Medley seiner meisterhaften Vielfalt als Koch. Das Herzstück des Lachs im Lauchmantel zergeht uns auf der Zunge. Bei Serge ist das Lächeln auf den Tellern und bei seinen Gästen inklusive.

Dining small

Um ein komplettes Menu aus seiner Gourmetküche mit der nötigen Ruhe genießen zu können, werden wir wiederkommen. Und wer weiß, vielleicht nehmen wir auch teil an einem seiner heiß begehrten Kochkurse. Doch beim Erstbesuch machen wir eine ausgedehnte „Hausbegehung“ mit Direktorin Carole Rouvier. Schnell verstehen wir, was diesen Geheimtipp in den Voralpen auszeichnet. Es ist der Charme, der Liebreiz der Anlage mit ihren einzigartigen Alleinstellungsmerkmalen. Dazu gehören neben den individuell gestalteten Luxuszimmern zwei Schwimmbäder, formvollendete Skulpturen zeitgenössischer Frauengestalten der in Mougins ansässigen Marion Bürkle und ein großzügiges Shiseido Spa, das einzige in Frankreich. Diese Lokation ist eine Ode an die Schönheit, ein Ort absoluter meditativer Stille, ideal zum Entschleunigen und zur Konzentration auf die eigenen Sinne.

Le Mas C - exterior small

Serge der Auto-Enthusiast

Essen ist dann gut, wenn es schmeckt. Das klingt genauso langweilig wie die Aussage: Ein Auto ist dann gut, wenn es uns sicher von A nach B bringt. Einer, der auszog, unsere Gaumen das Träumen zu lehren, ist Serge Gouloumès. Perfekt verkörpert der Franzose das Savoir-Vivre. Sein munteres lebensfrohes Naturell ist ansteckend. Zu seiner Lebensphilosophie gehört für ihn, neben Küche und mediterranem Wohlfühlklima, eine Mobilität der Meisterklasse. Wie der Herr so sein Auto. Für sich persönlich fand Serge diese perfekte Art der Fortbewegung bei Audi. Serge Audi A3 Sportback small  Er bleibt auch da bürgerlich bodenständig, mit dem gewissen Touch of excellence. Über seinen Audi A3 Sportback lässt er nichts kommen – auch wenn er „naturellement“ für die Automobile des Sportwagenherstellers Porsche Feuer und Flamme ist. Wir haben’s vernommen und versprechen, ihn bald mit einem Modell aus der Garage der Zuffenhausener zu überraschen. Ein Versprechen, das uns angesichts der vielseitigen Genüsse im Mas Candille absolut nicht schwer fällt.

Doch zurück zum Ingolstädter Premium Fahrzeughersteller. Serge schwört auf seinen A3 Sportback. Das Auto sei nicht nur praktisch – er kann darin seine Markteinkäufe wunderbar unterbringen. Darüber hinaus liebt er die Schnelligkeit, die Zuverlässigkeit und die Bodenhaftung dieses „sehr sportiven Autos“. Ein wenig neidisch schaut er auf die neue Generation, mit der wir ihn besucht haben. Kommt Zeit, kommt neuer A3 Sportback für Serge. Deshalb überlassen wir ihm das Steuer unseres A3, der zum Zeitpunkt unseres Besuches den Augen und dem Urteil der Presse vorbehalten war. Die winkligen Sträßchen im mittelalterlichen Mougins und in den Vorderalpen sind wie gemacht für die Kompaktklasse von Audi. Serge kommt zurück und ist absolut begeistert.

Neben der weiter gestiegenen Sportlichkeit bei geringerem Spritverbrauch gefällt dem Küchenchef naturgemäß das vergrößerte Ladevolumen. Der 184 PS starke TDI quattro begeistert ihn mit seinem Drehmoment, aber auch der Gedanke an den Audi RS3 Sportback (340 PS) bringen ihn auf Touren. Keine Frage, Serge Gouloumès ist ein Ästhet, ein Freund der schönen Dinge des Lebens.

Rendez-Vous en Été

Im Sommer, so haben wir vereinbart, wird uns der sympathisch bodenständige Mann aus Anger nach allen Regeln seiner Kochkunst verwöhnen. Dass dieses „régaler“ ein voller Erfolg wird, das wissen wir schon jetzt. Um angesichts der langen Liste seiner Speisen nicht die Qual der Wahl zu haben, wird der Meister selbst unser Menu zusammenstellen. Bon appétit au Candille!

Susanne Roeder

©roe

Roe + Carole Rouvier small

Was den Koch Serge Gouloumès alles umtreibt, findet sich unter: http://www.gouloumes.com

Das Fünf-Sterne-Hotel Mas Candille: www.lemascandille.com