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Debuts to Watch at Frankfurt Motor Show

From ragtop microcars to the world’s most expensive SUV.

by on Sep.14, 2015

The exterior of the 2016 Audi A4 doesn't change much - but there's more here than meets the eye.

With automotive sales and profits soaring, the industry mood is jubilant heading into the biennial Frankfurt Motor Show – and that should translate into good news for car buyers not only in Europe but also the rest of the world.

The first big show of the 2016 model-year is expected to see dozens of new models make their world debut during the two-day media preview. Not surprisingly, some of the biggest news will come from German makers like Audi, which has erected a three-story building of its own at the sprawling Frankfurt Messe, and BMW, which has set up a quarter-mile test track inside its own hall.

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Among the German makers, “The coffers are full and confidence levels are high — as, it seems, is the desire to one-up neighbors and closest competitors on home turf,” said Tim Urquhart, an analyst with IHS Automotive. (more…)

Audi Reveals New A4 Ahead of Formal Frankfurt Debut

Evolutionary exterior hides more revolutionary changes.

by on Jun.29, 2015

The exterior of the 2016 Audi A4 doesn't change much - but there's more here than meets the eye.

You might need to take a second glance if you see the 2016 Audi A4 glide by. But while the German maker has opted for a relatively subtle and evolutionary exterior update, this all-new model delivers a number of more revolutionary changes.

Despite growing longer and wider, the 2016 Audi A4 is as much as 265 pounds lighter than the outgoing sedan. And it offers a variety of new technologies, including an updated infotainment interface that will recognize your handwriting as well as your voice.

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With a variety of new four- and six-cylinder gas and diesel engine options, the fifth-generation Audi A4 will make its official debut a few months from now at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.

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Want to Look Like a Hero? Drive a 2013 Audi S4

All-wheel drive means anyone can look like a hotshot behind the wheel.

by on Jun.27, 2012

Audi's S4 is the sports sedan that will make anyone look like a race car driver.

A friend on Facebook suggested that we ban the automobile and make this a bicycle-only country.

If he were to drive this Audi S4, he would never utter such blasphemy again.

That’s because the S4 may very well be the perfect performance car. With 333 horsepower, it’s extremely fast, it corners as if its tires are coated in Stickum and it rides smoothly enough that grandmama wouldn’t complain. Its back seat is habitable by real adults and it has enough trunk space – 12.4 cubic feet – to handle a long weekend’s worth of bags for a pair of couples. With Quattro all-wheel drive, you can even slap a set of winter tires on it and ditch your winter car.

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OK, in a day when fuel economy is becoming so much more important, the S4 does enjoy swilling more than its share of high-test petrol, but one time planting your foot to the floor at a light and you’ll momentarily forget that the next stop will involve refueling.

If Audi follows through with plans not to build an RS version of the A4 sedan, the S4 will stand as the highest-performance version of the car. On the horsepower count, that leaves the S4 looking up at its Mercedes and BMW competition. But all-wheel drive is the great equalizer in acceleration sprints, meaning the S4 should keep up with the Mercedes C63 AMG and BMW M3 in stoplight showdowns.

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First Look: 2012 Audi A4 and S4

Getting ready to take on the new BMW 3-Series.

by on Oct.27, 2011

Audi makes some modest but notable changes to the A4 and S4 for the upcoming model-year.

It’s never easy to go up against a powerhouse like the BMW 3-Series, and that’s especially true when an all-new version of the Bavarian juggernaut is getting ready to roll into showrooms.  So, it’s understandable why Audi is also getting ready for a mid-cycle update of its own compact luxury line, with updated A4 and S4 models slated for 2012.

Don’t expect anything radical.  Audi isn’t tearing up the blueprints and starting over.  The basic dimensions remain largely the same.  The new model is stretched by a few millimeters – unlike the 3-Series, which grows substantially for 2012.  But Audi aficionados will recognize there are some significant changes, nonetheless.

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The most distinctive, however, will be found under the hood, with a range of new or modified engines for the global line-up expected to deliver both better mileage and improved horsepower and torque.  New Stop/Start technology is one way Audi has been able to pull off that seemingly incongruous improvement.

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Audi A4 Quattro: A Sporting Sedan with All-weather Capability

Many cars claim to be the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife, but the A4 really can do it all.

by on Sep.16, 2011

Audi's A4 has sports car performance combined with all-weather capability.

Back in the early ‘80s, Audi’s original Quattro mesmerized those who lived in northern climes because for the first time, they saw a performance car that could also be their daily driver.

Sure, if you live in Florida, go ahead and drive your Ford Mustang GT – remember, we’re talking about the days before traction and stability control – year-round. Us northerners would be jealous, as we drive our front-wheel-drive beaters through the slop and slush, waiting for the first signs of warmth when we could uncover our “summer” cars.

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But the Quattro was a powerful – well, at 160 horses, back then we thought it was powerful – yet it didn’t have to be put away when the leaves started falling off the trees. In fact, the Quattro reveled in the snow, turning the white stuff into a new playground for a performance car.

Today, Quattro isn’t an Audi model, but rather is available throughout the lineup and is standard on many models. While many a modern performance car can be made winter-ready with a set of snow tires, a Camaro SS will never be a match for all-wheel drive when the snow flies.

That includes the A4, Audi’s smallest sedan. The A4 was last reworked in 2008, but it’s aging well.

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First Drive: Suzuki Kizashi Sport SLS

Budget sports sedan has exclusivity on its side.

by on May.17, 2011

The Suzuki Kizashi: Exclusive and sporty at a budget price.

Metro Detroiters are known for noticing new metal. Because of the primary industry in this area, it seems that people notice when a new car is rolling along in the lane next to them.

But certain cars seem to attract more attention than others. The Suzuki Kizashi Sport is one of them. Even though this is the second model year for the car, you don’t see a lot of them in the Detroit area because of Suzuki’s low market penetration here. In a week of driving, several drivers craned to get a better look and one man in a parking lot asked about it.

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So what we have here is a rare, finely styled budget sports sedan that makes onlookers do a double take. Yeah, that’s right, take your see-them-at-every-street-corner 3-Series BMWs and Audi A4s and stick ‘em. The Kizashi has sharp styling that you won’t see every day.

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First Look: Audi A3 Concept

Audi delivers a show-stopper.

by on Mar.03, 2011

Audi delivers a show-stopper with the A3 Concept.

Just three years since the last significant update, Audi showed up in Geneva with a new version of the compact A3.  Well, not quite.

The coupe-like sedan drawing crowds at this week’s Geneva Motor Show is officially described as a “concept” vehicle, but it doesn’t take much of an effort to see what the next-generation A3 will look like when it goes into production.

The show car on display at Geneva’s PALExpo convention center has the requisite flash, some over-the-top lighting and the extensive use of carbon fiber accent pieces.

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But the basic lines follow the mandate of Walter de’Silva, the persuasive styling chief for Volkswagen AG, who is adamant in his opposition to recent trends which seem to stress the over-use of sheet metal creases and folds.  No, the new A3 is anything but slab-sided, but there is a simplicity in its elegance.

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Audi Soon to Decide on U.S. Assembly Plant

May be essential for Audi's goal of doubling sales.

by on Jan.14, 2011

Audi will decide whether to build a U.S. assembly plant by year's end, says Jonathan Browning.

Audi is giving serious consideration to adding its own production plant in the United States as part of the Volkswagen subsidiary’s plan to double sales to 200,000 by 2018.

While the German marque has become one of the world’s largest luxury brands – in some markets now leading more established rivals like Mercedes-Benz and BMW – it has continued to lag in the U.S., where it never fully recovered from a safety scandal back in the late 1980s, despite having been cleared by federal regulators.

Jonathan Browning, the new CEO of the Volkswagen Group, the U.S. subsidiary of Volkswagen AG overseeing both the VW and Audi brands, says a decision on the American assembly plant will be made by the end of 2011.

That would finally wrap up an ongoing debate that has spanned more than a decade.  While both Benz and BMW now have major assembly operations in the U.S., Audi has resisted setting up a “transplant” assembly line, in part, because of the limited sales volumes it has achieved in the States.  But critics have argued that the maker is suffering from a chicken-and-egg syndrome and can’t build volume without the plant.

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Playing in favor of setting up a facility, lopsided dollar/Euro exchange rates have made it increasingly cost-prohibitive to import vehicles from Europe, especially smaller models like the popular A4.

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First Drive: Buick Regal

This is what Buicks should have been for a long time.

by on Jan.07, 2011

The Buick Regal was supposed to be the next Saturn Aura. Instead, it becomes an Acura TSX-fighting Buick.

Isn’t this what Buick always should have been, or at least could have been? Instead General Motors was content to build a series of velour-encrusted boulevardiers, content with the 60-and-over set, never offering anything that a young professional would even consider.

Buick’s new Regal promises to single-handledly bring the marquee’s average age down by decades. It finally gives General Motors a legitimate competitor for such small near-luxury cars as Acura TSX and Audi A4.

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There’s a lot to like here. Even though this car started life as the acclaimed Opel Insignia, and GM initially planned to sell it as the second-generation Saturn Aura, it actually fits right in as a Buick. With just changes to details such as the grille and lights, the Opel gives Buick a perfect entry in what is sure to a burgeoning category in coming years. (more…)

Audi Profits Slip, but Share Grows

Automaker putting off indefinitely a U.S. assembly line.

by on Jul.31, 2009

Audi is counting on its expanding line-up, including products like the upcoming A5 Sportback, to help it gain global market share and keep its balance sheet in the black.

Audi is counting on its expanding line-up, including the upcoming A5 Sportback, to help it gain global share and keep its balance sheet in the black.

The global slump may have taken a toll on Audi’s sales and profits, but the automaker insists the downturn could play to its advantage, longer-term.

The German maker, a semi-autonomous arm of giant Volkswagen AG, reported that it was able to stay in the black, during the first half of 2009, unlike many of its competitors, though profits still slipped by 25%. Sales slipped 9.7% from January through June, noted Chief Financial Officer Axel Strotbek, but that was also a fair bit better than the overall, 18% industry downturn, he stressed, during a conference call with American journalists.

“We want to use this opportunity to emerge from the current crisis considerably stronger,” the executive said, “a winner in the long-term.”

At the current exchange rate, Audi AG posted a net first-half profit of $979.5 million, or €697 million. During the same six-month period last year, Audi’s net was €903 million.

Meanwhile, unit sales fell from 516,219 to 466,000, a nearly 10% dip. The decline varied sharply from country to country, Strotbek noted. In fact, volume increased in China by 10.5%, where Audi now holds a 42% share of the premium car market. Early in the year, the Chinese government took aggressive steps to revive faltering momentum in the country’s automotive market – now the single largest national market in the world. It is now Audi’s second-largest market, after Germany.

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