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Audi Styling Mistakes

February 25, 2012 by Matt

Yes, they have happened.

Regular readers here may think I’ve adopted an “Audi can do no wrong” mindset, especially after posts like this, this or this. Certainly, when it comes to beautifully tasteful and understated design, Audi is in a class by themselves. They’re perhaps unique among automakers in that, unlike virtually all their competitors, Audi has never released a car that was a styling disaster. So I can’t critique whole cars; if I’m going to pick apart their design missteps, I’ll have to do it piecemeal. Note that what follows isn’t a comprehensive list; they’re simply the three aberrations that came most immediately to mind:

Audi B3 80 90 S2 C-pillar Red

’88-’95 80/90 C-pillar. This issue could just as easily apply to the C3 5000/100/200 as well, but it’s most pronounced on the 80/90, given that car’s more bathtub-ish below-the-beltline shape. The C-pillar is simply far too visually thin—there’s no “return” to the greenhouse that would accentuate the car’s wedge shape in profile. No, the C-pillar just looks flimsy, and the design suffers from its lack of visual strength.

Audi B7 A4 Front Silver Gray Grey

’05-’08 A4/S4/RS4 Fascia. It’s difficult to determine what Audi was thinking when they put this together. Let’s start with the obvious: The nose could just as well belong to a generic Japanese or Korean econobox. It looks completely plastic, there’s nothing distinctive about it, and the grille’s “dip” is very characteristic of lower-end cars’ styling. The bottom edges of the headlights are inexplicably convoluted. And this being Audi’s first attempt at their now-trademark front plate-surrounding grille design, the rest of the car’s lines weren’t yet in harmony with such a strong nose element.

Audi C6 A6 Rear Taillights Trunk Boot

’04-’10 A6/S6/RS6 Rear. I don’t take issue with the shape of the taillights—although their simple square-ish shape is perhaps a bit too safe—so much as the dip in the lower edge of the trunklid. There are no other lines in the car that agree with this one. The trunklid edge is isolated, random, and as such it draws attention to itself and gives the rear of the car an unfinished look—very atypical for Audi.

Interestingly, in most cases, the offending element is gone by the car’s next generation, or even with a mid-cycle refresh; to their credit, Audi seems to quickly recognize where they went wrong and rectify matters post haste. The A6’s taillights were much more integrated with the trunklid after the refresh, and the ’96-’01 A4’s C-pillar was beefed-up considerably in order to strengthen the rear styling. And the A4’s front end came beautifully back into focus with the ’09-present generation; no more awkwardly tortured headlights or irresolute lines.

Filed under: Aesthetics, Audi


  1. Shawn says:

    The 1994-98 Audi Cabriolet styling always bothered me. Removing the top from the 80/90 body gives it a very bathtubish look. The extra wide and tall taillights ruin the rear end for me. Some of the small details bothered me too, like having a plastic rear window whereas the lesser VW Cabrio/Cabriolet always had glass.

    • Matt says:

      Yeah, the Cabrio definitely looks better from the front than the back. And the plastic rear window would bother me as well. IIRC, even the contemporary Merc SL’s soft top had a plastic rear window, and they got some grief over that.

  2. Ben says:

    They are all unmistakably Audi, which might be indicative of their decision to attempt targeting a different market.

    You’re dead on with the B7 fascia, it looks as though a PT Cruiser has done a collaboration with a Passat, then borrowed the exact foglight placement from the 2004 Hyundai Solara:

    It isn’t as simple as Audi should be when conservative, or as aggressive as it should when going all out.

    • Matt says:

      Yep, I definitely see the resemblance with the Sonata. I remember when the B7 first came out, I hoped it would be a “transitional model,” introducing styling elements that would be smoothed out and better integrated in later generations. I think my hopes were well-founded—the B8 is a very nice-looking car, and much more cohesive.

  3. Dan says:

    I do believe the A2 regardless of the generation in question was a pretty terrible looking Audi overall. No wonder Audi let the “MPV” market be.

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