By Kris Hansen
Audi unveiled two exciting new cars at the 2012 Geneva Auto Salon. Most of the emphasis was put on the all new-from the ground up A3 models, but Audi also showed off the recently introduced RS4 Avant, TT RS Plus, A1 quattro concept, the Q3 compact SUV, and the highly anticipated all new A6 allroad.
In typical Audi fashion, the actual unveiling process is full of theatrics and loud music, bright lights, smoke machines, and most importantly, famous people. In the case of the A3, it appeared from beneath the bleacher like seating area to the far left of the Audi stand, and was driven out by DTM and Le Mans ace Mike Rockenfeller. Rocky was also an intergral part of the Audi multimedia array, which featured 3D video of him in a fantasy type episode surrounding the A3. The actual car Rocky drove out was a red S-line with gorgeous diamond stitched Recaro S-line front buckets.
By modern Audi standards, the dash is functionally perfect, if perhaps a little sparsely decorated. The screen for the MMI system emerges from the top half of the dash, much like its bigger siblings. An all new MMI control layout is fitted to the center console, which combines the main control dial with Audi’s touch pad system. We’ve had the chance to play with this new setup in functional display models, and honestly it’s very good. It does seem to be more intuitive to place the touchpad on the top of the command dial (as opposed to halfway across the console), since the operator’s hands are already used to reaching for it. Audi also consolidated several control functions into single buttons to reduce clutter. The resulting MMI control system is very compact, and easy to use.
For our market, we are expecting to have a 4 door sedan with quattro drive and a 2.0TFSI gasoline engine, and at some point, a diesel and even hybrid/renewable energy power plant option. Audi execs were tightlipped about the prospect for a quattro diesel A3 for our market, though we think it would be a fantastic option, even if there is a slight decline in maximum fuel economy. For now, it remains to be determined. It was suggested that we might start seeing the new A3 sedan around summer 2014.
Audi also formally unveiled the latest RS model, the RS4 Avant. What is in all reality identical to the RS5 under the skin, the RS4 Avant is somehow more proper an RS car, since tracing the heritage of the RS models, the very first examples were only offered in the Avant body style. We understand that an ultra high performance “wagon” is not for everyone, but we happen to LOVE it. In this world of family and sport equipment and shopping runs, nothing is more practical than an Avant. Give that Avant sexy fender bulges, a snorting 4.2 liter V8 ripping our 450hp, and other various body adornments, and it’s exactly our kind of car. What makes the RS4 Avant so cool in our mind is the fact that no one else really does the ultra high performance “wagon” very well.
Parked near the RS4 Avant was the RS5, which we’re thrilled to know that we ARE getting here in the USA. We’ve reviewed the details of this car before, and we’re anxiously waiting for some more seat time!
We naturally gravitated to the all new A6 allroad, which is another version of the A6 we won’t be getting in the USA. Unlike the A4 allroad we are getting here, the A6 allroad has air suspension and the 3.0TFSI engine. Amazingly enough, the A6 allroad looks nearly identical to the A4 allroad with its plastic body cladding, and otherwise it’s largely the same as the standard A6 Avant.
We had some time to crawl through the Q3 compact SUV as well, and the more we see this car, the more we like it. We’re not the biggest SUV proponents in the world, but we understand that a majority of buyers in the USA seem to prefer the SUV over an Avant or small hatchback. We’d love to see more Avant models, but the sales don’t warrant them. Having said all of that, we’re thrilled to see that Audi is committed to building a trio of very good SUVs.
As always at Geneva, there were a variety of tuners showing off their Audi specific wares. ABT and MTM were there in force, Sportec was showing off an RS3 (we think) with some of their touches on it, and the Automobile Club of Switzerland had Audi’s Le Mans winning R18 “Red Sonja” in their booth.
All in all, we were very happy with what we were shown this year. Audi teased us a little with the A1 quattro, which we think is a great little hot hatch. They also showed off their hybrids and some other new technology in their moving displays. We’re looking forward to some more time with the new A3, as well as the rest of the line!