AUDI MEAN BUSINESS: Pikes Peak, Nuvolari, Le Mans - Also in future, Audi aims at superior quality and advanced technology ... VORSPRUNG DURCH TECHNIK

Whilst Mercedes' incessant pressing ahead of new technologies caused harm to their cars' reliability and the make's image, Audi was more careful and paid much attention to quality. Successfully, the vehicles of the manufacturer from the Free State of Bavaria are now said to be the most reliable ones amongst the German car makers. Despite the use of many components from Volkswagen which also has difficulties in matters of reliability! Indeed, mistakes of the Audi managers seem to be lesser than that of their competitors. Biggest lapse is the A2. The sophisticated aluminium compact van not only is costly produced and consequently overpriced for a car of that class, but its look's acceptance is fatally low. 2005 will be the last production year of the high tech mini van. The rest is nearly perfect. Problems of the past seem forgotten today, even the one with the tricky TT driving manners. And because Audi comes later but more thorough than Mercedes, their model offensive is still in full swing.

It mainly responds to the diversification tides in the luxury car segment. The new SUV A7, already shown as Pikes Peak concept, is conceived to make impact in North America whilst the coupes introduced as Nuvolari and Le Mans, based on the A6 and the Lamborghini Gallardo respectively, should emphasise Audi's sporty and technology oriented attitude. Despite the Ingolstadt based car maker's know how, it now gets trouble with the horsepower war - admittedly political ones. Because, the Le Mans may not get the 500hp motor of its basis, just to protect the Lambo. On the other hand, the intended 400hp of the alternatively used V8 is not so much, in these times. That's why Audi will offer the Gallardo's V10 engine on the Le Mans later. The Italian sports car is going to get 100 horses more then. That problem will also appear with the Nuvolari. The A4/A6 based 4+4 seater may not come too close to the Le Mans but has to keep up with the 6-series and CLK that will offer power rates of up to 400hp, or more.

Quite another kind of car - but aiming at the same target - is the A8 wagon. As the first vehicle of this kind, the luxury estate demonstrates exclusivity. Its sub-label is currently undecided. Either the high-end station wagon will bear, as usual, the additional name Avant or, Sportback as the new A3 will. Unfortunately, the Bavarians still hesitate to prepare a North America launch of this voluminous lifestyle transporter because station wagons are out of fashion over there. But the estate model will be underpinned by the LWB version of the aluminium executive vehicle, thus it should be big enough to make impact in the country where things have to be bigger somehow. The new A6 is the last compulsory exercise for the being. From here, Audi does the freestyle event to underline its image. And besides the new entries mentioned above, there is one to come that already has demonstrated distinctive character: the TT. Increased in size and power, in addition to further suspension refinements, the new model will certainly be well-prepared to compete with all rivals in the market, Porsche included.

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