NAIAS 2004: Audi Preview

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January 1, 2004

By: Jason Teller

Having lived near Toronto for four of the past six years, the North American International Auto Show has become a routine first road trip of the year. We generally make the trip in style courtesy of something upscale from the Audi press fleet, but poor planning means our own 2000 S4 will make the trek to Michigan in a few days.

Readers should know this much at least – there is rarely if ever a year where the weather in Detroit is even moderately pleasant. One memorable year there was so much snow (and later it was so cold) that we encountered abandoned cars on the highway during the drive, the snowplows having gone around them and left them buried to form a larger than life obstacle course. Yes, quattro is your friend on drives to Detroit in January. We cannot complain, however, because this mere 4-hour drive takes us to one of the world’s premier auto shows.

Audi has typically used NAIAS as a springboard into the show year with world debuts and concepts over the years such as the TT Coupe, 2000 A8 L, Steppenwolf, Avantissimo, Pike Peak quattro and 2003 A8 L. Many other models have made their North American debuts in Detroit as well.

Ocassionaly Audi will slip in an unexpected surprise. Members of the press are tipped off on their first visit of the day to the Audi display when something is on the stand and under wraps with “no official comment”. We could therefore speculate that we’ll see the next generation C6 chassis A6 (plenty of spy photos are already floating around), but I think it’s too early in the year for that particular vehicle to break cover. We could also be wishful thinkers and hope for the next S8 or the production version of the TT / A6 sports car hybrid based on the Le Mans quattro. However we don’t think that will happen either.

Whatever is keeping the designers and engineers busy back in Germany will probably wait until Geneva or Paris or elsewhere.

Hence that leaves us realistically expecting vehicles at Audi’s stand that we already know about. The first is of course the A8 L 6.0 quattro – an update of Audi’s flagship with a beast of a 12-cylinder engine. We’ve already seen the pictures and now we’ll see it in the flesh, all the while drooling over the 450hp naturally aspirated engine.

The second big draw will be the Le Mans quattro sports car study which Audi first showed in Frankfurt in September, but which has not yet been shown in North America. Audi has incorporated so many future styling cues into the Le Mans quattro that it would be foolish to ignore its importance.

We certainly hope to be wrong and will keep our fingers crossed for a big surprise. Check back often for updated show coverage.

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