In the cradle of the Audi experience

Last Updated 22 October 2013, 13:01 IST

Audi Automobilwerke GmbH, or simply Audi, is a name to reckon with in the automobile world. A treasure trove of German technology and engineering, seated in an Audi, it takes one only moments to discover the ‘beauty in motion’ in all her power and grace.

Going back over a century ago, in 1899, August Horch laid the foundation of what was to become the modern car company, when he established the Horch & Cie.

Motorwagenwerke. “Audi” is the Latin equivalent of “Horch” and means “listen”. The famous and very recognisable four-ring insignia symbolises the merger of four independent motor-vehicle manufacturers — Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer — when they came together in 1932 to form the Auto Union AG headquartered at Chemnitz, Germany. Each of them was assigned a specific market segment: DKW – motorcycles and small cars; Wanderer – midsize cars; Audi – cars in the deluxe mid-size segment; and Horch – luxury cars.

After World War II, the company was rechristened Auto Union GmbH and was headquartered at Ingolstadt, Germany. Volkswagen acquired the company in 1965 and since then all models are being produced under one single brand name, “Audi”.

In 1971, Audi coined its now famous slogan, more of a mission statement, “Vorsprung durch Technik”, which translates to “advancement through technology” in German.

One of the big three German luxury carmakers, Audi established its own India sales company in 2007 and since then, the  Ingolstadt-based carmaker has launched several of its premiere models, a clear statement of its long-term ambitious growth plan in the country. Presently, Audi is aiming to become the leading luxury car brand in the Indian market.

Celebrating the success of the German automaker’s Indian story, the company has instituted a series of events to bring its superb machines closer to the hearts of the customers and enthusiasts.

The recent unique Audi Sportscar Experience (ASE) 2013, which was held near Bangalore, created quite a buzz as it brought the company’s entire fleet of high performance sportscars sold in India, and it was an opportunity for us to understand, drive and experience the exceptionally engineered Audi S4, the sleek TT, super fast R8 and the RS5. The ASE 2013 is part of the company’s larger strategy aimed at branding, marketing and giving out exclusive dealerships.

On a specially set up, designated track on the NICE Road, 115 enthusiasts wait patiently to get behind the wheel of at least one of these blessings on four wheels. We have our chance when we are led to the door of an elegant S4. But don’t lose hope for the reason that the sheer beauty of the car also lies in its power as much as it does in its external appearance.

At first glance, the car is a close cousin of the A4. First launched in 1991, the high-performance sedan has embraced the A4 platform since 1997. Barring certain subtle changes in the looks of the S4, compared to the A4, the former has a few distinct visible features such as the ‘S4’ signage with V6T etched above both front wheel arches and the touch of aluminium finishes, ultra-sporty alloy wheels and the quad exhaust pipes at the rear that makes the car look unique. One of the most attractive features of the S4 quattro are the bi-xenon headlights with the homogeneous daytime running light strip in LED technology.

Once inside, the classy grey and black cabin reminds one of the sheer class with which the S4 is built. The three-spoke steering wheel and the comfortable seating make the interiors all the more inviting.

The road in front is long and the wait to hit the throttle is painful. Finally, the first car (an RS5) takes off before us and we quickly follow. The Audi S4 is the high performance variant of the A4. The present day S4 quattro belongs to the B8 generation which begins from November 2008. It must be explained here that Audi uses the term “quattro” to signify the all-wheel drive (AWD) technology, wherein if the wheels on one axle of the vehicle lose grip and threaten to spin, the power is transferred to the other axle.

Once we have begin to accelerates, we notive the brilliant 3.0-litre V6 TFSI engine pushing the car at the speed of 0-100 in roughly 6 seconds and even at this speed the stability of the car is maintained, thanks to its lower profile tyres and good brakes. The sudden spell of rain that day seems to be no match for the S4 that darts its way ahead on the open road.

An impressive feature here is the start-stop system that helps reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by switching the engine off when the vehicle is at a standstill.

Besides, the Audi drive select efficiency mode improves consumption values and is characterised by the consumption-optimised application of the combustion engine and transmission shift programme which encourages a more balanced drive-style.

Now it’s time to tame an even more formidable beast and see if it has got an equal, if not a better, punch to match up with the S4; enter the Audi TT Coupe, the trendy, yet serious two-door marvel.

The TT is more inviting than it seems. There is something very special and visually appealing about it, which is a small two-door sportscar in production since 1998. First unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1995 as a concept car, the TT today is nothing short of a treat as we are going to experience its feel. Even before you have sat in a TT, it begins to impress you. The shape of the headlights, the longish downward curving roofline and the overall stance of the TT are awe-inspiring.

The interiors impress as well, appearing sportier than the S4. The centre console flowing down from three circular air-con vents and the shape of the steering wheel go a long way in reinforcing the car’s supreme aesthetic quality.

In terms of performance, pushing the throttle, will give one the answer. The 2.0-litre TFSI quattro engine ensures that the car hits 0-100 in 5-6 seconds and a point that must be made here is about the amazing steering control on the TT that makes sure that the car stays put on the road.

 In the TT, a directly responsive multi-plate clutch with optimised control system permits the torque to be distributed between the front and rear axles as needed. The rapid response and fast reaction times of this generation of quattro are particularly impressive.

After tasting the carmaker’s delectable spread of sportscars, it is time to hit the dirt road with Audi’s fleet of sports utility vehicles (SUVs). And going on the lines of the ASE, the company recently held the Audi Q-Drive at the PLaY Arena off Sarjapur Road, Bangalore. It is here that we get the ultimate chance to test the cars along some tough stretches of rocky and muddy road.

The Audi Q-Drive 2013 allows us an opportunity to experience the superlative style, performance and quattro technology of the company’s best SUVs – Audi Q7, Q5 and Q3. On a meticulously constructed dirt track, replete with potholes, craters and precarious inclines, the SUVs would be pushed to their limits.

The first vehicle offered to us is the Q5, the mid-sized premium SUV from Audi launched in 2009. The stylish, urbane exteriors make one wonder if it can really negotiate through the rough path in front of it. The comfortable black interiors make the driver and passengers feel relaxed even as the car has begun making its way through the meandering curves in mud and slush.

The 2.0-litre TDI quattro engine does dish out good amounts of power for the Q5 to seamlessly maneuver itself though all that’s thrown at it, effectively assisted by a wheelbase of 2,807 mm.

But the best is yet to come. The Audi Q7 is the big daddy of the Audi family of cars. A truly massive beast, the Q7 is a Audi’s first full-size luxury crossover SUV, launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005.

One would want to see if such a mammoth vehicle could really tame the rough road. Well, that’s what most SUVs are built for and the Q7 does just that in absolute finesse.
The car’s interiors are as stylish and spacious as they can get. The car looks and feels as massive on the inside as it does so from the outside. With a 3.0-litre TDI powerhouse to boast about, the Q7 just charges ahead conquering any amount of bad road or rock that it intimidates it.

A steep incline in front of us feels as though the car could topple or roll over, but that never happens, thanks to the car’s superb road grip. Then over a deep pothole, the car’s suspension proves to be a winner as not even a nudge, let alone a jolt or shudder, is felt by any passengers.  
Cruising in the lap of luxury, with the world outside watching us splotched in rough terrain, best describes the run of the uber cool Q7 as it effortlessly negotiates the rocky and dirt-filled road.

It is the finale! We have tasted some of the best cars Audi has in India. An added flavour is the German ingenuity that make each of these cars a pleasure to drive as well as being epitomies of safety and security while on the road.

The ASE and Q-Drive have not only been testing time for Audi cars, but have also turned out to be great learning experiences for driving enthusiasts. We have driven them all and find it hard to say which ride is the best since they all belong to varied segments.

But over and above these Audis, there is yet another machine to be tested and tasted. If there is an Audi to be savoured: Next stop, in the driver’s seat of the R8.

Audi, like all other German competitors, has gone miles to develop beauties that exemplifies technology, whose tales can be seen in its four rings.   

(Published 22 October 2013, 13:01 IST)

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