As a member of the team responsible for Audi Design Exterior for the past 10 years, Christian Winkelmann’s accountability is to ensure that new Audi vehicles are as modern as possible, yet maintaining the brand’s timelessness and innovation at the same time. Here, he introduces us to the new Audi A8 L TDI.
Life+Times: Tell me a little bit about your role. Who you are and what you do?
Christian Winkelmann: I have been working for Audi Design Exterior since 2003. As an exterior designer, my job – and that of the whole design team – is to make Audi vehicles look as modern; yet timeless, innovative and cutting-edge as they are at the core. We’re constantly looking at research and insights to help us develop progressive design and styling techniques, and we work very closely with Audi technical departments to make sure that our vision is uniform and cohesive. In addition to focusing on the design of our current models and model range, we regularly work to develop new vehicles, concepts and visionary ideas that will continue to pioneer Audi ahead as a leader in design.
L+T: The newly introduced Audi A8 L TDI encompasses new “clean diesel” technology that is new to the brand. Can you tell me a little bit about this?
CW: The Audi A8 L TDI is the clean diesel version of our luxury flagship sedan. We’re proud to say that the A8 L TDI achieves the best fuel economy in its segment with an EPA estimated 24 city/36 highway/28 combined miles per gallon, exceeding that of diesel and hybrid competitors alike. At the same time, the 3.0 liter V6 turbocharged clean diesel engine generates an impressive 240 hp and 406 lb-ft. of torque and launches from 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds. With more density than gasoline, diesel packs more energy content in the same amount of fuel, helping to maximize the miles per gallon when the energy is released during a more powerful combustion cycle. With the Audi A8L TDI – and all of our clean diesel vehicles – you get the best of both worlds: superior efficiency and top-notch performance, as well as leading technology and design. In addition to the A8 L TDI, we’ve also recently introduced the 2014 Audi A7, A6 and Q5 TDI clean diesel vehicles, and have updated our Q7 TDI model, marking the first time that Audi has featured a full lineup of TDI clean diesel vehicles in the U.S. Each TDI vehicle delivers up to 30% better fuel economy and 12% to 30% lower carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline engines, resulting in longer range and fewer trips to the fuel pump.
L+T: There are five different models in this product line with the Audi A8 L W12 being the pinnacle of the A8 model line. What makes this version the most elite?
CW:As the luxury market progresses and buyers are continually looking for timeless, understated design, many drivers are choosing bespoke automobiles like the Audi A8 L W12. The A8 L W12 features elegant design and craftsmanship, as well as advanced technology, and provides a superior driving experience thanks to its 12-cylinder engine. Just as consumers can hire a team of interior designers to customize their homes, Audi offers an elite team to help drivers design the vehicles of their dreams. At quattro GmbH in Neckarsulm, Germany, buyers work with design specialists to build and customize a car from the inside out. The quattro GmbH team focuses on design, testing and production of high-performance vehicles, including the brand’s flagship sedan, the Audi A8. Approximately 250 employees at quattro GmbH alone are trained specifically to build the vehicles primarily by hand with select customization options, ranging from exterior paint to nappa leather and upholstery, trim and custom alloy wheels. In fact, with so many equipment and customization options, the team hardly ever produces a custom combination more than once. Each A8 L W12 that we produce is truly one of a kind.
L+T: The Audi A8 flagship sedan exudes modern elegance, luxury and dynamism. With its sweeping lines and uniquely bold Audi Singleframe grill with angled corners and horizontal chrome struts, the A8 delivers a striking visual statement. What exactly is Audi Singleframe?
CW: The Audi Singleframe grille has evolved over time to become an iconic and instantly identifiable feature of Audi vehicles. With its vertical chrome accent and distinctive trademark of the overlapping four rings, the Audi Singleframe grille is striking and unmistakable.
L+T: Inside, the spacious A8 features meticulous craftsmanship and modern yet functional design elements. A new Premium package for the A8 3.0T, 4.0T and TDI includes 22-way front seats with ventilation, making any long drive enjoyable. What testing methods were taken in order to achieve this?
CW: Providing a meticulously designed interior, unique features, and a comfortable and enjoyable driving experience requires teamwork and a common focus. All of us at Audi Design work closely together, and we have a strong sense of team spirit, which helps us make our visions become reality. One such example is the seat ventilation; it is the extraordinary result of a brilliant idea, combined with new technology, innovative materials, and a strong design.
L+T: For the 2014 model year, the Driver Assistance and Camera Assistance packages have been combined, including the 360 degree view of the car which offers an impressive birds-eye view of the car and its surroundings using the fore, side and rear cameras to create a flattened image. How has this technology changed from previous models?
CW: For the 2014 model year, we have combined the Driver Assistance and Camera Assistance package, which includes the high beam assist, lane assist, pre sense plus and adaptive cruise control, as well as the top view camera system. The Camera Assistance includes cameras that are strategically placed around the vehicle, giving the driver a “bird’s-eye view” while parking and the confidence to park in practically any environment. By combining both of these technologies, we have been able to enhance the consumer’s driving experience, making it easier and more enjoyable.
L+T: What are you currently working on now? What’s coming up for the brand? Anything that you can shed light on?
CW: We are continually working to become the leading premium car brand and design is one of the most powerful tools Audi possesses.