September 25, 2004

Audi Shows-off in Paris
Gavin Conway, AudiWorld UK Correspondent

The focus of attention on the Audi stand at Paris motor show surrounded the A4, but there was plenty of other metal to take in. Occupying a suitably elevated position was the extremely cool RSQ concept, specially developed for the Hollywood movie `I, ROBOT'. In what has been a masterstroke of product placement, Audi was front and centre when movie makers went looking for a suitably futuristic set of wheels for hero Will Smith. Only the RSQ doesn't have wheels, it has four `spheres' instead. And Audi has also achieved that neat trick of creating a futuristic vehicle that still looks like nothing else but an Audi. It helps that it's also impossibly agile in its action roles...

Audi also sprung a little surprise to celebrate its remarkable success in taking the title in what is Europe's own NASCAR series, albeit hugely more sophisticated in terms of the hardware. It's the DTM touring car series, won by Mattias Ekström one race before the final round, and Audi had its DTM A4 on the stand to celebrate. The car looks simply amazing - you can still tell it's an A4, but one crossed with a velocoraptor. The manufacturers championship will be decided on October 3rd, but Audi already has a nine-point lead over second-place Mercedes-Benz.

Other relatively new hardware on show included the A3 Sportback, which is basically a five-door version of the A3. It's the car that will take the premium entry level fight to the BMW 1-Series and Volvo V50, to name just two. Two versions were on hand, the 200bhp 2.0 TFSI, which is the first production car in the world to combine turbocharging with FSI petrol direct injection, and the 140bhp 2.0 TDI. 

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And just to remind the world that they have the heaviest hitter in the big luxury segment, Audi brought along its sensational A8L 6.0 quattro. In the flesh, the long-wheelbase A8 achieves that neat trick of appearing perfectly well proportioned: unlike other stretched luxury segment cars, if you didn't know there was a shorter wheelbase version, you'd never question the car's appearance. Understated power (450bhp, since you ask) does not come in a more discreet or purposeful package.

Along with the rest of the Audi range, including the evergreen TT, an A6 4.2 quattro and 2.7 TDI also took a bow. Also getting loads of attention was the S4 convertible (previous generation, obviously). But the undoubted star of this show was the new A4 sedan and Avant wagon. Which we'll be driving shortly, so stay tuned...

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