Our verdict on the 450hp Audi RS4 – driven on UK roads for the first time
Six months of not only switching from petrol to diesel, but downsizing also. Are we mad?
You no longer need to visit a dealer showroom to order a new car. More and more manufacturers are launching online portals, where you can configure, order and pay for a new vehicle, before having it delivered to your own home.
- You can now buy a new Mitsubishi online
- Buy a new Hyundai online in 5 minutes with ‘Click to Buy’ service
And now, Audi has gone a step further, by signing a death warrant for the service advisor. The so-called digital ‘Service Station’ is like a giant vending machine, but rather than dispensing chocolate bars or drinks, it stores and collects car keys.
It enables customers to drop off or pick up their vehicles and pay for servicing, regardless of the dealer’s opening hours. Fancy dropping off your A3 for a minor service and an MOT at 3am? Not a problem.
You can even drive away in a rental or courtesy car, with customers able to take a key from the Service Station, before returning to the terminal when the rental period is up.
Not that you can simply wander up to the terminal after a night on the town, in search of transport for the journey home. To use the service, customers must have verified their ID and driving license via a video call and a credit car reservation.
Raimund Thomandl, head of service for Audi in Germany, said: “Digital service check-in helps us to reduce service bottlenecks and gives the Audi dealership’s service advisors more time to spend with customers. The Audi Service Station saves the dealership time while offering customers added convenience and flexibility.”
There’s no word on whether or not the digital assistant has mastered the sharp intake of breath and chin-scratching technique required when you request an invoice for the work that has been carried out.
Following a pilot at two dealers in Munich, the digital Service Station will be rolled out in 30 locations throughout Germany. If it proves successful, we’d expect it to launch in the UK at a later date.
Life must be pretty good if you’re a Real Madrid footballer. As if being surrounded by the best players in the world wasn’t enough, you get to play in one of Europe’s best stadiums, the weather is pretty good, and you stand a decent chance of picking up some silverware at the end of the season.
Then, to top things off, once a year, a nice man drops in on the Bernabéu to deliver some presents. No, not Papá Noel, but somebody from Ingolstadt armed with the keys to 31 brand new Audis. Just one of the perks of your football club being sponsored by a car company.
Football’s wealth has been good for the automotive business. Bentley is part-funded by Premier League wages, while some of the worst customisation jobs have been led by soccer’s apparent inability to decide what’s class and what’s crass. Here’s looking at you, Stephen Ireland.
Back to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a Real Madrid player when the call comes in from the patrocinador oficial. You’re told that you can choose any car from a range of models so vast it makes UB40’s line-up look small. What do you select?
The answer is the Audi R8 Spyder V10, right?
Not according to the Real Madrid squad. Of the entire squad of 31 players and the coach, only no-nonsense defender Sergio Ramos chose the R8. Even coach Zinédine Zidane, a Frenchman famous for using his head, failed to select the right car, but at least he opted for an RS6 Avant.
Worse still is the fact that approximately half the squad chose a Q7. Seriously, what? You’re supposed to be setting an example to young and impressionable kids, and yet you decide to drive a bloated and oversized SUV. At least Cristiano Ronaldo had the decency to choose an RS7 Sportback.
And what about Toni Kroos, the only German in the Real Madrid squad: surely he’d choose something suitable to fly the flag for his home nation? Nope, he opted for a grey SQ5. Something must have been lost in translation. Toni, next time, ask Audi for an RS2 from the heritage fleet.
Hats off to Señor Ramos. It turns out he’s more disciplined in the art of ‘buying’ cars than he is on the football pitch.
Audi’s alternative to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is more appealing than ever
World rallying, four-wheel drive, gilt-edged branding and killer product placement deals are often credited as the reasons behind Audi’s meteoric rise to the top. But while they all played a part, Princess Diana’s role in the story is underestimated.
Audi had spent the 1980s riding the crest of a Quattro wave as the quieter, more considered German car company. Its cars were well engineered and understated, appealing to those who didn’t long to see a Mercedes or BMW parked on the gravel driveway of their mock-Tudor commuter belt home.
Little changed in the 1990s. There were high points – the S2, S6 and RS2, for example – but these felt like token efforts, akin to Colin from accounts undoing his top button and loosening his tie, before downing half a pint of Beck’s.
Colin’s shirt collar wasn’t going to cut it. Audi needed an injection of glamour. Some sex appeal, if you like. Step forward the most famous person on the planet: Diana, Princess of Wales.
Read more on MR:
Diana falls for a German
Before Diana, the royal family drove British cars. It was the done thing. But all that changed in 1991, when Diana leased a thoroughly German Mercedes-Benz 500 SL. It’s not clear whether Charles choked on his Laurent-Perrier, but the tabloids were up in arms.
This was 1991, the year in which, coincidentally, Audi launched the cabriolet version of its steadfast but abstemious 80 saloon. The roofless 80 could breeze past The Ivy without anyone looking up from their seared foie gras or beetroot carpaccio. No, when it came to topless glamour, the SL, 3 Series and 900 were the main courses.
But nobody banked on Princess Diana taking a shine to Audi’s first production drop-top. Legend has it that Diana fell in love with the model having borrowed one belonging to the wife of Viscount Linley.
Never one to tow the line, and with her relationship with the Royal Family growing increasingly fractious, Diana set about bagging her second German. She wasn’t short of willing suitors.
Dovercourt Audi of St John’s Wood was quick to realise the potential of the world’s most photographed woman being seen at the wheel of its slow-selling cabriolet. Majesty magazine estimated that Princess Diana generated £14.5 million worth of publicity for products she was seen with, a fact not lost on the canny team at Dovercourt.
It was a match made in heaven. Diana had the car of her dreams, and Audi had a passport to riches. In 1994, Audi reported that sales virtually doubled after Diana was seen driving the cabriolet. Hardly surprising, when a magazine with the Princess on the cover would expect to see a circulation increase of between 30-40%.
As Jeremy Clarkson said at the time: “She alone has turned what might have been just another nice car into by far and away the coolest and most sought-after-four-wheeled status symbol of them all.”
But this was no stage-managed exercise in product placement. Photos of Diana and her Audi captured moments in time, most famously with the young princes in the back, roof down, showcasing Audi’s reinforced windscreen surround, which provided enough roll-over protection without the need for an ugly superstructure.
Not that readers of Hello, Tatler or Vanity Fair were interested in roll-over protection and superstructures. They simply saw Audi as a chance to live the life of a Princess, albeit without the constant gaze of the paparazzi.
These were different times when column inches were the media’s currency, long before the days of sponsored tweets, paid Instagram posts and forced endorsements. Diana drove an Audi because she fancied one. As a result, the relationship felt more authentic. More believable.
Don’t pay the Ferry, man
Sure, Iron Man ‘chose’ an Audi R8, but when Loren Angelo, director of marketing for Audi of America, justified the product placement, there was a shallowness to the rationale. “When we read the script for Iron Man, he was someone who was self-made. He utilised technology and a certain level of personal intelligence to create things,” Angelo told Automotive News.
“That was a perfect fit for Audi because that’s exactly what we’ve done with our brand.”
Whatever. Just admit it, Tony Stark is a cool dude, and you kinda knew that a film that would gross nearly $100m in its opening weekend would be really beneficial for your profile. Oh, and everybody likes Robert Downey Jr, right?
And when Bryan Ferry drove to Sheffield, did he have to cc @Audi?
— Bryan Ferry (@bryanferry) November 7, 2013
Back to Diana. In 1991, Audi sold 14,344 cars in the UK. By 2008, that number had increased to 100,845. Last year, Audi UK shifted 177,566 units. Vorsprung Durch Umsatz, as Geoffrey Palmer nearly drawled.
Was Diana responsible for Audi’s ascent to the automotive top table, where it would rub shoulders with BMW and Mercedes? Not solely. But did she play a part? Absolutely.
Fit for a Princess?
The 1994 Audi 80 cabriolet being auctioned by Historics at Brooklands is one of at least three examples driven by Diana in the mid-90s. Last year, L449 TRP sold for £54,000, having been cherished as a piece of royal history for its entire life.
L541 GJD is expected to sell for a more reasonable £14,000 to £18,000, not least because it has covered 150,000 miles, with the current owner seemingly unaware of its royal connection. Between 2004 and 2009 it was used as a family car, before being stored away once the link to Diana became apparent.
Princess Diana’s charitable work left a lasting legacy following her death in 1997. Twenty years on, Audi is still benefiting from her brief fling with an unassuming German.
The Audi 80 cabriolet heads to auction at the Historics at Brooklands sale, 23 September 2017. For more information, visit the website.
Sources: IMDb; The Myth About Global Civil Society: Domestic Politics to Ban Landmines, D. Tepe; Clarkson on Cars, J Clarkson; Automotive News; Autofocus.
The new 2018 Audi A8 has been revealed at the glamorous Audi Summit event in Barcelona.
The new rival for the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class is, unsurprisingly, loaded with tech, including a fully autonomous mode that uses Audi’s piloted driver system to control the car entirely at speeds of up to 37mph. This makes it the first car to reach ‘Level 3’ autonomy – ahead of the S-Class and even groundbreaking start-up Tesla.
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Unfortunately, legislation is yet to catch up, so we won’t be able to use all the car’s autonomous features when it arrives in the UK. To counter this, the A8 also uses lower levels of automation to provide a smoother drive. When stopped in traffic, for example, the stop-start system uses sensors to detect when vehicles in front are beginning to move, then starts the engine ahead of setting off.
Another clever feature is the A8’s electromechanically actuated suspension. This uses a front-mounted camera to monitor the road ahead 18 times a second. If it detects a bump coming up, it prepares the dampers to provide a smoother ride. Sensors can also detect an imminent side-impact crash and raise the A8’s body on one side by as much as 8mm in half a second – transferring the force of the crash to the car’s strongest areas (i.e. the floor and side sills).
Styling is typically Audi, influenced by the Prologue concept revealed at the 2014 LA Auto Show. Despite a coupe-esque roofline, designers say there’s an extra 20mm of headroom in the rear versus the outgoing model, while a higher beltline than previous Audis gives it a more purposeful look. Although its design is far from shocking, it’s quite a handsome car in the metal.
At the front, the A8 gets Audi’s clever laser lighting, while at the rear an LED light strip with OLED tech performs trick illuminations as the driver approaches the car.
The A8’s bodyshell is a hybrid construction using four different materials: steel, aluminium, magnesium and carbonfibre. This adds up to 282kg minus running gear – 51kg more than the outgoing model. As for the kerb weight… Audi will reveal that in due course.
As seen on screen
The interior is suitably luxurious, and a marked improvement over its ageing predecessor. Audi has paid great attention to detail, while also keeping things simple. A 10.1-inch touchscreen dominates the dash, helping clear it of buttons and switches, while a secondary touchscreen provides controls for the air conditioning and other comfort functions.
Buyers will initially get a choice of two V6 turbocharged engines carried over from its predecessor in the form of a 286hp 3.0-litre diesel and a 340hp 3.0-litre petrol, while an eight-cylinder 4.0-litre turbodiesel producing 435hp will follow next year.
A 6.0-litre W12 will eventually top the range, while a plug-in hybrid powertrain combining a 3.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to produce 449hp will be launched in future, too. This will provide an electric-only range of 31 miles, while recharging can be carried out using wireless tech.
Prices are yet to be confirmed, but expect a small increase on the A8’s current £63,520 start-price when orders open later in 2017.
This weekend, all footballing roads – or more specifically the M4 and A48 – lead to Cardiff as the Uefa Champions League bandwagon rolls into town. At the end of the day – read: 19:45 – Juventus and Real Madrid will kick-off with high hopes of scooping Europe’s biggest prize since Amar Pelos Dois won the hearts of Kiev.
These days, football and cars are as intertwined as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Ferrari 599 GTB and the tunnel beneath Manchester Airport. In Cheshire, (dis)tastefully modified cars are as common as fake tan, must-have handbags and sunnies the size of dinner plates.
But while it’s easy to poke fun at footballing car culture – hat tip to Stephen Ireland for services to the industry – the fact remains that football is big business for the car industry. And that’s not a throwaway cliché, Clive.
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The Champions League gives 110%
Nissan certainly thinks so, which is why you’re forced to endure endless ads when Gary, Jake and co. have finished over-analysing misplaced passes with old pros. The Japanese firm signed a four-year Uefa Champions League sponsorship deal in 2014, reported to be worth €54.5 (£45m), replacing Ford, which had sponsored the tournament for 22 years.
Whichever way you look at it, that’s an awful lot of Nissan Micras. Or 3,750 base-spec models, to be precise.
For Nissan, the benefits are obvious. Around 200 million fans are expected to watch the final on June 3, not to mention the countless others who have tuned in since the tournament kicked off back in June 2016. Although quite how many cars Nissan sold off the back of The New Saints vs. Tre Penne is anybody’s guess.
“The Champions League has massive power in terms of views that it can give us,” Jean-Pierre Diernaz, vice president for marketing, Nissan Europe, told the BBC in 2016.
“We are a growing brand around the world, but with the exception of Japan, and possibly the US, we are a challenger brand. To go a step further we need to grow awareness. The Champions League has massive power in terms of views that it can give us.
“It is working in terms of making sure our brand is growing,” the Frenchman said.
Interbrand’s Top 100 Best Global Brands ranks Nissan as number 43, with the brand valued at $11.066m in 2016, an increase of 22%. Messrs Iniesta, Thiago Silva and Aguero kicking a ball about in a studio are doing more than just bookending the commercial break.
A game of two halves
But the car industry’s involvement with the Champions League final goes far deeper than Yaya Touré kicking a football through the roof of a Nissan X-Trail. Real Madrid vs. Juventus presents a compelling automotive sideshow in Ingolstadt vs. Michigan. Or Audi vs. Jeep.
Audi calls itself a “partner of premier international clubs” and has been the vehicle partner of Real Madrid since 2003. The internet is awash with photos of players smiling gleefully at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu as they’re presented with the keys to their new highly-specced Audi.
Hats off to the Audi PR team for convincing Ronaldo to risk a moment of ‘helmet hair’ in the name of corporate sponsorship. He’s probably just thankful that he escaped the possibility of being given a club Chevrolet when he left Manchester United. Hard luck, Rooney, De Gea, et al.
Not that Audi is a one-club company. Its sponsorship of FC Ingolstadt 04 is understandable, as are its links with Bayern Munich – that must sting, BMW – but a partnership with FC Barcelona? Proof that business is more important than fierce rivalries. When sponsorship deals get Messi…
Jeep: a no-nonsense player
Jeep’s sponsorship of the ‘Old Lady’ dates back to the 2012-2013 season when it signed an initial three-year deal worth €35m, or €11.7m per season. To outsiders, seeing the famous Jeep logo adorning the equally famous black and white stripes of Juve might seem like just another sponsorship deal, but to car enthusiasts and those with a thing for economics, the link is more obvious.
Juventus is controlled by the billionaire Agnelli family, the investment company with a 29.41% share in Fiat and a 22.91% share in Ferrari. In 2015, the Fiat-founding family signed a merger agreement with Chrysler, which created Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and created an indirect link between the American SUV brand and the city of Turin.
Not that Juventus has encountered anything other than smooth roads this season. Having secured the Serie A title, Juve made light work of Barcelona at the quarter final stage and saw off the attacking threat of Monaco in the semis as the Italians marched to the final in Cardiff.
Top, top cars
Victory at the National Stadium of Wales – Uefa regulations prevent it being called the Principality Stadium – would net the winning team €15.5m, while the other finalist will receive €11m. Enough for the clubs to pick and choose from their corporate sponsor’s range of vehicles.
Leaving aside the fact that the players are given the keys to the cars of their respective club sponsors, you’re unlikely to see Ronaldo splashing out on a new Q2 or Buffon spending any time using the Renegade online configurator. The players can pick and choose from the world’s elite range of supercars.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s car collection has been well documented and includes a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse he bought to celebrate winning Euro 2016 with Portugal. He announced the purchase on Instagram with the simple caption: “The animal arrive.”
Not to be outdone by his Real Madrid teammate, Karim Benzema often arrives at training in a black and chrome Bugatti Veyron. Meanwhile, Toni Kroos drives a Ferrari 488 GTB.
Welshman Gareth Bale, who is hoping to recover from an injury to play in the Cardiff final, reportedly gave up driving supercars because he believed it was the root cause of a succession of hamstring injuries. Bale was a member of a £30,000-a-year supercar club.
Legendary Italian ’keeper, Gianluigi Buffon is unlikely to suffer any supercar-related injuries ahead of the Champions League final. The 39-year-old Italian is more interested in clean sheets than expensive motors, choosing to squeeze his 6ft 3in frame into a Fiat 500. In his first year as a pro he’d turn up at training riding a Vespa. Once a legend, always a legend.
Predictability, many of Buffon’s teammates at Juve don’t share his love of mundane motors, with some opting to keep it in the family by driving a Ferrari. For Dani Alves it’s an FF, Leonardo Bonucci drives an F12berlinetta, while Claudio Marchisio has chosen a 599 GTO.
At the end of the day…
Not that this precludes the Juve players from partaking in the odd promotional job for Jeep. “Smile and think of the paycheque,” mutters Giorgio Chiellini as he manages something that might pass as a grin. Almost.
Come Saturday evening, Juventus will be all smiles if they overturn the odds by beating the favourites Real Madrid. Will Italian-American grit triumph over German precision engineering in the battle of the sponsors, or will the Japanese score on the break?
It’s back to you in the studio, Gary.
The Austrian town of Reifnitz on the side of Lake Worth, or Worthersee, has hosted the ‘GTI Treffen’ festival for 36 years. Originally a small meet of Volkswagen enthusiasts (just 100 cars attended the first event), more than 100,000 fans from all over Europe now head to the Alps at the end of May. We sent a snapper to the event and captured some of the weird and wacky VWs in attendance.
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Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI
If Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTIs are your thing, you’ll be well catered for at Worthersee. The event was first created to celebrate the original GTI, and there are still loads in attendance today. From the original example to modified ones like this bright yellow GTI, we can get behind the subtle look.
Mk3 Volkswagen Golf cabriolet
What were we saying about ‘subtle’? This modified third-generation Golf cabriolet is anything but. There really is something for everyone.
Although predominantly a Volkswagen show, there are other VW Group cars in attendance. Such as this interesting Audi A1, which we can barely see thanks to its camo look.
Brown with gold alloys doesn’t sound like a great look, but it works for us on this Audi 100.
The Audi 50 is what became known as the Volkswagen Polo… and the rest, as they say, is history. This fairly standard and incredibly tidy example received many admiring glances at Worthersee.
Volkswagen Passat Coupe
Remember when Passats were cool? This B1 generation Passat Coupe is closely related to the Audi 80 of the same era.
Mk1 Volkswagen Golf
In a town full of modified Vee-dubs, there’s something very refreshing about a pair of properly mint Mk1 Golfs as the factory intended.
Well, if you’re visiting the Alps for a VW festival, is there a better way of doing it than an old-school VW camper?
Thanks to their popularity, classic Volkswagen Beetles are still a relatively common sight on the roads. Plenty made it to Worthersee, including this lovely green example complete with skis on the back.
Volkswagen Polo G40
The Polo G40 is the result of what happened when VW bolted a supercharger to the 1.3-litre engine in the GT. Although it wasn’t incredibly powerful (it produced 115hp), it’d beat both the Fiesta XR2i and Peugeot 205 GTi in the 0-62mph run.
Ah, the VW Lupo. Pre-dating the popular Up, the Lupo wasn’t quite the sales success of its successor. They’ve got quite a following in Volkswagen circles, though. This was one of a number of modified examples on show at Worthersee.
Volkswagen Polo Harlequin
You can imagine the meeting that led to the creation of the Volkswagen Polo Harlequin. “We need to give the Polo a sales boost. Let’s launch a special edition. But what can we do with it?” The answer, apparently, was to paint every body panel a different colour. Around 3,800 were made (and presumably sold), including this modified example.
A Volkswagen Touran people carrier doesn’t seem the obvious choice as a base for a modified car. Name the VW, however, and you’ll probably find a modded version at Worthersee.
Mk2 Volkswagen Golf
We spotted this lovely Mk2 Volkswagen Golf in one of the car parks at Worthersee. The decals suggest it’s an Elite special edition… we don’t know much about it, but feel free to tell us more about it in the comments if you do!
This year marked the 41st anniversary of the Stanford Hall Volkswagen show, set in the grounds of Stanford Hall itself, near Lutterworth in Leicestershire.
The show is organised by the Leicestershire and Warwickshire VW Owner’s Club, and a historic Volkswagen display has been a staple part of the event.
Stanford Hall brings out some of the best air-cooled Volkswagens, and some of the most unusual. ‘Bertie’ is a 1958 historic rally Beetle and driver Bob Beales drove ‘him’ in events as recent as the 2016 Wales Rally GB.
Beetles have long been a key ingredient at Stanford Hall. Amanda Clampin’s 1972 ‘Marathon’ Beetle is well known in VW circles and on the show circuit. She has owned the car for almost two years.
A total of 1,500 ‘Marathon’ Beetles were built for the UK and celebrated the small VW overtaking the Ford Model T as the most-produced car in the world on 17 February 1972. Special features such as 10-spoke alloy wheels and the metallic blue body colour set the Marathon apart.
Of course, it’s not all about Beetles, though. Volkswagen’s other classic air-cooled models such as the Type 2 campervan and Karmann Ghia also have a starring role at Stanford Hall.
While the show prides itself on standard models, this Type 2 is anything but original, and packs a fearsome V8 punch. Your cutlery and plates would fly out of the cupboards…
Shaken, not stirred
Similarly, this Martini-liveried Karmann Ghia has been inspired by Porsche. A lurid black and red 996/Boxster snakeskin interior features inside, while the running gear is taken from a 2004 Boxster.
Metal Ghia solid
In contrast, this Type 3-based Karman Ghia is as it rolled off the production line at Osnabrück. Introduced in September 1961, the VW 1500 Karmann Ghia is also known as the ‘Razor Edge’.
As Volkswagen intended
The Concours d’Elegance at Stanford Hall is considered to be the best in the country, specialising in cars of original specification. Sixteen classes cover all VW, Audi and Porsche models and feature gems such as this very early 1975 Volkswagen Golf.
The concours judging is very strict and every car has to be as clean as when it left the factory, with points taken off for dirtiness and non-original accessories. A simpler design means air-cooled engines may be easier to clean than their later water-cooled counterparts. Here, a Mk2 Golf GTI 16V engine is so clean, the proverbial dinner could be eaten off it.
Mars Red Mk1 magic
Stanford Hall used to be a predominantly air-cooled Volkswagen show, but in recent years there has been a surge in water-cooled cars’ presence. Golf GTIs are popular concours entrants.
Super Class winner
The concours ‘Super Class’ features only the previous year’s winners. 2017 Super Class and Best of Show winner was Chris Burt’s Mk 2 1989 Golf GTI 8V.
Even Volkswagen’s sometimes ‘forgotten’ models get a look in at the Leicestershire gathering. Older Polos are regularly on display, and Vic Kaye’s booted Derby is one of the best Mk1 models.
The 1980s called…
David Cross’ super-rare Mk2 Jetta GT Special is a limited edition from 1986. An officially-marketed GTI Engineering conversion, special equipment included 15-inch alloy wheels, a 1.8-litre engine, a bodykit and two-tone paintwork.
There’s a Storm coming
Volkswagen’s coupés were well represented at the 2017 Stanford Hall event. The later Corrado (background) contrasts nicely with this early Mk1 Scirocco Storm limited edition from 1979.
Audis on show
Audis of all shapes and sizes are welcomed into the Stanford Hall concours fold, and there’s probably not a more disparate pairing than this 1980s 200 Avant and late 80-based Cabriolet.
Club stands are an important part of Stanford Hall, and the biggest gathering of Porsche 912s in the UK was aimed for at the 2017 show. We don’t know if that was achieved, but there were certainly more than we’ve ever seen in one place.
Germany’s favourite sports car
And while the number of four-cylinder 912s may have outnumbered the number of 911s, the 912’s ‘big brother’ was still very much in evidence.
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