Control? Technical Prowess? Sheer Faith?
I don’t really know what it is.
I can’t stand roller coasters. I have walked down from rickety thrill rides, gotten out of the lines of the things people stand for half an hour to enjoy. I just do not enjoy them.
Yet I can be completely gleeful coming off a 3oo kilometer an hour straight at Paul Ricard Racing Circuit in France, sitting in an Audi R8 with Mark Webber at the wheel. He kept much of that speed going into the fast esses that followed, only to be dived upon by a 911 GT3 driven by DTM racecar driver (and daughter of Jackie Ickx) Vanina. As the two of them spent the next two laps diving each other sideways, I was so ecstatic I was giggling.
What is it?
I have zero trust in whoever built that roller coaster, yet I have complete faith in someone like Mark Webber. Or Walter Röhrl when he pitches a car sideways in the snow and ice on a road barely wider than the car. While still just on his way to the actual arctic circle test track. I have no belief that the simple rail that supposedly counters gravity and physics as it holds me to a roller coaster, yet I have complete belief that the hundreds of parts built in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm working together will keep me alive while under the control of someone who knows exactly what they are doing. And exactly where to put their faith.
So where does this all come from? For one, it comes from watching insanely-overengineered rally cars fly over crests and skip sideways through the trees. The Audi Quattro came out to the world in 1980 in Geneva, and was the German company’s shot across the bow to people who believes that only two wheels needed to be powered to win races. The Quattro name soon became synonymous with all things motorsport-dominated, especially with pilots like the aforementioned Walter Rohrl at the controls. Quattro GmbH became basically Audi’s in-house tuning and racing arm, which later on was renamed Audi Sport GmbH.
For me, it also comes from the fact that everyday people have this almost-unexplainable trust in the four rings. We would be driving in terrible weather and low visibility on the Autobahn in some latest, greatest sportscar or sedan or SUV and we will be passed by a single little Audi wagon at some point gleefully throwing up a wave of spray as it enters the next sweeping curve. Obviously he (or she, Michele Mouton was also an Audi Sport pilot) knows the route better than we do, but still. Faith in the engineering. No surprise from the company that teaches us German by ingraining the words “Vorsprung durch Technik” in our heads, hearts and minds. Advancement through Technology, basically.
Nowadays Audi Sport continues with their rather unique combination of, well, combinations. Fitting for a company that came into life as we know it because of the combination of four distinct automotive entities. Hence the four rings of Audi itself. But there are also other things that combine. Technology old and new for example. They blew away the Rally world by combining turbocharging (still in relative infancy and somewhat unpredictable) with permanent high-speed all-wheel drive (adding complication and potentially sapping power but also bringing in a whole new level of precision and controllability in the right nomex-clad hands). Audi completely dominated an International Engine of the Year class nine years in a row with a 2.5 liter five cylinder TFSI engine, competing against more supposedly efficient fours and potentially powerful sixes. The end result was not just class dominating but heart-grabbing as well. Enthusiasts loved the combination of lightness and technological forward-thinking. It didn’t hurt that these fives had, thanks to a rather individual firing order, their own unique sound.
How does this all translate into the modern world? For one, Audi Sport has been arguably at the forefront of change in motorsport, whether by using diesels or hybrids or full electrics. For another, their particular packaging of cockpit interiors seems to be just the right mix for younger more modern drivers and buyers that fully embrace the fully digital as long as they are done fully well.
So what can we look forward to from Audi and their incoming and upcoming RS models? The little RS 3 will remind you of those small Audis that brought sportscar-like handling into small sedans, all four wheels scrambling on any surface as they shot past other more… mature cars.
A big deal of course will be the big deal, the big SUV. The RS Q8 will bring the much-demanded Q8 out in seriously speedy trim.
Our choice though? The “hearts and minds” car, the vehicle that truly embodies the sportiness of the Audi Sport name while still being something that allows you to live in the real world and smile a lot. RS 6 Avant. The wagon to rule them all.
Oh, and just in case you though the world was getting boring…