When I was growing up, I considered Audi to be superheroes. I wanted my Dad to buy a ur quattro, but to my untrained eye, the standard Coupe would have been fine. For me, 8.30pm on a Thursday night meant tuning in to BBC2 to watch Tony Mason introduce another lesson in world rallying. The teacher was Audi and the pupils were the rest of the field. Forget A3 and A4, in those days Audi simply dealt in A+.
I often got the 4-ring Audi logo confused with the Olympics logo but it didn’t matter. The fact was, Audi could do no wrong. Even if they’d rolled into town claiming that Father Christmas didn’t exist and all my future Birthdays had been cancelled, I’d still worship the ground they drove on. Or drifted on.
They consistently retained their coolness levels throughout the 80s and 90s. The thinking man’s BMW and the choice of those who demanded quality and reliability but were not necessarily driven by brand or image. Let’s face it, the products were pretty damn good. The ur quattro would probably find a place in most dream garages, whilst the RS2, ‘Ronin’ S8, original S3, 80 Sport, S2 and urS6 remain effortlessly brilliant cars and hold a strong following amongst the petrolhead fraternity.
In the past, Audi has been happy to build a brand around a proposition of being the smart choice. Quietly delivering a line of brilliantly engineered cars and never straying too far from their ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik‘ tagline. True enough, the current crop of cars adorned with the four rings are brilliantly engineered, superbly put together motor cars. The problem is, buying an Audi no longer seems to be the smart choice, rather the obvious choice. The demographic seems to be shifting too. Clarkson himself has already alluded to the new breed of Audi drivers and although his remarks are purposefully controversial, he might have a point. It would appear that today’s Audis need to be driven on the limit at all times, often without any thought for other road users or conditions. Fine, this is a sweeping statement, but it is a testament to the sheer number of modern Audis on Britain’s roads today. Fair play to Audi UK and BBH the ad agency, you’ve created a monster and your products are desirable in the extreme. But haven’t you forgotten where you were less than two decades ago? If so, let me remind you of the advert above.
Clearly aimed at Mr BMW, I thought this ad was brilliantly observed and superbly executed. But times have changed and the tables have turned. Audi couldn’t and wouldn’t run an ad like this today, but BMW on the other hand might just be able to. Could make a for a brilliant viral campaign. BMW, if you happen to be reading, let’s talk!
I’ve been concerned that I might be falling out of love with modern Audis for some time, but the lights quite literally went on with the introduction of LED lights. Now yes, I know there’s a future safety directive to conform to, but for the average Audi driver they seem to represent some kind of status symbol. I guess it must be a dream come true, because for years they’ve been parading around with their fog lights blazing. Now they can do it legally and pretend that the M3 is a stage on the Monte Carlo rally and that Fleet Services is a checkpoint. Also, my eyesight hasn’t quite been the same since being followed by a black A4 TDi the other evening. So close was he, that my rear view mirror started to melt and I now have LED-shaped scratches on my retinas. Vorsprung Durch Should’ve gone to Specsavers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure if I borrowed an Audi for the weekend I’d find it superb in every way. But the fact is, there isn’t one car in the current Audi line-up that I genuinely desire and that’s a shame. For as long as I can remember a trip to an Audi showroom would release a bucket of butterflies in my stomach, but not anymore. For every model currently available, there’s a better alternative from another manufacturer. In fact, my top 10 Audis list does not contain any current models. For the A1, I’d have the brilliantly packaged A2. For the A3, I’d have the original S3. For the RS6, give me the RS2. You get the picture.
I’ll stick with my old, but beautifully (over)engineered Audi urS6.
Now I know that my my thoughts won’t even register as remotely interesting to Audi, but I’lll leave you with this parting comment. Do I fancy a new Audi? “Nah, not really my style, know what I mean?”