Plus, a look at the Audi fastback that inspired the A7
The 2019 Audi A7 made its debut just as the company was finishing construction of an all-new design palace on its Ingolstadt campus, replacing the former “building T4,” which was constructed in 1970, expanded in 1982, and remodeled in 1998. The new Design-Center and the computing power installed in it endow Audi Design, with what Marc Lichte claims is best-in-class digitization and visualization tools. He likens the degree of change this building and technology will enable to that of the switch from film to digital photography. Soon the new space will fill with top-secret styling clays, drawings, and models that Audi dares not expose to InstaSnapBook leaks. But for this occasion, some old clay models of the new A7 were staged in the various studios, and the press was invited for a thorough look at the place.
Creative types do their best work in bright cheerful spaces, so the building is entirely glassed in with one whole side looking out on a pastoral Bavarian farmscape. The building also features three natural light wells. Sensitive areas have special one-way glass to prevent outsiders and spy drones from seeing in, with shades preventing illuminated rooms from becoming visible at night.
The building’s six floors each have a footprint of about 13,500 square feet, and the building will eventually accommodate 600 people, including interior and exterior designers, clay modelers, and the engineers they must liaise with to resolve packaging issues and the like. Office spaces are arranged to locate collaborators close together, providing “communications spaces” and coffee centers in each. Oh, and the whole place is trimmed in natural oak, concrete, or cotton materials.
To see the designs in real natural light, there is a design review courtyard on the rooftop level. On the occasion of this A7 world premiere reveal event, a temporary dome was erected in this space.
CAD ‘n Clay
Designers increasingly ply their craft in the computer, but no designer worth his or her salt would ever sign off on any surface without first seeing it rendered in three malleable dimensions and taking the opportunity to massage said surface. A new level of supercomputing power, however, allows CAD surface data to be viewed in outdoor surroundings—complete with photorealistic reflections and shadows—with the ability to hover above at any angle, zoom and pan in on any corner, and even see the car driving through a digital environment. This saves the laborious step of covering a recently massaged full-size clay model in Di-Noc film (which simulates a painted metal surface) and bringing it outside. This way numerous clay modifications can be made, digitized, viewed, revised, and iterated multiple times before rendering a nearly perfect final clay for executive approval.
Meet the Original Sportback
The Audi Sportback concept that first appeared at the 2009 North American International Auto Show previewed the A7 and A5/S5 Sportback production models. But that concept and these latter-day Sportbacks all derive their inspiration from a fetching fastback version of the first modern Audi: The 100 Coupe S. The F104-generation 100 line was the first clean-sheet car design developed by Audi under its then fairly recent VW group ownership. The F103 that preceded it was a lightly warmed-over version of an older DKW sedan that was designed for outdated two-stroke engines, so the engineering/development focus of that car was mostly on the powertrain. The 100 saved Audi, and the fastback Coupe S variant was a big help in that regard.
Riding on a 5-inch-shorter wheelbase than the 100 sedans, it was powered by an 1,871cc twin-carb inline-four engine good for 115 metric horses and 117 lb-ft—well up from the 1,760cc single-carb base 100 engine’s 80 PS and 100 lb-ft. But the real news was that graceful, Italianate roofline. Indeed from the rear it so closely resembles a Fiat Dino or Maserati Ghibli that one could easily mistake it for the work of Giorgetto Giugiaro (who designed the ’73 VW Passat and the ’74 Golf and Scirocco). But in fact the 1969 Frankfurt-show-stealing Audi 100 Coupe S was penned in-house by one Ruprecht Neuner—a name not even Google seems to know. It seems like high time Herr Neuner gets some recognition for this beautiful car and the many sexy descendants that have followed it.