A twin-target focus on design and performance has helped create a distinct image for Audi. Preserving and developing that image is where the really hard work begins. It appears to have started with the Audi Prologue Concept, introduced at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. Among the clean, deceptively simple lines is a stunning amount of detail.
This car makes several statements. Not the least of which is that it establishes a design language for future A6, A7, and A8 models. Word on the street (well, the auto show floor) is that this could even turn into an A9 flagship coupe.
The design benefit of a front-engine, all-wheel-drive platform is the ability to shift the greenhouse forward or back to achieve an individual silhouette. Manufacturers use the term "coupe" ever more loosely these days. The Prologue remains a traditional two-door GT. It's also massive. The hexagonal grille is intentionally so. Nearly everyone is opting for larger and more dominant down-the-road graphics, and Audi is also moving in this direction. Fortunately, the company benefits from this approach as those four rings are instantly recognizable, so having them float amid a sea of black and fine edges seems to fit the brand.
Moving lower, fighter jet-like foils flank the grille. These planes remain nearly parallel to the ground but somehow ascend into the front scoops-a feat not easily achieved without skillful hands, keen eyes, and a strong character to fight for such elements. The design room can often be a place where battles are fought for certain details to remain true to the sketch and early scale models. Engineers have their say, executives have theirs; the designers often have to make a strong case for why they believe the car wouldn't make such a strong statement without those contested features.
The interior mesh of those scoops has intersecting lines looking as if they radiate from the center. Developing these concept cars runs into the millions, so why skimp on touches like this?
When Audi put box fenders on the A5, the decision was met with a mix of celebration and criticism. Most designers currently working at Audi have fond memories of box-fendered Group B rally cars dominating the WRC. The Prologue is an opportunity to evolve that design language but retain its heritage, all wrapped up in aluminum and high-strength steel.
While the RS5 received a slightly inflated version of a beltlined box fender, the Prologue takes it to another level. The Prologue allows the presence of its more pronounced fenders to be felt. Simple shoulder lines guide the observer's eye from the tip of the nose to the sweep and fall of the trunk in one uninterrupted action.
The C-pillar arches dramatically yet elegantly from the rear haunches up to the low roof. Turn the image of the vehicle vertically and it will appear to take on the shape of an archer who has just drawn his bow. Look toward the inward-curving rear glass and another familiar outline appears: a shape similar to the Dino of the late '60s. While this feature is not likely to reach production because of cost, it was needed to accommodate a trunk and maintain elements of Audi "DNA." Note also the lack of B-pillar and the high beltline.
An Audi without LED daytime running lights would look pretty plain. Since the company started this trend, it might as well push the envelope and draw shapes for others to imitate. The front has laser lighting. Lasers enable stylists to use smaller headlights, and they have an added advantage in terms of weight. At the rear, a line of 3-D LED lamps runs the entire width of the car. The middle brake light, when activated, has the effect of moving toward the observer.
Let's talk about the 22-inch alloy wheels for a moment. Those 10 intertwining Y-spokes are just gorgeous. Incidentally, the Prologue also has dynamic rear-wheel steering to complement its Quattro drivetrain.
Amid the organic light-emitting diode-based displays in the cabin, accessed by an electro-mechanical touch sensor in place of a door handle, there's a steering wheel that doesn't have a flattened-out bottom. Perhaps Audi is leaving that look to AMG. Still, the brushed aluminum trim keeps the air of modernity.
If this concept really does become an A9, the world will be at least a much prettier place.