|September 14, 1999
IAA 1999 - Frankfurt Auto Show (Overview)
Throw out everything you know about auto shows. If you've never been to Frankfurt for the "big show" -- and I hadn't -- then you don't know anything about auto show size and grandeur. The IAA Auto Show, which is held every other year (commercial vehicles are showcased on the in-between years) holds many records when it comes to showcasing the finest automobiles from every major manufacturer in the world. I spent over 7 hours at the show today and basically saw only Audi, VW, Bugatti, Bentley and a few displays in "tuner hall".
I will be adding in-depth articles and better pictures from the show in the next few weeks. However, I wanted to start off with an overview of the highlights from the first day. I made sure to snap pictures of the most interesting items, and links to these pictures are included at the end of this article.
Of all the new vehicles manufactured by the makers I mentioned above, I had the greatest emotional response to Audi's RS4. One of the criticisms of the S4 is that it doesn't scream "high performance" like, for instance, a BWM M3. That issue is irrelevant when it comes to the RS4. As Audi puts it in their official press documentation, "The RS4 has cast off the visual understatement which typifies the S4: the strikingly flared wheel arches, the 18-inch light alloy wheels, the front apron extending well down, with its large air inlets, the aerodynamically styled tail and the side sills harmoniously integrated into the body line unmistakably emphasise the character and performance of the RS4." This car clearly looks fast and capable; in my opinion it makes a larger performance statement than anything in the Audi lineup -- the TT included.
Inside the car the first thing I noticed was the seats. They were Recaros -- of course -- covered in a soft feeling leather with a woven-in silver pattern. I thought the seats were even more unique than the silver alcantara inserts available on the S4, and they definitely had a different feel to them. The interior is branded uniquely with RS4 badges and matte black anodised material around the inside door handles, the release button on the handbrake, the gearbox gate ring and the glove box lock. You can read all the details about the new RS4 by clicking here.
The primary focus of the half hour press conference was the new Audi A2. Audi's Chairman, Dr. Paefgen, was on hand to talk about the car and explain how Audi brought the Al2 concept car -- which was introduced in Frankfurt in 1997 -- to market so quickly. The most unique feature of the A2 is that is the first volume-production car in the world to have a body made entirely from aluminum. The ASF (Audi Space Frame), as it is called, surrounds the occupants like a cage and adds passive safety to the overall design. Other neat features on the A2 include it's optional all-glass roof and the "service module" which is a front grille that opens to expose the oil dipstick and the filler caps for engine oil and washer fluid.
The other big debut was the Audi S6 and S6 Avant. Although it comes to the market with Audi's 4.2 liter V8, the output has been boosted up to 340hp. The car is governed at a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph) and is able to sprint from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in a mere 5.7 seconds. As with other members of the S family, the car includes both a six-speed manual gearbox (or optional tiptronic) and quattro permanent all-wheel drive. This car, although clearly not the RS4, would make a great addition to the garage of a true Audi enthusiast who also needed a little extra room in the car. At 6'6", I fit quite comfortably in the back seats. Let's just hope that Audi brings the S6 to North America.
Rounding out my exicting day was visit to the ABT Sportsline booth. The company headed up by Christian Abt has given the Audi TT an extraordinary treatment. They started with a TTq (225 hp), tore out the stock the engine and replaced it with a 350 hp six cylinder biturbo engine, added complete aerodynamics, wheels and tires and in the process produced the most amazing tuned Audi TT I've seen to date. Look for a much more in depth article to follow soon.
RS4 Full View
RS4 Side Profile
RS4 Rear Badge