With a few weeks to go before the Geneva Auto Show, Audi has dropped some tantalizing hints at what the future looks like for the brand. Ahead of official releases for the new R8 supercar and a new concept car, Audi released teaser images of the R8 and Prologue Avant. The German company is locked in a struggle for luxury market dominance over German competitors BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and these teasers show that Audi’s “Truth in Engineering” design language will be getting sharper, leaner, and more technologically advanced through the end of the decade.
Introduced as a 2008 model, the R8 has been one of the most capable and respected cars on the planet. The V10 version of the car shares its powerplant with the Lamborghini Gallardo and Huracán, and while its latest performance numbers are nothing to sneeze at – the 2015 LMX model has 570 horsepower, 398 pound-feet of torque, and goes from zero to 60 in around three seconds — the car has remained largely unchanged throughout its lifespan. The refreshed R8 will feature sharper styling, better performance numbers, and a host of upgrades that should keep the next-generation car ranked comfortably among the world’s best.
BMW and Audi have been locked in a very public (and very amusing) struggle to release the world’s first laser headlights, and while BMW won by a few weeks (releasing a limited-edition i8), Audi is refusing to be outdone. Borrowing technology from Audi’s R18 e-tron Quattro LeMans racer, Audi’s lasers create beams of pure white light that give twice the range of LED high-beams. The teaser photo shows the new R8 prominently sporting the high-beam laser lighting modules. A version of these lights were available on the European-spec R8 LMX, and while they’re not available in the U.S., they signal the technological direction for future models. Audi pioneered the now ubiquitous LED headlights over a decade ago, and this new advanced lighting is essential to its new design direction.
The future of Audi’s styling is summed up best in the Prologue concept. Created under new chief designer Mark Lichte, the Prologue caused a sensation at last year’s Los Angeles International Auto Show. Designed as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe fighter, the fully-functional concept showcases the brand’s new interior and exterior styling directions. The near production-ready car is powered by Audi’s 4.0 liter twin-turbo V8 that can take the big car from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds. The Prologue’s size and complete mechanicals suggest the company may be considering the Prologue as the next-generation A8, due in 2016.
While the Prologue coupe showed the direction of Audi’s full-size cars (though unfortunately no full-size coupes are officially in the works), the company followed up by releasing sketches of the Prologue Avant to British website Auto Express. Reinterpreting the already-popular Prologue, the Avant should be another huge hit for Audi in Geneva. The concept showcases the future of Audi’s station wagons, and the Prologue’s angular styling works beautifully in wagon form.
For now, the Avant is just a styling exercise, but who knows what the future may hold for the wagon? The success of Volvo’s Concept Estate on last year’s auto show circuit shows that the demand for a high-end station wagon is very real, and Audi has a long history of building some impressive wagons. Like Volvo, Audi is in the midst of a reinvention and eager to showcase its bold new design language on a station wagon variant. The Avant should reignite Audi’s fanbase, and create excitement for its next-generation long-roof cars.
The new R8 and Prologue concepts are Audi’s biggest responses to a rapidly changing marketplace. Two decades ago, the brand painstakingly transformed itself from a German also-ran to the technology-obsessed alternative to Mercedes and BMW. Recent competition from the likes of Mercedes’ tech-heavy C-Class and the BMW i8 have made Audi’s lineup begin to look dated, but the company refuses to step back from the cutting edge.
Audi introduced the all-new 2016 TT alongside the Prologue in Los Angeles, and it’s just confirmed that an RS version of their all-new full-size Q7 SUV is in the works to compete with the Mercedes AMG GL63 and BMW X5M. If the new A8 is anything like the Prologue concepts, it just might give the venerable Mercedes S-Class a serious run for its money. The refreshed R8 and Prologue Avant show that Audi is looking forward in a big way, and its laser-lit future looks very promising.
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