The Walk of Time

Years come and go. So do calendars. A publishing company really doing a good job concerning picturesque calendaria is DeliusKlasing. For example their “Historische Eisenbahnplakate” (Edition Maritim) are a classic every year. They produce many a calendar year in, year out. A highlight for the coming year is certainly this calendar. Happy 2014 with Porsche and their return to Le Mans!

Porsche 917 - a hell of a challenge it was.

Porsche 904 GTS – a hell of a rocket starting off the myth of Porsche racing history.

delius-klasing.com

 

And how about a little nostalgic soundbite:

 

 

Susanne Roeder

©roe

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:

Sa Parlare Italiano? – Si, Certo!

Audi-Logo: Neues Corporate Design /Das neue Audi Markenlogo: Die Vier Ringe werden um den Markenkern "Vorsprung durch Technik" erweitert.Sapere AUDI-re

Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm and the Italian way of life

Amazing things are happening in and around Ingolstadt.lamborghini-logo Imagine driving right into the centre of Munich into the Postpalast for the eve of the Audi annual press conference – what should first catch one’s attention? A Lamborghini! Beside it was a Ducati, the famous motorcycle brand that Audi acquired in 2012; much to the dismay of AMG. In November 2010 this highend modifier of Mercedes-Benz vehicles signed a contract for intensive marketingducati_logo cooperation with the motorcycle manufacturer and itself had encouraged Daimler to purchase the brand. Apart from Ferdinand Piëch being a fervent fan of these motor cycles, on a more rational basis Audi wants to oust BMW not only from its throne as premium car manufacturer but also compete with the Bavarians on two fast wheels. Besides, with the acquisition of Ducati Audi is continuing a great past. Back in the 1950ies, the NSU Motorenwerke AG, or simply NSU, in Neckarsulm used to be the world’s biggest producer of motor bikes. The factory resumed car production in 1957 with the NSU Prinz and engineered such technologically advanced, if commercially unsuccessful cars, as the NSU Ro 80 in the 1960ies. In 1969 VW bought the whole company and Neckarsulm briefly became the headquarters for Audi. Nowadays Neckarsulm coexists with Ingolstadt as German production sites for the premium cars with their increasingly Italian flavour.

Stell Dir vor, Du kommst zu Audi nach Ingolstadt – und denkst, Du seist in Italien. Or, in other words: Imagine driving to Audi in Ingolstadt and ending up in Italy.  A colourful parade of Lamborghinis, Ducatis and Audi cars lined the entrance to the Audi World in Ingolstadt. A similar scenario presented itself in Neckarsulm about two months later during the 124th Annual General Meeting of Audi AG. No doubt about it, Audi has has combined the Italian passion for design with its German dependability and fascination for hightech.italdesign_giugiaro_logo

By now the secret is no longer a secret: Audi has become Audi Group hosting four brands of world renown: The Audi cars as such heralding premium in every respect, the Italian lightweight sportscar Lamborghini, Ducati motor cycles and Italdesign Giugiaro. It therefore comes hardly as a surprise that the company has turned Italian. The overriding idea is is to combine Audi hightech with Italian design.

Quattro-phony - The Audi Family nowadays consists of four members. Lamborghini was the first to join Audi, back in 1998.

Quattro-phony – The Audi Family nowadays consists of four members. Lamborghini was the first to join Audi, back in 1998.

Giugiaro has designed cars for renowned car manufacturers, many of which have become icons of style. One just has to think of the Lotus Esprit, the Lancia Delta and, of course, the first Golf and the Audi 80. The latter, incidentally, was the first Audi that Ferdinand Piëch, then CEO of technology, gave to his wife Ursula. In fact, the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche initiated groundbreaking innovations,  most notably the permanent “quattro” all-wheel drive in 1980 and the diesel direct injection TDI in 1989. Having reached an age where most people enjoy their years of retirement Piëch is still presiding over Volkswagen Group. However, the one person he fully trusts is his wife Ursula. The patriarch and most powerful man in the car industry has consequently bequeathed his industrial inheritance to her.

We are Family …

After being elected member of the supervisory board of Volkswagen AG in April 2012, just one year later,

Ursula Piëch - most influential lady in the car industry.

Ursula Piëch – most influential lady in the car industry.

Ursula Piëch has also joined the supervisory board of Audi AG.  The VW Group no doubt has essentially become a family affair with the Porsche and Piëch family members holding the majority of shares. Presenting herself to the shareholders in a short and rather personal speech, the former nursery school teacher and governess was refreshingly outspoken about her liaison with Ferdinand  and how she became involved with cars. “I have always been curious and thus have had a vested interest in every new car or development.” She went on to narrate that her first Audi was an Audi 80, which as she remembers caused derisive smiles by the public. The same applied to the introduction of the four-wheel drive “quattro”. Audi was anything but a premium brand at that time. Undoubtedly, the rise of the clever, discreet and yet outspoken 57 year old Austrian has only just begun. She is surely on her way to becoming the most influential lady in the car industry, even more so, should VW really become the biggest car manufacturer worldwide, a target that CEO Martin Winterkorn has proclaimed for 2020. No sooner had Ursula Piëch stepped out into public, than she overtook two mighty females in the car industry, namely Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler presiding over the huge supplier carrying her name and Susanne Klatten, BMW heiress and Germany’s wealthiest female ever.

As for Audi, with almost breathtaking speed the car manufacturer has managed to develop from a more or less non-descript VW annex in the 1960ies and 1970ies to a fully fledged autonomous and leading premium car manufacturer.

The Audi Way

And in spite of the overall tense economic situation, especially in Europe, Audi is growing  against the tide, achieving one record after another. From January to 30th April 2013 sales have risen yet again. Approximately 503.000 cars have been sold, resulting in an increase of 6.7 percent. Another record: For the first time in the Audi history the company has passed the 500.000 mark after just four months. These impressive figures are not least due to the popular SUV family Q3, Q5 and Q7. And CEO Rupert Stadler confidently announced further growth for the months ahead: “We want to and will continue to grow.”

On the fast lane: Another member of the RS family and premiere for  a member of the SUV family. The RS Q3 has 310 hp (420 Nm) and a maximum torque of 5,200 rpm.

On the fast lane: Another member of the RS family and premiere for a member of the SUV family. The RS Q3 has 310 hp (420 Nm) and a maximum torque of 5,200 rpm.

Audi is quite obviously mastering the tide against the odds. Spain has reached its lowest market volume since 1986, demand in Italy is back to the level of 1979. The automobile market as a whole has been thrown back by more than 33 years. In spite of all that, Audi has managed to grow, even in Europe. This growth has mainly been due to the United Kingdom where Audi in 2012 achieved a new sales record of more than 123.000 cars and an increase of seven percent compared with the year before. Even in Germany Audi managed to grow by 3.6 percent and for the first time has captured the throne on the home turf  of the “big three” to become premium brand number one ahead of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Susanne Roeder

©roe