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Wednesday 23rd January 2013


PH BLOG: AUDI WAS RIGHT

Damn you and your Vorsprung Durch Technik - you nailed the V8 mega barge template over a decade ago


Now, in the interests of full disclosure I should point out that this blog was written off the back of an extravagant 'editors' lunch' hosted by ... Audi. And did occur to me as I was heading home. Now, I'm sure there's no connection. But, come to think of it, that last extra dessert did taste a bit funny. And now I see four rings every time I blink. No, I'm fine.

A twin-turbo V8, two-pedal gearbox...
A twin-turbo V8, two-pedal gearbox...
Anyway, it's easy to knock Audi. We've been known to. Maybe it's the cookie cutter styling and deep-seated conservatism. Those blazing DRLs inches off your bumper. Or occasional glimpses of corporate arrogance, such as that expressed by boss Rupert Stadler when the matter of the global recession was raised and he said "we discussed it and decided not to participate." That'll be that famous German humour in action then. I'm sure the rest of the industry was wetting itself after that little quip.

But with all the recent developments in German heavy metal - I'm talking 500hp-plus V8-saloons/estates/halfbreeds here, not Rammstein and The Scorpions - it got me thinking that, dammit, Audi had the formula all the big players now adhere to nailed back in 2002. Which would be a (relatively) downsized twin-turbo V8, discreet 'premium muscle car' looks, four-wheel drive, a self-shifting transmission and lots of chassis trickery like electronically adjustable dampers. Oh, and a few token bits of carbon on the dash. Yep, the original RS6 set the template, over a decade before the rest caught up.

...a twin-turbo V8 with two-pedal gearbox...
...a twin-turbo V8 with two-pedal gearbox...
In that time BMW M has all-but abandoned its enthusiast focused manual gearboxes naturally aspirated engines and, though not yet four-wheel drive, the M5, 6 and Gran Coupe all pretty much follow the same path. Already familiar with four-wheel driven forced induction Porsche knew which side its stollen was buttered when it came up with the Panamera Turbo. And even AMG, last bastion of no replacement for displacement and tyre-smokin' RWD has downsized, by its standards, to 5.5 litres and grafted two turbos and, in some markets, four-wheel drive to its revised E63. That this particular car has gone from a 6.2-litre, high-revving naturally aspirated V8 and rear-wheel drive to forced induction and four-wheel drive, within its lifespan, shows how rapidly this new formula has become the default. In this company, only Jaguar's XFR dares to do it even a bit differently, and even then all-wheel drive is coming to that range too.

...and just for good measure. You get the idea.
...and just for good measure. You get the idea.
What was that about Vorsprung Durch Smugness? Fair play, though - to nail it a decade ahead of the rest of the competition is pretty impressive. And, no, this doesn't entirely explain why the RS4 returned with a high-revving V8, other than to perhaps rub rivals' noses in it and prove that Quattro could do that and hit emissions targets too. Just for the hell of it.

The toss can - and will, I'm sure - be argued as to whether this template is in fact the 'better' solution for the likes of us and, traditionalists that we are, it's hard not to feel a little sorry that the very obvious and different identities we all enjoyed in our respective Ms, AMGs and RSes has been homogenised in the name of emissions regulations, new market trends and commercial necessity.

Saying that, the original RS6 was a pretty blinding piece of kit and in Plus form with 480hp from its Cosworth-built 4.2 V8, 0-62 in 4.6 seconds and a spectacular donner-und-blitzen exhaust note (who says turbo V8s need artificial aural enhancement?) remains on the money. Having had a taste of Audi UK's historic RS6 Plus on a photo shoot a while back I'm minded to head off into the classifieds for a bit of tyre kicking (sub-£10K, since you're asking). And brace myself for the 'what took you so long' themed presentation from Stadler at the next motor show I attend. Which could apply personally as equally as it could the industry at large.

Dan

 

Author: Dan Trent
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