Insight: 45 years on, Audi is still all about Technik

Automotive history
Audi Q7 e-tron and A4 allroad - Vorsprung durch Technik still applies

Very few manufacturer advertising slogans stand the test of time. A sound-bite will survive maybe five to 10 years before a new marketing push relegates it to history.

Take SEAT for example. For years the Spanish manufacturer, part of the VW behemoth, sold its cars under the slogan of “Auto Emocion”, until in 2011 this was killed off in a blaze of publicity by new boss James Muir, who argued that no-one knew what it meant.

Muir, instead, launched the somewhat tortuous “Enjoyneering” and perhaps not surprisingly just five years later no-one recalls that phrase and SEATs are now being marketed as ‘Technology to Enjoy’…

Say Audi, however, and everyone immediately thinks “Vorsrpung Durch Technik” – a marketing phrase first launched in 1971 – 45 years ago…

Audi believes this phrase is still as relevant, if not a great deal more so, today, and it is difficult to argue against when one arrives at a ‘quattro Driving Day’ to be find three new models awaiting, all with technological advances some of which could be highly significant not just for Audi but the industry as a whole.

Perhaps none more so than in the quattro itself – the lower-case Q is deliberate, signifying Audi’s all-wheel-drive system, which itself has been offered on the brand’s road cars since 1980, and has taken many an Audi to victory in World Rally Championship and more recently World Endurance Championship races.

Particularly in the UK, the brand has marketed quattro for many years on its safety aspects, the improved grip it offers the less than agreeable weather that is typical of living on this island. Only more recently has the early aim of the all-wheel-drive pioneers, to put power down most effectively, been properly achieved, as Audi’s Jon Zammett points out; “We’ve had 37 years of making 4WD cars – now it has been adopted for high performance cars not just by us but the likes of Lamborghini, Bugatti in the Veyron…”

So perhaps it’s a surprise that the quattro system has remained basically to the same format for all of those 37 years. But no longer – the latest Audi A4 allroad can be supplied with ‘New quattro with ultra technology’ – a significantly updated system, primarily to produce the fuel economy and emissions improvements that are grouped under the brand’s ultra tag.

The new system no longer employs a centre limited-slip differential, but uses a network of sensors that determine the road conditions, temperature and the driving style. If surface grip is good, and the driver not hustling along, it disconnects the AWD, the resultant front-wheel-drive format and weight saving from losing the centre diff improving economy and emissions, the latter by 21 per cent.

Currently the new quattro is designed for longitudinally-mounted engines –­ but you can bet it will be rolled out across the range in due course…

Sadly the new quattro versions of the A4 allroad are not on the launch event, and they would probably be overshadowed anyway by the SQ7 TDI – succinctly described by Zammett as “the UK’s most powerful, fastest-accelerating diesel full-size luxury SUV.”

While many will focus on this being the most powerful SUV in its class, it more importantly oozes new tech, not least an ‘EPC’ or Electric Powered Compressor which Zammett predicts “will go into the general vernacular,” and “be the springboard for numerous revolutionary new technologies in the Audi models of the near future…”

The EPC is driven by a 48-volt electric system to support the two turbos of the 4-litre V8 diesel engine, particularly at lower revs. It eliminates turbo lag, the SQ7 returning a 4.9-second 0-62mph time.

To fully detail the technology in the SQ7 would take far more space than we have here but other highlights include camshafts with two profiles, so the valves react differently dependent on whether the car is starting off or running at speed, and a new ‘electromagnetical active roll stabilisation system’, also only possible thanks to the more heavyweight electrics of the 48-volt system.

Space also doesn’t allow us here to delve too deeply into the Q7 e-tron – Audi’s second plug-in hybrid, bringing the technology to the brand’s SUV range and offering the remarkable official figures of 156mpg and 49g/km – in a seven-seat large 4×4. But rest assured that both it and the SQ7 will be tested fully by The Car Expert shortly.

One launch, three cars, all with significant innovations. It may be 45 years old, but it seems the phrase “Vorsrpung Durch Technik” has never been more relevant to Audi…

Andrew Charman

Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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