Friday 28th September 2012


PARIS 2012: AUDI

And you thought there weren't any niches left to fill...


To automotive aficionados, an Audi RS should be an estate. Yes, moving into saloons would obviously follow, while coupes and hatchbacks and roadsters was inevitable too. But is an Audi RS four-seat soft-top a step too far?

The least PH-worthy V8 cabrio ever?
The least PH-worthy V8 cabrio ever?
If you think it is, tough: here at Paris is the new RS5 Cabriolet, resplendent in white and with nasty brown leather inside. Perhaps they dared not finish it in RS blue. 450hp is exciting, and listening it to it will be enhanced too, but the RS5 coupe was already a pretty mediocre car. How can cutting the roof off improve things?

The new A3 Sportback is here too, with more of everything but visual distinction over the old one. Usual Audi design, then - but hey, if it works: at least the new 300hp S3 has more visual vim, and feels like an upmarket, classy new fast hatch from inside too. An S3 you'll admire? First signs are good.

Crosslane concept: clever tech, generic looks
Crosslane concept: clever tech, generic looks
The facelifted R8 is as you'd expect: the same, but just different enough in key places to ensure it still has appeal (not least through switching the clunky semi-auto gearbox for a proper DSG). Even so, here's hoping development of the new one is underway.

It was over to Audi's Crosslane concept to provide the real stand intrigue, though. At first glance, this appears yet another new niche Audi's planning: the sub-Q3 coupe-crossover sector. A sort of SUV TT if you like (complete with rear wheelarches that are a match for any RS on the stand...).

But there's more. It's built from an aluminium-carbon fibre spaceframe. Many of the structural components, including the Audi grille, are exposed and form a key part of the design. It's an open-top machine for good reason - to show how strong the new chassis is.

An A3 Sportback, it says here
An A3 Sportback, it says here
Even if it is confirmed, said a spokesman, it's a long way from production (2015 at the earliest, they speculated). But as a showcase for how chassis technology can develop (and a high-tech counterpoint to BMW's carbon fibre i3...), it's perhaps not beyond the realms.

Oh, and wonder why some of the cleverer chassis elements remain on display rather than hidden by bodywork? Well, to show off just what technology's beneath the surface. Audi engineers have apparently grumbled that their hard work and many technical solutions are not recognised.

Here's Audi showcasing them, then...

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